How to spot gaslighting: the basics

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“People who use this as a form of abuse and control are really adept at doing so in ways that happen over time…If you’re feeling uncertain and made to feel confused or doubt yourself, that is a real red flag.” – Dr Davis-McCabe, president of the Australian Psychological Society [1]


If someone has a pattern of deliberately making you feel uncertain, confused, or as if you can’t trust your own thoughts or senses, they could be gaslighting you. But how can you tell the difference between gaslighting and healthy disagreements, normal arguments, or simple differences of opinion? In this series, we help you to understand what gaslighting is, what it isn’t, and how to get help. 

What is gaslighting?

In short, gaslighting is the process of trying to “psychologically manipulate a person into questioning their own sanity.” [2]


The term was named after a 1938 play (set in the 1880s) called Gas Light, in which a husband repeatedly tries to convince his wife that she is mentally unwell and detached from reality. He tells her that the gas-discharge lamps in their house aren’t flickering or dimming (even though they are) and that her observations of the flickering and dimming are signs of her “insanity” (they’re not – she’s completely sane). [3]


If someone you trusted was gaslighting you on a consistent basis, over time, you could come to distrust your competence, the validity of your emotions, what you thought you knew about your personality, your memory, or even your own senses and your interpretation of reality.

Warning: if someone is gaslighting you, don’t confront them about it

If you suspect someone is gaslighting you, it’s not a good idea to confront them directly about the gaslighting. This could lead to backfire effects, such as them increasing the sophistication of their manipulative tactics, becoming aggressive, or finding other ways to retaliate. People who gaslight others appear more likely to have higher levels of psychopathic, Machiavellian, and sadistic traits. [4]

In this series, we provide some general tips on what you can do instead of confronting the gaslighter directly. We encourage you to talk about your concerns with your therapist. Together, you can come up with solutions that are personalised to your situation – which is something we cannot do in a blog – and maximise your wellbeing while minimising the risk that the gaslighter retaliates.

Common gaslighting myths

Gaslighting is different from “merely” invalidating your feelings, and both these concepts are very different from having a healthy disagreement with someone. [5] In our next piece in this series, we’ll give you a breakdown of the many differences between gaslighting and healthy disagreements.

Another common myth about gaslighting is that it is only perpetuated by “bad” or “evil” people, but this is not the case. Individuals may use gaslighting as a coping mechanism that helps them get their immediate needs met. It may not be their fault they developed this tactic, but it is also not your responsibility to meet their needs. It’s important to treat yourself with compassion and to get professional support in escaping the harms of gaslighting. Check out our third post in this series for more advice and tips on how to do this.

How would I tell if someone is trying to manipulate me into questioning my own sanity?

Just knowing what gaslighting is doesn’t mean you’ll always be able to spot it when it happens. Especially because “successful” gaslighting changes the victim’s perception of reality, sometimes it’s hard for people to tell it’s happening to them until it has been going on for a long time. Gaslighting can happen in any relationship, although it is often most damaging in the context of a close relationship, especially one where you (used to) trust the person doing it.


Here are some simple tips to start identifying and responding to gaslighting:

 ✳️Learn more about gaslighting by reading this series on gaslighting. Knowing about it is the first step to recognising it.

✳️Talk with your therapist about the things concerning you. If you need help with this, is here to help.

✳️If you’re starting to suspect someone is gaslighting you, don’t dismiss it. Your concerns are valid.

✳️Consider keeping a journal so that you can keep track of “red flags” when they happen (we explain more about this below).

Gaslighting “red flags”

It might be a gaslighting “red flag,” or a clue that the person may be gaslighting you, if that person…


🚩Lies to you, especially if they do so repeatedly

🚩Tries to isolate you from others in your life

🚩Withholds information from you

🚩Blames you when things go wrong or disagreements arise

🚩Makes you feel like your emotions are not appropriate or like you are over-reacting

🚩Repeatedly makes you think you’ve mis-remembered things, misinterpreted things, or misunderstood things

Keep a journal

If it’s possible for you to keep a journal, and to make sure the person who you think is gaslighting you does not have any way to access it, then you might find it useful to do this.


If it is not possible for you to keep a journal that the person could not and would not access, this may be a sign that you are in a situation of coercive control, and we strongly recommend you confidentially seek professional help if at all possible. Talk to your therapist at as soon as you can.


You can use your journal to start to identify the “red flags” above. By recording the repeated situations where you notice these kinds of red flags, you can start to notice patterns.


Here’s how you can use your journal to better recognise and respond to gaslighting:


📝When you notice some of the “red flags” listed earlier, write them down, along with as many details as you can about the situation where you noticed them.

📝Over time, if you see patterns in your diary consistent with this person making concerted attempts to distort your perception of yourself, your abilities, or your reality, then this is evidence that they may indeed be gaslighting you.

📝If the person tends to make you doubt your memory of past events, you can also start to use your diary to keep track of actual events in your life and actual conversations you have with them, as and when they happen. That way, the next time they claim that you said something different to what you actually said, you can refer back to your journal to remind yourself of what actually happened.

📝If there are other events or patterns of behaviour that concern you, keep track of those too. 

📝If you feel comfortable to do so, you can also bring your journal (or information from it) to your therapy sessions.

You are not alone

With time and support, you can regain control of your reality and free yourself of the harmful effects of gaslighting. And our therapists at are here to help you every step of the way. Book your next appointment with us.

Resources Box

Scott, K. (2023.) What does gaslighting mean and is overuse of the term trivialising it? 9 October 2023, accessible from: <>


Yagoda, B. (2017.) How Old Is ‘Gaslighting’? 12 January 2017, accessible from: <>


Klein, W., Wood, S., & Bartz, J. (2023). You Think I’m Insane: An Integrative Review and Novel Theoretical Framework for Studying the Phenomenon of Gaslighting. 


March, E., Kay, C. S., Dinić, B. M., Wagstaff, D., Grabovac, B., & Jonason, P. K. (2023). “It’s All in Your Head”: Personality Traits and Gaslighting Tactics in Intimate Relationships. Journal of Family Violence, 1-10.


Stern, R. (2022.) When It’s Gaslighting, and When It Really Isn’t. 18 June, 2022, available from: <>.