Gaslighting Examples and How to Respond

Gaslighting Examples and How to Respond

by Sanjana Gupta

To gaslight someone means to manipulate them by causing them to question their experiences, feelings, perceptions, and understanding of events.1

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse because it can cause someone to doubt their own sanity, says Kristin Wilson, MA, LPC, CCTP, RYT, chief experience officer at Newport Healthcare.

If you or a loved one are experiencing gaslighting, recognizing the signs is the first step toward putting a stop to it and reclaiming your reality.


Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation and abuse because it causes the person on the receiving end to question their reality.

Gaslighting can come in the form of lies, denial, and other insidious means. Gaslighting also isn’t only reserved for intimate relationships: it can occur in the workplace, with family members, and in healthcare.

Common Tactics Used in Gaslighting 

According to Wilson, some common gaslighting tactics include:

  • Denial: The abuser denies certain events or conversations, making the victim question their memory.
  • Blatant lies: The abuser tells outright lies, making the victim doubt their own understanding of the truth.
  • Misdirection: The abuser changes the subject or redirects the conversation to confuse the victim.
  • Minimization: The abuser downplays the victim’s feelings, making them feel like their concerns are insignificant or like they’re being overly sensitive.
  • Projection: The abuser projects their behavior onto the victim by accusing the victim of behavior that they themselves are guilty of, in order to deflect blame onto the victim.
  • Erosion: The abuser uses subtle or overt techniques to erode the victim’s confidence.
  • Doubt: The abuser causes the victim to doubt their reality.
  • Proxy: The abuser enlists others to validate their false narratives or discredit the victim.

Gaslighting can have a profound impact on the victim’s mental and emotional well-being, leading to feelings of confusion, selfdoubt, and a loss of trust in oneself and others, says Wilson. “Victims of gaslighting often experience anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and a sense of isolation, as their reality is continuously invalidated by the abuser.”

Everyday Examples of Gaslighting in Different Settings—And How to Respond 

Gaslighting can often be subtle and difficult to spot.3 These are some examples of gaslighting in different settings and what you can say or do in response.

Did you know?

The term “gaslighting” was first used in 1938 in a play named “Gaslight,” where a husband tricked his wife into thinking she was crazy, by causing the gas-powered lights in the house to flicker repeatedly and then denying that it was happening when she complained about it. The play later was converted into a movie starring Ingrid Bergman.

Gaslighting in Personal Relationships 

These are some examples of gaslighting in personal relationships with friends and family members:

  • Insisting something never happened: “I never said that. You must be imagining things. You’re always making things up.”
  • Minimizing your concerns: “Why are you overreacting? It’s not a big deal. You’re just being too sensitive. Stop making mountains out of molehills.”
  • Using others to validate their claims: “Even they agree with me. You’re the only one who thinks this way.”

How to Respond

If you suspect that a friend or family member is trying to gaslight you, these are some strategies that can help:

  • Stay calm: Although it can be difficult at the moment, try to remain calm and composed. Gaslighters often try to provoke emotional reactions to further their manipulation. Keeping your emotions in check will make it easier to respond rationally.
  • Avoid engaging in arguments: Gaslighters often thrive on creating arguments and confusion. Try not to get dragged into endless debates. Instead, focus on asserting your feelings calmly.
  • Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries with the gaslighter and limit interactions as much as possible, says Wilson.

Gaslighting in Professional Settings 

These are some examples of gaslighting in professional settings with colleagues, managers, and subordinates:

  • Taking credit for your work instead of acknowledging your contributions: “That project’s success was all thanks to me and my brilliant ideas.”
  • Blaming you for the failure of a project instead of taking responsibility for it: “The reason my project failed is because you didn’t give me enough support.”
  • Dismissing your qualifications: “You wouldn’t understand this; it’s too complicated for someone like you.”
  • Invalidating your ideas: “That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard. It would never work.”
  • Disrespecting you when you correct them: “I’ve been doing this a lot longer than you have. Don’t tell me how to do my job.”

