How to deal with gaslighting

Mar 1, 2024 | 2 Min Read

Table of Contents

Gaslighting is a form of manipulative behaviour that attempts to make you question your memories or perception of reality and can even make you think you’re going crazy. It’s a tactic some people use to gain power and control over others. It takes its name from the 1944 film The Gaslight, in which a man uses deception to convince his wife that she is losing her mind. 

Gaslighting can gradually erode your confidence and self-worth, leaving you reliant on the person who is gaslighting you. Victims of gaslighting feel isolated and anxious, suffer from low self-esteem, and sometimes question their own sanity.

Gaslighting can occur in any type of relationship, including romantic relationships, family relationships, friendships, and even in the workplace. Because it is so subtle, it’s important to learn how to deal with gaslighting the moment you spot the signs. 

Here are some examples of what gaslighting can sound like:

“You’re too sensitive.” 

“Why are you making a big deal out of nothing?” 

“You’re overreacting again.”

“I never said that.”

“You’re imagining things.” 

If you suspect someone is gaslighting you, here are five ways to handle it.  

Gaslighting works best when the victim doesn’t know what’s going on. If you feel comfortable doing so, let the person who’s gaslighting you know that you see what they’re doing, and you’re not going to stand for it. Instead of getting heated and going into attack mode, try to call the gaslighter out calmly. This will show them that, in addition to understanding what they’re up to, they are not getting a reaction out of you, which is what they thrive on. 
Documenting interactions may help you prove to yourself that you are not imagining or forgetting things. Save screenshots of text conversations or emails, take photos, or write down your version of events in a journal. Because the main goal of gaslighting is to make you feel like you’ve lost touch with reality, it’s important to keep a record of things as they happen, to return to as proof when you start to question or doubt yourself.
Setting boundaries can help protect you from gaslighting; for example, your boundary might be refusing to let others talk down to you or calling out gaslighting whenever it occurs. Be clear and concise in communicating the things you will not tolerate and always follow through. Gaslighters will be less likely to manipulate you if they know it won’t work.
Putting your emotional wellbeing first is a priority when dealing with gaslighting, because it takes such a huge toll on your mental health. Focusing on your wellness and self-worth may help lower your risk of developing anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions. Do your best to find time for activities that can boost your self-esteem and bring clarity to your life, such as making a list of your accomplishments. Step outside your comfort zone to learn a new skill or hobby, or try practicing meditation or yoga.

Though it’s often the goal of a gaslighter to isolate you from the people who care about you, having a trusted family member or friend to confide in is crucial. In addition to acting as a sounding board, they are an unbiased third party who can give you an objective opinion and remind you that what you’re feeling isn’t “crazy” or “exaggerated.” 

Sometimes an outside perspective is exactly what is needed to recognise a gaslighting relationship for what it is. That is why seeking professional help through therapy or counselling may be necessary, as mental health professionals are specifically trained to identify gaslighting behaviour.

If you are suffering from gaslighting and don’t know where to turn, consider contacting the Expat Assistance Programme – the confidential counselling support, included in most of our healthcare plans. The Expat Assistance programme is available through live online chat, face to face, phone, video or email.


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