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Relationships

15+ Subtle Signs of Gaslighting: How to recognize and protect yourself? 

Gaslighting can be hard to detect, but it is important to be aware of the subtle signs of gaslighting to protect yourself. 

If you suspect that you’re being gaslighted by your partner or anyone at all, it’s essential to recognize the manipulative signs and save yourself from becoming an emotionally abused victim. 

In this very important article, we’ll define gaslighting, list some subtle warning signs of gaslighting along with gaslighting examples, and explain how to deal with gaslighting relationships! 

Definition of gaslighting    

Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation that can be difficult to recognize, especially when it is done subtly.  

The term “gaslighting” comes from a 1938 play and 1944 film called Gas Light,” in which a man manipulates his wife into thinking she is losing her mind by dimming the gas lights in their home and then denying that it ever happened. 

Today, the term “gaslighting someone” is used to describe a wide range of manipulative behaviors that can leave victims feeling confused, paranoid, and even questioning their own sanity.

Subtle signs of gaslighting can include a partner or friend denying the reality of certain events, even when there is clear evidence to the contrary. 

  • They may frequently contradict what you say or remember, making you question your own perception of reality. 
  • They may use your own words or actions against you, twisting them to suit their own purposes. 
  • They may make you feel like you are overreacting or being paranoid when you express your concerns or feelings. 
  • They may try to isolate you from your friends and family, making you dependent on them for validation and support.

If you’re wondering “am I being gaslighted?” or “how do I know if I’m being gaslighted?” here are some signs that you may be experiencing gaslighting: 

  • You constantly second-guess yourself.
  • You feel like you’re “going crazy.”
  • You’re always apologizing to your partner or friend. 
  • You feel isolated. 
  • You’re always questioning yourself. 

Gaslighting is an extremely serious form of emotional abuse, and it’s important to know how to recognize it. By being aware of the subtle signs of gaslighting and understanding the gaslighting meaning, you can protect yourself from being a victim of this manipulative behavior. 

It’s important to seek help if you suspect you’re being gaslighted. Remember, being aware of the subtle signs of gaslighting and understanding the gaslighting explained is the first step in taking control of your life and healing from this abuse.

15+ Subtle signs of gaslighting! 

The Subtle Signs of Gaslighting are important for anyone to know about and understand. By being aware of the signs you are being gaslighted, you can quickly recognize when a person is emotionally abusing you and take countermeasures. 

So, here are some subtle signs of emotional gaslighting to look out for when you’re wondering “how to recognize gaslighting?” 

1. Constant doubt and questioning of your own memories and perceptions. 

A subtle sign of gaslighting is when a person makes you question your own memories and perceptions! 

In order to manipulate you, they may deny that certain events ever occurred, or make you believe that your recollection of events is flawed. This can make you doubt your own sanity and can be one of the most disorienting forms of gaslighting. 

For example, if your partner says, “That never happened,” when you confront them about a specific event, or “You’re just imagining things” when you bring up something you know to be true, it is one of the mild gaslighting examples. 

This is a common gaslighting technique used to make the victim feel like they’re going crazy, and it’s a symptom of gaslighting in a relationship.

2. Making you feel as if you are going crazy or unstable. 

Making a person feel like they are going mad or unstable is a common tactic used in gaslight manipulation! 

Gaslighters will employ psychological tactics to make their victim feel like their ideas, thoughts, or beliefs do not make sense, or that their behavior is inappropriate or irrational. 

They might try to convince you that you are too sensitive or “crazy” for having certain feelings or opinions and that the only acceptable way of thinking is the gaslighter’s way.  

This can be incredibly disorienting and can make the victim doubt their own sanity and judgment. To make matters worse, it can create a cycle of self-doubt, as the victim internalizes the gaslighter’s criticism and starts believing that they are actually going crazy. 

The gaslighter may even try to suggest that the victim seek professional help, further cementing their idea that there is something wrong with them.

It is important to note, however, that these are gaslighting techniques and do not reflect any reality of the victim’s mental health. 