How to Respond

If you suspect that someone at work is trying to gaslight you, these are some strategies that can help:

  • Communicate in writing: Make it a point to put everything you’ve discussed with the person via email so that you have proof of the facts when they try to claim otherwise. For instance, instead of sharing ideas or inputs verbally, send them across by email so the person can’t claim you never contributed to the project.
  • Keep a record: Document instances of gaslighting, including dates, times, and the specific behaviors or comments involved. Having a record can be valuable if you need to escalate the issue or defend yourself in the future.
  • Address the issue: If you feel comfortable and safe doing so, consider addressing the gaslighting behavior directly with the person responsible. Politely but firmly assert that you expect to be treated with respect and professionalism.
  • Report their behavior: If addressing the issue with the gaslighter directly doesn’t resolve the problem, escalate the matter to the appropriate channels within your organization. You can report their behavior to a higher-level manager or the human resources department.
  • Consider your options: If the gaslighting continues and negatively affects your career and mental health, you might need to evaluate your options. This could include discussing a transfer to a different department or considering alternative employment opportunities.
  • Consult legal counsel if necessary: If the gaslighting behavior crosses into harassment or creates a hostile work environment, it may be necessary to consult a legal professional to understand your rights and potential courses of action.

Gaslighting in Romantic Relationships

These are some examples of gaslighting in romantic relationships:

  • Denying fault: “That never happened. You’re just making things up to create drama.”
  • Lying to you: “We never said we would be exclusive. You must have misunderstood.”
  • Blaming you for their actions: “I wouldn’t get so angry if you didn’t provoke me all the time. It’s your fault I behave this way.”
  • Isolating you: “Your friends are toxic and don’t have your best interests at heart. You’re better off without them. Don’t go out without me.”
  • Making you doubt your sanity: “You need to get your head straight.”

How to Respond

If you suspect that your partner is trying to gaslight you, these are some strategies that can help:

  • Maintain self-awareness: Gaslighting can cause self-doubt, so try to stay aware of your emotions and remember your worth. Be mindful of any changes in your thoughts or feelings.
  • Use “I” statements: When confronting your partner about their behavior, use “I” statements to express your feelings and experiences without sounding accusatory. For example, you can say, “I feel hurt when you dismiss my feelings” instead of “You always make me doubt myself.”
  • Evaluate the relationship: Take a step back and objectively assess the relationship. Consider whether the gaslighting behavior is a pattern or if it’s stemming from a specific issue that can be resolved through open communication. If the gaslighting continues despite your efforts, consider whether the relationship is healthy for you in the long run.
  • Seek safety if needed: If you feel unsafe or if the gaslighting is escalating into emotional or physical abuse, prioritize your safety and consider reaching out to a support network or a domestic violence helpline for assistance.

Gaslighting in Medical Settings 

These are some examples of gaslighting in medical settings with healthcare providers:

  • Downplaying your symptoms: “It’s all in your head. There’s nothing physically wrong with you.”
  • Dismissing your concerns: “That’s just a minor issue; you’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
  • Ignoring your inputs: “You’re not a doctor; you should trust my judgment about what’s best for you.”
  • Giving you false reassurance: “You’re too young to have anything serious. It’s probably nothing to worry over.”

Research shows that minority groups such as BIPOC people and LGBTQIA+ people are more likely to face medical gaslighting.

How to Respond

If you suspect that your healthcare provider is trying to gaslight you, these are some strategies that can help:

  • Ask for clarification: If you feel that the healthcare provider’s explanations are unclear or contradictory, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. A qualified professional should be willing to address your questions and concerns openly.
  • Involve a trusted friend or family member: If possible, involve a trusted friend or family member in your healthcare appointments. Having another person present can provide emotional support and serve as a witness to the interactions.
  • Seek a second opinion: If you’re unsure about the diagnosis or treatment you received, don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion from another medical professional. Getting a fresh perspective can help validate your concerns or provide alternative options.
  • Seek support: Reach out to patient advocacy groups or medical ombudsman services for guidance and support in dealing with the situation.

How to Cope With the Effects of Being Gaslighted

Coping with gaslighting can be challenging, but there are several strategies that may help, according to Wilson:

  • Trust your instincts: Don’t dismiss your emotions as invalid or irrational. Pay attention to your feelings and perceptions. Recognize that they are valid.
  • Maintain a journal: Document incidents of gaslighting to help you see patterns of behavior and retain clarity about what’s happening.
  • Seek support: Talk to friends, family members, or a therapist who can provide understanding and validation.
  • Focus on self-care: Engage in activities that promote your well-being and build your self-confidence.
  • Consider professional help: If gaslighting is affecting your mental health or well-being, seeking therapy or counseling can help you navigate the emotional effects and develop coping strategies.

Originally published on