Gaslighting Effects on Mental Health

Keywords: Gaslighting, emotional abuse, psychological manipulation, guilt-tipping.


Gaslighting Effects on Mental Health. What is gaslighting? How do you know if someone is gaslighting you? What are the characteristics of perpetrators? Do those who engage in gaslighting know what they are doing? What are the risk factors to gaslighting? How does gaslighting affect mental health?   How do you respond to gaslighting?    Can the victim of gaslighting be treated?

Gaslighting is not the same as lying or expressing a different opinion. It is not name calling, bullying, nor ghosting. It is not the same as guilt-tipping, although they may seem alike. Guilt-tipping occurs when you make someone feel guilty with your words, in order to manipulate the person into doing something. It is also not brain washing, nor black mailing.

What makes gaslighting so bad is that it is very difficult to notice by the victim and by others around. The victim only knows that something is wrong somewhere, but cannot place a finger on it. But unfortunately, it can mess up with the victim’s mental health. So let us see what the gaslighting effects on mental health are.

What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is an emotional abuse subtype, which the abuser uses to make you question your beliefs and perception of reality. It is psychological manipulation whereby, the abuser continually sows seeds of self-doubt and confusion into the victim’s mind.

Usually, the perpetrator behaves in such a way that causes the victim to question his/her take on the situation. This is to undermining the victim’s confidence and belief in himself or herself.

Gaslighting abusers  like  questioning  the  victim´s sanity,  so  that  the  victim  loses  credibility in the face of others. This makes the victim feel isolated and marginalized.

Occasionally, such abusers will use the warm-cold behavior, which confuses the victim into thinking that the abuser is being nice.  But at most times, the abuser is being very abusive and cold. All these, makes the victim feel that he or she is losing the mind or going crazy, thus loosing self-credibility.

Some gaslighting behaviours:

Denying reality –

For example, gaslighting abusers deny that events have happened to make their victims doubt themselves and question their own reality perception. This helps the gaslighting abuser maintain control, because their word becomes more powerful than the victim’s own beliefs or experience.

You may remind an abuser of his words in the past and he will deny it. He will tell you that he never said such a thing. By so doing, he is avoiding being accountable for his words and make you doubt your own memory.

Anger outbursts –

The anger outbursts from a perpetrator is usually intimidating and terrifying. And the abuser pounds his fist on the wall or table, or breaks things, which are threats to danger.

Spreading rumors and gossip –

The abuser may also isolate you from your family and friends so that you don’t get the support you need. This is a way of intensifying his control on you. The isolation can come about in different ways. Such a person may cause quarrels between you and your friends or your relatives. He can make use of gossiping to bring this about. Such a person will make sure that you don’t have enough money or access to a vehicle to for mobility.

Believing that you cannot do things right –

He may remind you of your physical flaws or your cognitive weaknesses. For example, he may keep reminding you that you are fat and need to lose weight. He can keep putting it into your head that without him, that you cannot survive or do things right.

Or that if he had not groomed you up, you would have been nothing in life. These are done to make you lose your self-esteem.

Not concerned about your feelings and emotions –

If you tell him how you feel about things or your present emotions, he will belittle it. He will dismiss it with a wave of hand and say words that will shame you. And may even say that you are crazy.

Insists that you did something wrong to shift blames –

The person gaslighting you will always shift blames on you. He never accepts his faults and refuses to be accountable. So he will make you believe that whatever went wrong was your fault. And if you want anything better, you have to fix it.

For example, if you catch him cheating on you, he will accuse you that you made him do it.

Name calling and body shaming –

Such an abuser will call you names and even body shame you. He may compare your shape and weight with that of your friend. And he may call you fat and keep reminding you that you have to lose weight. He may continue to make jokes out of it. And when you take offense, he will belittle your feelings and insist that it was only a joke. He will call you a sore looser who cannot take jokes.

Twist stories –

In recounting incidents between the two of you, he will twist the story to hide the abuse he gives you.

Types of gaslighting:

There are different types of situations where gaslighting can occur.

Gaslighting can occur in love relationships, in family relationships and in the workplace.

In love relationship it can occur between spouses. Among family relationship, it can occur between parents and children. And in workplace gaslighting, a manipulative boss or head can prey on his or her subordinate.

In a work place gaslighting, the perpetrator is usually a person in a position of authority. This boss can deliberately be excluding the victim from work that should have favoured the victim. He may even keep the victim redundant. The boss may spread rumours about the victim or persistently discrediting the victim’s credibility. Such a boss has double standards and can decide to persistently place the victim under pressure.

Also, a gaslighting boss may be incompetent. In this case, incompetent  abusive boss  will  try  to  present  the  victim  as incompetent and steal the victim´s merits.

How do you know if someone is gaslighting you?

A lot of people are in an abusive relationship where they suffer a lot of gaslighting from their partners. Most often, such people don’t know that the relationship is abusive, but they do know that something is wrong somewhere. Unfortunately, because they cannot pin their hands to it, they believe they are the ones that have problems.

So, their behaviors begin to change in an attempt to make things right. If you are actually in an abusive relationship where you are suffering gaslighting, watch out for these behaviors from you.

You blame yourself:

You believe that problems between your spouse and you are your fault and you always have to apologize, all the time.

Querying your behavior and needing validation:

Having loss of confidence and self-esteem. And before you act, you believe that you need validation from friends. But all these never used to happen before. And before you discuss with your partner, you have to rehearse your speech. This is done to smoothen out the flaws to make sure your words don’t annoy.

Feeling anxious:

Always feeling anxious, worried and fearful when your spouse is around you. When both of you are apart, you feel relaxed.