3. Isolating you from friends, family, or support systems. 

Isolating someone from their friends, family, or support systems is a common example of gaslighting! 

A gaslighter will often try to prevent the victim from socializing or getting emotional support from other people. This can be done by actively discouraging contact with close friends and family members or by making negative comments about them in an attempt to turn the victim away. 

For example, if your partner tells you that your friends and family don’t like them or don’t want you to spend time with them, it can be a sign that they are trying to isolate you.

The gaslighter may also try to control the victim’s access to education or career opportunities in order to further limit their social circle. By isolating the victim, the gaslighter is able to reduce their access to understanding, validation, and resources, which makes them more vulnerable and dependent on the gaslighter. 

4. Discrediting your accomplishments or talents. 

“How do I know I’m being gaslighted?” If you keep asking this question to yourself, you may find the answer by observing how your partner treats your accomplishments! 

Discrediting another person’s accomplishments or talents is a common sign of gaslighting. This can include belittling the victim’s achievements or repeatedly questioning their competence in a particular subject or activity. 

The gaslighter may also deny their victim’s successes or accomplishments or even try to take credit for them. This type of toxic behavior is intended to make the victim feel like they are not capable and talented enough to do something on their own. 

It can lead to a lack of confidence and a belief that the gaslighter is the only one who believes in them. Examples of this could include undermining academic success by saying, “It’s just a coincidence,” or discrediting your artwork by saying, “You could never have done that well without my help.”  

This type of behavior can be very detrimental to the victim’s self-esteem and cause them to doubt their abilities and value! 

5. Blaming you for their mistakes or misdeeds. 

A person who gaslights you may blame you for their own mistakes and misdeeds! 

The gaslighter may try to make the victim feel responsible for events that are out of their control or for mistakes that the gaslighter themselves has made. 

For example, a gaslighter might accuse their partner of being careless with money when in fact, they are the ones who made the unwise financial decisions. 

More examples of gaslighting include: 

  • “I didn’t steal from you, you’re just accusing me of something I didn’t do.”
  • “I didn’t break your flower vase; it was already like that when I got here.”
  • “I didn’t lie to you, you’re just not remembering things correctly.”

This type of blame shifting can lead to feelings of guilt and self-doubt, as the victim no longer feels capable of making independent decisions or trusting their own judgment. 

Examples of gaslighting someone like this are often used to manipulate the victim. The gaslighter is able to maintain control and superiority by making their victim believe that all of their mistakes are due to the victim’s lack of knowledge or responsibility. 

Blaming someone for their own mistakes or misdeeds is a classic sign of gaslighting that should not be overlooked! 

6. Manipulating facts or information to suit their own narrative! 

Does your partner constantly change facts or information to suit their own narrative? This type of behavior involves altering details, twisting facts, or outright lying in order to make the victim feel like they can’t trust the truth. 

For example, if the gaslighter is confronted with evidence that proves them wrong, they may attempt to discredit the source or twist the facts. They may also routinely deny events or conversations that have taken place, even when they are confronted with proof. 

More examples of gaslighting in a relationship: 

  • “You’re twisting my words, that’s not what I meant.”
  • “I have no recollection of that; it must not have happened.”
  • “I have no idea what you’re talking about; you must be confused.”

This type of abuse gaslighting can be extremely confusing and disorienting for the victim. It can make it difficult for them to know what to trust. Other examples include telling stories that contradict reality or claiming to have said something that was never actually said. 

Manipulating facts and information is a form of psychological abuse that can cause the victim to question their own perception, making them more vulnerable to manipulation and control. 

Don’t let anyone gaslight you when you certainly know the real truth of things. Stick to your grounds and be unfazed when someone tries to lie or distort realities!

7. Refusing to acknowledge or accept your feelings or needs. 

Refusing to accept a person’s feelings or needs is one of the most hurtful subtle signs of gaslighting! Gaslighters will often disregard the victim’s feelings or needs in order to further assert their power and superiority. 

