According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, gaslighting can happen in a variety of ways. Some examples include:

How gaslighting works

Gaslighting is a method of gaining control over someone else. It works by breaking down a person’s trust in themselves while increasing how much they trust or depend on the abusive person.

In relationships, gaslighting often begins gradually. The abusive person gains their partner’s trust, sometimes with an initial “honeymoon period” in which there is no abusive behaviour. Then the person begins suggesting that their partner is not reliable, that they are forgetful, or that they are mentally unstable.

Over time, this can cause people to question if their partner is right. The more this happens, the more power and influence the abusive person has.

Unable to trust themselves, the person may start to rely heavily on their partner to recall memories or make decisions. They may also feel they cannot leave.

Signs That You’re Being Gaslighted by Someone with NPD

It’s common for people to fail to recognize manipulative tactics like narcissistic gaslighting. Someone with NPD might be gaslighting you if:

Narcissistic gaslighting can make you feel like something is wrong, but you’re unable to put your finger on just what it is.

Common traits of gaslighters

A toxic person who gaslights might:

A person with narcissistic personality disorder who’s gaslighting you might say you’re crazy, insensitive, or otherwise just flat out wrong when you try to express your needs or wants. 

Examples of “Narcissistic Gaslighting”

Narcissistic gaslighting examples can be subtle and difficult to recognize. It’s not the same thing as telling one lie, having a unique opinion, or accusing someone else of being wrong about something. It’s also important to note that someone who gaslights doesn’t necessarily have to know you personally.

Where can gaslighting occur?

Gaslighting can occur in any type of interaction, but it is especially common in:

Intimate relationships

In relationships, an abusive person may use gaslighting to isolate their partner, undermine their confidence, and make them easier to control. For example, they might tell someone they are irrational until the person starts to think it must be true.

Child-parent relationships

Abusive parents or caregivers may gaslight children to undermine them. For example, when a child cries, they may say they are “too sensitive” to shame them and make them stop.

Medical gaslighting

Medical gaslighting is when a medical professional dismisses a person’s health concerns as being the product of their imagination. They may tell the person their symptoms are “in their head” or label them a hypochondriac.

Racial gaslighting

According to an article in Politics, Group, and Identities, racial gaslighting is when people apply gaslighting techniques to an entire racial or ethnic group in order to discredit them. For example, a person or institution may say that an activist campaigning for change is irrational or “crazy.”

Political gaslighting

Political gaslighting occurs when a political group or figure lies or manipulates information to control people, according to an article in the Buffalo Law Review.

For example, the person or political party may downplay things their administration has done, discredit their opponents, imply that critics are mentally unstable, or use controversy to deflect attention away from their mistakes.

Institutional gaslighting

Institutional gaslighting occurs within a company, organization, or institution, such as a hospital. For example, they may portray whistleblowers who report problems as irrational or incompetent, or deceive employees about their rights.

Why Someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder Gaslights

People might gaslight others because of negative childhood experiences, a need to be in control, or due to a personality disorder like NPD. Regardless of the cause, all people who gaslight (not only those who show narcissistic behavior or with NPD) do so in effort to gain power. When narcissistic abusers or a gaslighter feels threatened, they feel a strong need for acceptance and support. They want others to believe their retelling of events to restore their sense of control.

Gaslighting can also be the result of someone believing that their account is more accurate than yours. By convincing you to question your memory of events, they can regain that sense of superior intellect.

“Gaslighting, historically, is used to establish dominance. T

Signs of gaslighting

People who experience gaslighting can find it difficult to recognize the signs. They may trust the abusive person or believe that they truly do have a poor memory.

However, if a person often feels unsure, second-guesses themselves, or relies on someone else to confirm their memories or help them make simple decisions, this may be due to gaslighting.

Some potential signs that someone is experiencing gaslighting include:

Gaslighting may contribute to anxiety, depression, and psychological trauma, especially if it is part of a wider pattern of abuse.

How to respond to gaslighting

Gaslighting has a significant impact on mental health, so people who experience it need to make sure they look after theirs. There are several ways to protect oneself from this form of abuse.

When to seek help

Anyone who believes they are experiencing abuse of any kind should seek support. Over time, emotional abuse may escalate into physical violence.

Even if the abuse does not become physical, gaslighting and similar behaviours can significantly undermine a person’s self-esteem and mental health.

Contact a domestic abuse organization for advice and help with creating a safety plan. To address the mental impact of gaslighting, a person may find it helpful to talk confidentially to a therapist who has experience helping people in abusive relationships.  Personal Freedom can assist you with this.


Gaslighting is a type of abuse that causes someone to doubt their perceptions or sanity. It can take place in any kind of relationship but often involves an imbalance of power.

People who experience gaslighting may feel confused or as though they cannot do anything right. They may question their memories or worry that they have a mental illness. They may also defend the abusive person’s behaviour and feel reliant on them.

Finding safe ways to document events, create a safety plan, or leave a relationship are important ways to protect oneself from gaslighting, as well as other forms of emotional abuse. If a person is concerned that their partner is gaslighting them, a domestic abuse organization or mental health professional can help.