Those that spend a lot of time on social media have likely heard of the term “gaslighting.” Gaslighting is a colloquialism used to describe a specific type of abusive behavior. It’s a manipulation tactic designed to make the person affected by it question their reality. With people becoming more connected online, stories about this type of abuse are now being shared. As a result, awareness is beginning to rise about what this type of abuse is and how to recognize it.
How Do You Recognize Gaslighting?
Gaslighting can sometimes be hard to recognize, especially if it is being perpetrated by someone you love. Being a manipulation tactic, it can be rather subtle sometimes.
Some common tactics used to manipulate people include:
- Pretending not to understand someone, especially when they are trying to talk about their feelings.
- Constantly questioning someone’s memory, even if that person remembers things correctly.
- Making someone feel like their feelings or thoughts or not important or an overreaction.
- Giving someone wrong information to deliberately set them up for failure.
- Pretending that events and conversations never happened.
For example, you and your spouse argue, and they call you a hurtful name. When you later go to talk about it, they claim they never called you that name and that you must have imagined that it happened.
A second example: Your friend tells you to meet them somewhere for a discussion. You show up, but they are nowhere to be found. After waiting for an hour, you decide to leave. Later they call you and tell you they were there and waiting the whole time when you know you didn’t see them.
Gaslighting is not just simply lying. Lying is a manipulation tactic; however, gaslighting takes it much further by making someone question their mental health.
If someone makes you feel like nothing is real, it’s time to cut them out of your life.
What Can Gaslighting Do to Your Mental Health?
Perhaps the thing gaslighting is most known for is causing psychosis. Psychosis is when someone experiences a disconnection from reality. This is a common symptom in other mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia. However, anyone can develop psychosis after an extreme event. Gaslighting, when left unchecked, often ramps up in intensity and has a drastic negative impact on the victim.
People who are victims of gaslighting often develop types of depression and anxiety. Sometimes a person may develop trauma-based disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as a result. Those who are victims may be tempted to self-medicate, turning to substance abuse to cope with their pain. This can turn into substance abuse disorder (SUD) if left unchecked.
How Do You Recover From Gaslighting?
The first thing anyone must do to recover from gaslighting is to remove the person doing it from their life. It can be extremely hard to do, especially if said person is a loved one, such as a parent or a spouse. However, you must get away for the sake of your health. Block them and do not speak with them until you are in a healthy state of mind. If you do ever decide to speak with them at all, bring witnesses with you so they can back you up.
It is recommended that you see a mental health professional for treatment. Usually, psychotherapy — also referred to as talk therapy — will be used to help teach you how to trust yourself again. Other types of treatment may be used, and even medication might be recommended to help you cope with the lingering effects. It is never a bad idea to seek therapy for your mental health.
It is considered a good idea as well to keep a journal and write in it every day. Be sure to mark the dates and times of events that are important. That way, if someone tries to deny that an event happened, you can use your journal to reaffirm your stance.
The hardest thing to recover after being a victim of gaslighting is your ability to trust someone. Trust is fragile, and it can take a long time to allow yourself to trust other people again. With time and effort, anyone can recover from this type of abuse. Time is key, and don’t feel frustrated that it can take a long time to heal. Be patient, and allow yourself time to fully process what happened.
Remember, you are not a weak or a broken person for being manipulated. Abusers manipulate people because they can, and gaslighting is designed to make you feel helpless and alone. Anyone can be manipulated at any time. Learning to let go of that shame will be another huge step in recovery. It was not your fault that someone chose to manipulate you. That fault lies entirely on the person doing the manipulation. Learning to not blame yourself for the actions of someone else is vitally important to your recovery, but also one of the hardest steps. Always remember that you are a person that is worthy of being treated with respect and kindness.
Gaslighting is a type of abuse that can leave its victims feeling unsure about their reality and mental health. It’s a harrowing event to go through at best and can be devastating at worst. Here at Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, we have trained professionals who are waiting to help you. Nobody deserves to feel as though their feelings are irreverent or an overreaction. Your thoughts and emotions are important to us, and we want to help you feel good about yourself. If you or someone you love has been the victim of gaslighting or would like to learn more about mental health treatment options, call (949) 647-4090 today.