Efforts to please your partner:

You tell lies about the way you feel and your partner’s abusive behaviours. And you make excuses for his behavior before your family and friends. At all times, you make choices that will please your partner, while neglecting yourself and your children. And you do all you can to make peace reign. In the process, you deny yourself doing things that will make you happy.

Thus gaslighting occurs in 3 stages:

The first stage is the stage of disbelief. In this stage, you don’t really know what is happening. Then the defense stage where you try to give excuses for the abuser’s behavior.

Finally the depression stage. In this final stage, you are doing all that you can to avoid conflict between the two of you. So you do a lot of giving in. But this giving in, drains your energy and keeps you feeling low and hopeless. This is an aspect of gaslighting effects on mental health.

When you are living with someone who gaslights you, you feel like you are a changed person. And you don’t seem to understand yourself again. You begin to feel empty, numb and hollow.

So when you have these feelings in any relationship, you will know that you are being gaslighted.

What are the characteristics of gaslighting perpetrators?

Persons who engage in gaslighting tell lies and distort facts in order to make themselves look better than others. So they make themselves superior while making you inferior.

When challenged, the perpetrator of gaslighting engage in oppressive and intimidating behaviors. They see relationship as a competition. And in everything they do in a relationship, the impression they give is that they are better than you. So they want their victims to submit to them.

Gaslighters like arousing negative emotions on their victims so that they will feel powerful. By so doing, they show little remorse. They have mood swings and are sensitive to criticisms.

Such perpetrators use manipulations on their victims and they want to control the way their victims think and behave. They become angry and hostile when their victims fail to worship them.

Such characteristics are seen more in persons with narcissistic personality disorder and dissocial personality disorder. They can also be found among cult leaders, criminals and dictators.

Do those who engage in gaslighting know what they are doing?

Most people who engage in gaslighting know exactly what they are doing and they use it manipulate others.

But for some people, they don’t know what they are actually doing and how hurtful they are to their victims. And when confronted with their actions, they refuse to accept the gaslighting behavior.

What are the risk factors to gaslighting?

It is really important to know what causes or brings about gaslighting and to know that it is a learned behavior. There is no genetic undertone. Gaslighters are made, not born, while the victims seem to be on the quiet side.

Perpetrators of gaslighting:

For perpetrators of gaslighting, they come from an abuse background. Most people who engage in gaslighting learned it from their parents, who also learned it from their parents.

Also, those who become gaslighters were treated as the most perfect children who do no wrong. Or they were seen by their parents as bad children who are always wrong. This goes to teach the children that people are either absolutely good or absolutely bad.

They have low self-esteem and feel insecure. They have personality disorders, as written above.

Victims of gaslighting:

Gaslighting abusers target certain people as their victims. These are people who are isolated from other people. This includes those without social support. Especially people who don’t have siblings or parents who can protect them in case of conflicts.

If you are a people pleaser, you are more likely to be a victim. Such perpetrators target those who like pleasing and making others happy. If you are the type of person who likes getting the approval of others, you can also become a victim.

A person who is seen as not wanting to face troubles in life can become a victim. That is a person who likes to avoid conflicts. Such a person will be more likely to stay in such an abusive relationship.

If you see yourself as less valued, then you can be a victim. Those who have low self-esteem and feel inadequate, are likely victims.

Those who were neglected in childhood are likely victims. And if you suffer from depressive disorders, you can end up being a victim.

How does gaslighting affect mental health? 

This is to know what the negative gaslighting effects on mental health are.

For the victim:

As you constantly pass through this type of psychological abuse, your mental health will be negatively affected. You will begin to query who you are, and lose your sense of identity and self-esteem.

Also, you may even have problems making simple decisions because you don’t trust your sense of judgment any more. And you may even be blaming yourself for the abusive behavior of the perpetrator. Or you may begin to stay silent in occasions that requires your input or decisions.

Living in a constant state of worries, fear and nervousness, will predispose you to anxiety or depression. You will feel isolated, powerless, disoriented and have problems functioning at school, work and in social situations. And the risk of having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is also there.

The victim will also have problems in trusting people in any relationship, be it family, work or social.

There is the risk of you, the victim, abusing substances which you will use to self-medicate these negative feelings. The risk of suicidality is also high.

The perpetrator of gaslighting:

For the person perpetrating gaslighting, he or she is not free from metal health issues. Such a person, who could have suffered childhood abuse could be having low self-esteem, depressive disorder, anxiety and mood swings. The gaslighting could be used as a mask cover, to shield his/her weakness or hurt, from the outside world.

Many perpetrators of gaslighting have personality disorders such as narcissistic and dissocial personality disorders. They are psychopaths who lack emotional intelligence and empathy.

How do you respond to gaslighting?

Fighting back on a gaslighting abuser, will only make him or her fight harder. The harder you fight, the more deadly he gets, because he must maintain that control.

So the best thing you need to do is to get social support from friends and family. Also set boundaries. Let the perpetrator know that he or she should stop raising the voice or calling you crazy. And if any of these happen, you end the conversation and go away.

If the perpetrator persists, then it is time to leave. Most people are not resilient to emotional abuse, so there may come a time that you have to leave. Separating yourself from the abuser, weakens his control on you.

If mental health issues have come up, then you need professional help.

Can the victim of gaslighting be treated?

Yes treatment for victims of gaslighting are available. The treatment modalities are to prevent or correct the gaslighting effects on mental health, which are negative.

They can get help from a therapist like a Clinical psychologist. A psychiatrist may also be invited.

The perpetrator of gaslighting can also get help from a Clinical psychologist. They too, are affected by the gaslighting effects on mental health from their past life.

But for this to work the perpetrator must be willing to accept treatment. Unfortunately, most often, they are not willing to accept therapy because they enjoy the manipulations and control the yield.

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