Here are some examples of gaslighting in relationships: 

  • “You’re just being too sensitive; stop making a big deal out of nothing.”
  • “I don’t care how you feel; you’re wrong.”
  • “You’re imagining things, you’re not really hurt.”
  • “Your needs are not important; you need to focus on mine.”
  • “You’re just trying to start a fight, stop being so emotional.”

This type of behavior can make the victim feel helpless and invalidated as if their feelings and experiences don’t matter. It can also lead to deep feelings of insecurity and confusion, as the victim struggles to understand why their feelings seem to be constantly disregarded.

Gaslighters try dismissing your legitimate concerns, brush off your anxieties as if they are nothing, or argue that your needs are not as important as the gaslighter’s own. 

8. Playing the victim or martyr to gain sympathy and control. 

How to know when you’re being gaslighted? When your partner starts playing the victim to gain sympathy and control in all situations! 

They may do this by blaming you for events that weren’t your fault or by exaggerating their own plight in order to gain pity. Such manipulative behavior can be confusing and disorienting for you, as you may start to doubt your perception of reality. 

These are some common examples of gaslighting you should be aware of. 

  • “You’re always blaming me for everything; you’re so cruel.”
  • “I’m the one who’s been suffering all this time.” 
  • “You’re always criticizing me; you don’t understand how hard I try.”
  • “You’re always accusing me of things; you don’t trust me at all.”

The gaslighter will then use this confusion and uncertainty to manipulate the victim into doing what they want. 

For example, a gaslighter might over-dramatize a situation in order to make the victim feel guilty for not sympathizing enough. This way, they make the victim feel sorry for them in order to control them! 

Playing the victim or martyr to gain sympathy and control is a classic sign of gaslighting that can be incredibly damaging to the victim’s self-esteem and sense of security. 

9. Gaslighting in front of others to make you look paranoid or delusional! 

Does your partner make you seem crazy in front of others to damage your reputation and mental health? 

A gaslighting example—the gaslighter may tell exaggerated or untrue stories to make their victim look irrational or untrustworthy. Or they may play into their victim’s insecurities by trying to convince them that they are overreacting or are being paranoid and delusional. 

By doing this in front of other people, the gaslighter is able to isolate their victim and make them appear unstable or undeserving of sympathy. This manipulative behavior is a form of psychological abuse that is designed to make the victim feel powerless, invalidated, and alone. 

Gaslighting examples of this could include publicly undermining the victim’s ideas or opinions, ridiculing them in front of others, or making them doubt their own sanity. 

10. Withholding or withdrawing affection as a form of punishment or control. 

How can you tell if someone is gaslighting you? They may withhold or withdraw gestures of love in order to punish and control you. 

In this tactic, a gaslighter may use withholding or withdrawing affection as a way to manipulate and control their partner. They may do this by refusing to show affection or by making their partner feel guilty for wanting affection. 

For example, a gaslighter partner may say things like, “You don’t deserve a hug or kiss right now” or “I’m not in the mood to hold your hand; you should have thought about that before.”

This tactic can make the victim feel unwanted, unloved, and trapped in the relationship. It is a form of emotional abuse, and it’s important to recognize this sign and seek help and support from friends, family, or a therapist.

11. Using your own words or actions against you in twisted or distorted ways!

When your partner starts using your own words or actions against you, it is one of the subtle signs of gaslighting! 

In this tactic, a gaslighter may take your words or actions out of context or use them to make you look bad. They may do this to twist the truth, making you question your own reality and memory. 

For example, if a gaslighter partner says, “You said you don’t want to go out with me,” when in reality, you said, “I’m tired, let’s stay in tonight.” Or if a gaslighter partner says, “You’re too sensitive,” when you’re expressing your feelings, it is a sign of gaslighting. 

12. Constantly changing the rules or expectations without warning. 

This subtle sign of gaslighting can make the victim feel guilty and confused. A gaslighter may constantly change the rules or expectations in the relationship without warning, leaving the victim feeling like they can never meet the gaslighter’s needs. 

