6 signs you’re not crazy, you’re being gaslit, according to psychology

While it might have grown in usage in recent years, the concept of gaslighting is nothing new. 

In fact, in Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit, a serial published all the way back when (between 1855 and 1857) the character Affery Flintwinch finds herself in a real mess with her husband, Jeremiah. 

Believe me, he’s not just a run-of-the-mill bad hubby—he’s a master manipulator, constantly playing around with her head.

When Affery hears strange noises in their creepy house, instead of comforting her or looking deeper into it, Jeremiah fully gaslights her, making her doubt what she’s heard. 

And then things get even weirder. Out of the blue, she spots Jeremiah’s secret twin, who she never even knew existed.

But when she brings it up, he simply brushes it off like she’s imagining things. Wild, right?!

 All in all, it’s a chilling reminder of how manipulative people can really mess with your head.

 If you can relate to Affery’s plight, you’re probably wondering what signs to look for…and I can help.

 Here are six signs you’re not crazy, you’re being gaslit, according to psychology.

1) The flow of communication is being purposefully obstructed

Blocking communication breeds a whole lot of confusion. Simple as that.

If someone is often dodging having important chats, especially on sensitive topics, or their responses are becoming increasingly evasive or dismissive, it’s a sign of larger problems.

A study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology investigated the process of “stonewalling” in gaslighting.

According to the researchers, stonewalling can be defined as: “Uncooperative communication that strategically obstructs and delays the flow of information.”

It’s disorienting and frustrating, and can make you fully doubt your own perceptions and feelings.

They want their version of reality to stick, even if it’s warped. By cutting off conversation, they gain a semblance of control over you.

2) Gendered stereotypes are being leveraged against you

So, you’re in the midst of a heated fight (or erm, discussion), and suddenly, the other person says, “You’re just being emotional because you’re a woman.” 

Personally, this has happened to me myriad times. And the funny thing I’ve noticed?

That the phrase pops up right when you’re making a solid point or calling someone out on their bad behavior.

Yeah, it’s funny like that. Real funny.

Here’s the kicker: you’re not overreacting because you’re a woman—you’re reacting because there’s a legitimate, glaring issue right in your face.

In a study in the American Sociological Review, researchers studied the phenomenon of gender bias in the act of gaslighting, stating that “abusers mobilize gendered stereotypes.”

Researchers expanded on this: “These tactics are gendered in that they rely on the association of femininity with irrationality.”

As the experts put it, this tactic of gaslighting isn’t new (as with Dickens). It’s got roots deep in history. 

For eons and eons, society has painted women as the softer, more emotional sex. 

Gaslighters simply tap into this stereotype in order to chop you down to size, or belittle you. Keep aware and alert.

3) They always seem to present excuses for their manipulation

Have you ever felt like no matter what you do in a relationship, it’s never quite enough? 

Almost as if every effort you make is met with criticism and complaints? This could be indicative of a pattern greater than a lack of gratitude: you’re being gaslit.

A systematic review undertaken by Turkish researchers put intimate relationships under the microscope, specifically looking at gaslighting’s impact.

Researchers said: “In the first stage of manipulation, the perpetrator tries to establish control over the victim and transforms his or her thoughts into what he wants them to be.”

In the review, experts break down how the male partner will gaslit their female partner by implicating that she is “too cold in bed, does not dress elegantly at home, cannot cook good meals for her.”

And if the dude is called out? They are quick to justify his problematic actions, often saying something along the lines of “every man can make a mistake once.”

By making you feel inadequate, they foist the blame for their behavior, and the weight of it, right onto you.

When you start believing you’re the problem, you become easier to assert control over. Absolutely messed up, right?

Going back to the study, as a result of this shifting of blame, the female partner faces incredible levels of “depressive feelings” and “guilt” as a result of this poor treatment.

Remember, loving and intimate relationships should have bucket loads of mutual respect, trust, appreciation, and understanding.

4) You’re being treated as inferior to them

If you’ve ever been around someone who treats you like you’re completely and utterly beneath them, you’ll know how rough it can feel.

They talk down to you, act like they know best, and make you feel less capable. 

They imply that you’re not on their level, that you’re somehow worth less than they are. Over time, this wears you down.

You start to doubt your own experiences and knowledge. 

Before you go down the pathway of thinking you’re as small as they make you feel, and begin doubting your grips on reality, you might like to question whether you’re the victim of gaslighting.

A study in the journal The Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume dived deep into the link between gaslighters and their superiority complex.

Experts said that often, they will demand or expect “authority on unwarranted grounds.”

Basically, if they assert authority in this way and make you feel inferior, they are better poised to manipulate you. They make you question your worth and your decisions.

Remember, in a healthy adult relationship—be it friendship, romance, or work—no one should be playing the all-seeing overlord. 

You’re equals, not someone who’s perpetually in the wrong or just doesn’t get it.

5) You’re being used as their punching bag

Are you constantly defending yourself against baseless accusations? Always apologizing for things that aren’t your fault? 

Then there’s a good chance you’re not losing your mind—you’re being gaslit.

Research published in The Journal of Criminological Research found that gaslighters often projected “negative emotions or unwanted self-perceptions” onto their target.

It’s kind of like you’re the canvas and someone is splattering fears, insecurities, and flaws onto you like it’s a paint bomb.

Here’s a wee little secret… Those people who gaslight are often drowning in their own negative emotions and self-doubt

Instead of dealing with these issues with a healthy dose of therapy or just good old fashioned self-reflection, they dump them onto someone else.

They distract you with your supposed faults so you don’t notice theirs. For example, if they’re always tardy, they accuse you of being inconsiderate and not respecting their time. 

Suddenly, you’re questioning yourself even though you’re always 10 minutes early!

6) The way you see yourself is being twisted and distorted to suit their agenda

If your inner voice, once your biggest fan, now sounds like your harshest critic, it can be oh so exhausting and heartbreaking.

But trust me—you’re 100% not losing your sanity. These feelings are almost always the result of someone else’s manipulative ways.

A study on power dynamics and gaslighting explored the concept that gaslighters tend to use tactics of manipulation to twist a person’s sense of rationality.

Why do they do this? Well, it’s often to “sabotage the victim’s self-respect” and “change the way” a person relates or views themselves.

This might look like little comments, such as “Are you sure you want to wear that?” but they might even escalate to larger things like, “You always get so emotional.”

If you spot these red flags, that’s a fantastic first step. Most people don’t even get that far!

Next up, have a chat to someone you trust about what you’re wading through. Sometimes, just saying it out loud can be a massive relief.

Coming in here with a bit of optimistic advice: you can always gradually repair your self-respect and self-love. 

This might mean establishing new boundaries, seeking therapy or counseling, or simply spending more time with people who genuinely build you up.

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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