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What is Gaslighting?

Nancy MacGregor MA, ATR-BC, LPC, ACS, Clinical Director

When someone upsets you and you confront them, do you ever walk out feeling like you were wrong even though it was the other person’s fault? Or get blamed for someone else’s action after an argument because the story was told differently than how you remember it? Did you ever wonder, “If I am the one who is upset, how come I am apologizing?” Lastly, you feel your emotions were not validated and start questioning the situation. Well, that is because that other person employs gaslighting. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse when you begin questioning your emotions or what occurred in the situation. It is used in unhealthy relationships to make you start to lose your sanity and question what really happened.Gaslighting becomes dangerous when it is used, and the victim of gaslighting starts to feel anxiety. Their mental health deteriorates as a result of the psychological and emotional abuse that is gaslighting. This can lead to depression, isolation from others, and being codependent on the abuser, making it even harder to leave the relationship. When gaslighting is employed, the abuser will make the victim question the reality that the victim cannot rely on their memory but become dependent on the abuser. It becomes dangerous when you do not want to confide in others because you are worried people will think that “you’re crazy or making things up.” This is a common trait in a power and control relationship or living/dealing with a narcissistic personality. If you ever feel like that in a relationship, it is time to take control of your life and change the dynamics you are in. You are not alone, and you do not need your abuser!

  • You are crazy!
  • It’s not a big deal.
  • Why are you so sensitive?
  • It’s all your fault.
  • It’s all in your head because that never happened.

The abuser will tend to put the victim down and call the victim names so they can depend on the abuser, and it will be harder to leave the relationship. Once the victim has low self-esteem, the victim will start thinking that they do not deserve better; but you DO.The relationship could increase the victim’s anxiety. When the victim wants to confront the abuser about any situation, the victim might be scared to bring it up, especially if the abuser calls the victim names. Also, since the abuser will tend to blame the victim, the victim will be worried that it will happen again.Feeling isolated is a common symptom of a victim getting abused by gaslighting. The victim might feel trapped in the relationship and not have additional support. Also, victims might feel they do not have help from others and are hesitant to talk about their relationship because they might think others will think “they are crazy.”If the relationship is unhealthy and mentally harmful, the individual could suffer from PTSD symptoms. This includes the victim potentially suffering from flashbacks, avoidance, or both when they have to confront someone about a problem. It could also affect the victim’s memory because the victim could question their own memory due to the abuser claiming, “it did not happen.”You must set clear boundaries. For example, if they blame you, you redirect the comment/question back to them. Confront them when they are calling you names, and do not fall into their trap when the abuser claims the abuse did not happen. You do not have to listen to anyone that is verbally abusive towards you, don’t forget you can leave the situation whenever you need to.Have a solid, trustworthy support system that can help you in that situation.   If this relationship worsens your mental health, re-evaluate the relationship and reassess why you continue to be in this situation if it is not improving.If you are feeling depressed, helpless, hopeless, and trapped, seek professional help to guide you to cope with these emotions and situations healthily.The relationship tends to be unhealthy if you are with a partner who uses gaslighting. The victim could suffer from memory loss, depression, isolation, and anxiety; if it is severe enough, the victim could have PTSD or trauma. Set clear boundaries, rethink the relationship, have a positive support system, and get professional help if you are in that kind of relationship. You are not trapped; there are ways to get out of this unhealthy relationship.If you or someone you love is eating a healthy diet and still experiencing frequent and painful headaches, it might be time to look at other factors such as stress, anxiety, and eating disorders. Harmony Bay Wellness provides the best mental health and wellness treatment in South Jersey. Contact us today by calling 855.857.6050 to learn more.  

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