For example, a gaslighter partner may say things like “I thought you knew I wanted you to clean the house before I came home” or “I didn’t know you needed me to pick up the kids; you should have told me” without giving any indication beforehand. 

It’s important to remember that this is not your fault and that the gaslighter is manipulating every situation to play mind games with you. Seek support from friends, family, or a therapist to validate your feelings and to help you navigate this situation.

13. Denying past events or conversations that you know to be true! 

What does gaslighting a person mean? When your partner upfront denies the existence of some real events and conversations to fit their own narrative! 

This subtle sign of gaslighting can make the victim feel confused and guilty. A gaslighter may deny past events or conversations that you know to be true, leaving you questioning your own memory. 

Examples of gaslighting in relationship: 

  • “I’m sorry, but I really don’t recall ever having that conversation with you. Maybe you’re exaggerating or misunderstanding something.”
  • “I swear to you, we never had that conversation. You must be confusing me with someone else or just making things up in your head.”
  • “I don’t know what you’re talking about; I never said that to you. Are you sure you’re not just remembering it wrong?”

It’s important to remember that gaslighting is a form of manipulation and abuse and that your memories and perceptions are valid. Keep a journal or document the incidents of gaslighting; it will serve as evidence when you need to confront your partner!  

14. Using your fears, insecurities, or vulnerabilities against you! 

This is a subtle yet effective tactic used by gaslighters to deflect blame and responsibility for their own actions onto the victim! 

The gaslighter may accuse the victim of having the same faults or shortcomings that they possess, such as being untrustworthy, lazy, or emotionally unstable. This can make the victim feel confused and unsure of themselves and can cause them to question their own behavior and integrity.

Here are a few examples of gaslighting verbal statements that they might use when projecting their own faults or shortcomings onto their victim:

  • “You’re just as bad as me when it comes to being on time.” (when the gaslighter is habitually late)
  • “You’re always talking about your appearance. It’s so shallow.” (when the gaslighter is insecure about their own appearance)
  • “You’re always so forgetful. I can’t rely on you for anything.” (when the gaslighter is forgetful and blames the victim for their own forgetfulness)
  • “You’re always so negative. You’re just like me; you’re always finding something to complain about.” (when the gaslighter is negative and blames the victim for their own negative attitude)
  • “You’re always so sensitive; it’s like you’re purposely trying to make everything a problem.” (when the gaslighter is over-sensitive and blames the victim for their own oversensitivity)

15. Making you feel like the gaslighter 

In many cases, a gaslighter may try to turn the tables on you by claiming that you’re the real gaslighter! You may start feeling: 

  • “Am I gaslighting my partner?” 
  • “Am I gaslighting or being gaslighted”

Making you wonder, “Am I a gaslighter?” is one of the subtle signs of gaslighting, where the perpetrator manipulates the victim into believing that they are the one causing problems or acting irrationally. 

This can be done by constantly blaming the victim for things going wrong, making them feel guilty or ashamed, or suggesting that the victim is the one who needs to change their behavior. 

Here are examples of gaslighting in a relationship: 

  • “You’re the one who’s causing problems, not me. If you would just change your attitude, everything would be fine.”
  • “You’re making things complicated. If you would just listen to me, we wouldn’t have any problems.”
  • “You cause all the drama, if you would just calm down, everything would be fine.”

It’s important to remember that relationship gaslighting is a form of manipulation, and it’s crucial to be aware of signs of gaslighting. If you feel like someone is making you feel like a gaslighter, it’s essential to seek help and support! 

What does gaslighting mean in a relationship? 

Gaslighting in a relationship refers to a pattern of confusing behavior in which one person manipulates and deceives the other person in order to gain power and control over them. 

This can include denying past events, making the other person question their own memories or perceptions, and using their fears, insecurities, or vulnerabilities against them.

Gaslighting symptoms can include

  • feeling confused, paranoid, or crazy, 
  • feeling like you’re always walking on eggshells, 
  • feeling guilty or ashamed for things that aren’t your fault, 
  • and feeling like you can’t trust yourself or your own judgment.

