Unpacking the Manipulative Tactic: What Does Gaslighting Mean?

A gaslighter is a person who intends to gain power and control over others through manipulative tactics such as lying, withholding information, and misdirection. They aim to create a distorted reality for their victims, leading them to question their own sanity and memory. This phenomenon is known as Gaslighting, a term that has entered the popular lexicon in recent years. In this article, we delve deep into gaslighting tactics, how to identify them, and their harmful effects on the victim’s mental health.

The Origins of Gaslighting

The term Gaslighting has its roots in a play written by the British playwright Patrick Hamilton in 1938 called ‘Gas Light’. In the play, the husband manipulates his wife by causing her to doubt her sanity. He does this by gradually and subtly dimming the gaslights in their house, which she begins to notice but he denies. By doing so, he makes his wife question her sanity, leading her to believe she is losing her mind. This psychological manipulation is the basis of gaslighting techniques employed by narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths.

Common Gaslighting Tactics

Gaslighters use various tactics to control and manipulate their victims. Here are some common gaslighting techniques to watch out for:

1. Lying

Gaslighters use lies to control their victims. They may say something to their victims to create a distorted reality, leading them to doubt their memory and judgments. They may also make up stories to manipulate the victim’s perception of reality.

2. Denial

Gaslighters often deny that they said or did something, even when there is clear evidence to prove otherwise. They may use this technique to make the victim question their own memory and perception of reality.

3. Misdirection

Gaslighters use misdirection to divert attention away from the issue at hand. They may try to confuse the victim by changing the subject or bringing up a past event to shift the focus of the conversation.

4. Projection

Gaslighters often project their own flaws and mistakes onto their victims. By doing so, they make the victim feel guilty and responsible for the issues at hand.

Identifying Gaslighting

Recognizing gaslighting tactics is challenging because gaslighters are often charming, intelligent, and manipulative. Here are some warning signs to look out for:

1. Doubting Reality

If you find yourself questioning your reality or memory after interacting with someone, it may be a sign of gaslighting.

2. Unexplained Feelings of Confusion or Anxiety

If you frequently feel confused, anxious, or upset without a clear reason, it may be because you are being gaslighted.

3. Loss of Confidence

Gaslighting can cause victims to lose confidence in their abilities and judgment.

4. Insults and Criticism

Gaslighters use insults, criticism, and put-downs to undermine their victim’s self-esteem and confidence. They may make their victim feel unworthy and powerless.

The Harmful Effects of Gaslighting

Gaslighting can have severe and lasting effects on the victim’s mental health. Here are some of the harmful effects of gaslighting:

1. Anxiety and Depression

Gaslighting can cause anxiety and depression, leading to a loss of interest in life, and difficulty in functioning in daily tasks.


Gaslighting can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), leading to flashbacks, nightmares, and paranoia.

3. Codependency

Gaslighting can cause a victim to become codependent on the gaslighter, leading to a toxic relationship dynamic.

How to Respond to Gaslighting

It is essential to respond to gaslighting effectively to avoid being controlled and manipulated. Here are some tips on how to respond to gaslighting:

1. Seek Support

It is crucial to seek the support of friends, family, or a professional therapist to help rebuild self-esteem and self-confidence.

2. Trust Yourself

Trust yourself and your senses. If something does not feel right, it probably is not.

3. Set Boundaries

Set clear boundaries with the gaslighter and communicate these boundaries effectively.

4. Seek Professional Help

Seek professional help to deal with the emotional and mental impact of gaslighting.


Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic used by individuals to gain control over others. It can have severe and lasting effects on the victim’s mental and emotional health. By recognizing and responding effectively to gaslighting tactics, victims can break free from the cycle of abuse and reclaim their power and self-worth.


  • What does the phrase gaslighting mean?
  • What are common gaslighting tactics?
  • How do I identify gaslighting tactics?
  • What are the harmful effects of gaslighting?
  • How do I respond to gaslighting?

What does the phrase gaslighting mean?

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic used by individuals to gain control over others by creating a distorted reality, leading the victim to question their memory and sanity.

What are common gaslighting tactics?

Common gaslighting tactics include lying, denial, misdirection, and projection.

How do I identify gaslighting tactics?

Witnessing signs of manipulation, doubt in your own memories, and unexplained feelings of confusion, anxiety or sadness after interacting with someone may be signs of gaslighting.

What are the harmful effects of gaslighting?

Gaslighting can cause anxiety, PTSD, codependency in victims, and cause a loss of confidence and self-esteem.

How do I respond to gaslighting?

Effective responses to gaslighting include seeking support, rebuilding self-esteem, setting boundaries, and seeking professional help.


  • Simon, G. K., & Landis, C. M. (2018). “Gaslighting as a manipulation tactic: A systematic review.” Vol 7, No. 4 (2018): International Journal of Communication.
  • Stark, E. (2014). Coercive control. Oxford University Press, USA.
  • Lawson, M. (2019). Gaslighting: How to recognize manipulative and emotionally abusive people–and break free. Random House Publishing Group.

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