If you’re wondering, “Is my boyfriend gaslighting me?” or “Is my girlfriend gaslighting me?” It can be helpful to pay attention to your feelings and your interactions with your partner. 

If you feel like you’re constantly questioning yourself or your own reality, or if you feel like your partner is always blaming you and making you feel guilty, it’s possible that you’re experiencing gaslighting.

When you suspect that your boyfriend is gaslighting you, it’s important to talk to someone you trust about your feelings and experiences. It’s also important to have faith in your instincts and to seek help and support when you feel like you’re in an unsafe or unhealthy relationship.

Can a gaslighter change? 

It is possible for a gaslighter to change their behavior, but it would require a significant amount of self-awareness and effort! 

Gaslighting is a learned behavior, often developed as a coping mechanism or as a result of past traumas. Changing this behavior would involve recognizing and taking responsibility for the harm caused, learning new ways of communicating and relating to others, and seeking professional help.

Additionally, therapy or counseling can help a gaslighter to understand the root causes of their behavior, such as low self-esteem, lack of empathy, or past traumas, and work through them. 

It is also important that the gaslighter is willing to acknowledge their behavior and willing to put in the work to change it.

However, it’s also important to note that change is not guaranteed, and even if someone is willing to change, it’s not a quick or easy process. In such situations, it is crucial to prioritize your own safety and well-being and not rely on the gaslighter to change for you to be able to heal or move forward.

How to stop gaslighting? 

Dealing with gaslighting can be challenging and difficult, but there are some steps you can take to fight against it and take back control of your own reality:

  • Keep a record: Keep a journal or a record of what is happening, including dates, times, and specific examples of gaslighting behavior. This can help you remember the truth and have evidence if you need to confront the gaslighter.
  • Confide in someone you trust: Talk to someone you trust about what you’re experiencing. It’s important to have someone who can validate your experiences and help you to see the truth.
  • Seek professional help: Consider seeing a therapist or counselor who can help you to understand and process what you’re experiencing and provide you with support and guidance.
  • Set boundaries: It’s important to establish clear boundaries and to let the gaslighter know that their behavior is not acceptable. Be assertive and communicate your needs and wants.
  • Take care of yourself: It’s important to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating well, and doing things that you enjoy.
  • Be prepared for resistance: Remember that gaslighting is a form of manipulation, and the gaslighter may resist or deny when you confront them. Be prepared for this, and don’t let them derail your progress.

It’s important to remember that leaving a gaslighting relationship is not always easy, and it may take time and the help of a professional to come to a resolution. In some cases, it may be necessary to disengage from the relationship entirely in order to preserve your mental and emotional well-being.

Bottom Line 

When you’re dealing with someone who has a gaslighter personality, you will start seeing signs of gaslighting in a relationship. Do not ignore these gaslighting symptoms, or avoid confronting your partner for their manipulative behavior! 

Confronting a gaslighter can be a difficult and emotional process, but it is important to address the behavior in order to take back control of your own reality and protect yourself from further harm. 

Collect evidence and keep a record of specific examples of the gaslighting behavior, including dates, times, and what was said or done. This can help you to clearly and calmly present the evidence to the gaslighter.

Prepare what you want to say ahead of time and practice it so that you can stay calm and assertive when you confront the gaslighter. Also, it’s important to choose a time and place where you feel safe and where you can have a private and uninterrupted conversation.

Be direct and use specific examples of the gaslighting behavior and explain how it has affected you. Avoid using general or vague statements.

Remain calm and assertive when you confront the gaslighter. Do not get drawn into an argument or let them dismiss your concerns.

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by Genesis Gutierrez

Genesis is the founder of Harness Magazine, a digital media company that celebrates and elevates the voices of women around the world. A first-generation college graduate, Genesis holds a degree in from UCLA with hopes of going back for a Masters in Social Work.

Through her work as an editor-in-chief of Harness, Genesis has dedicated herself to amplifying the stories of women specifically marginalized communities. She is committed to creating space for those who are often left out of mainstream conversations, and believes that storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we have for building community and sparking social change.


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