Emotional abuse can be a subtle form of causing serious harm to another person. Gaslighting is a particularly dangerous tactic that can make you feel like you’re going insane. If not dealt with promptly, you may resort to substance abuse to feel something other than constant psychological suffering. Learning the warning signs can help you protect yourself.
Gaslighting Is a Type of Emotional Abuse
When you think of abuse, the first thing that might come to your mind is physical acts of aggression and violence. However, an abuser can also inflict emotional harm by playing psychological games with a partner, family member, or friend. Emotional abuse can be a more challenging problem to identify as it’s not your body that’s being harmed, but your mind.
“Gaslighting” is a type of emotional abuse that makes a person question their lived experiences, competencies, opinions, and eventually, their own sanity. It is an attempt to manipulate another and box them into a corner of uncertainty and insecurity. The individual being abused becomes filled with self-doubt and confusion. They will also struggle with low self-esteem and confidence. Constantly being deceived and bullied will do that to a person.
Why Do People Gaslight Others?
The goal of gaslighting is to gain control or exert power over another person. Gaslighting often occurs in romantic relationships, but it can also occur between a parent and child or in other familial relationships like between siblings. You may have even had this unpleasant experience at work with a boss or colleague. Power imbalances are theorized to play an important role in why an individual demonstrates this sort of behavior.
Because gaslighting triggers deep and enduring self-doubt, you may come to rely on the abuser’s directions in order to make decisions in your life. Unfortunately, this is the outcome the individual typically desires. Some people gaslight others because that is the behavior they endured from parents as a child. Gaslighting is sometimes a feature of psychopathy and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. While some are fully aware of what they’re doing and do not want to change, others act subconsciously and may benefit from therapy.
Signs You Are Being Gaslit
Gaslighting is not a one-off occurrence but a pattern of behavior. The longer you get to know an individual, they may start to become more comfortable pushing your limits in their attempts to deliberately feed you false information and make you question your identity and self-worth. This form of manipulation tends to worsen and become more complex over time.
Is there someone in your life that constantly criticizes, blames, shames, or humiliates you? Does the individual call you names or accuse you of things they have no evidence for? Some abusers may display extremely jealous and/or possessive behavior, and they may try to prevent you from seeing friends and family.
If you’re not sure if you’re being gaslit, reflect on how you feel after a conflict. Do you feel bewildered, extremely frustrated, and just downright defeated? Did the argument leave you feeling worthless, incompetent, and dependent on the individual’s advice or support? Remember, gaslighters will insist that what he or she remembers, thinks, and feels is correct while you have it all wrong.
Turning to Drugs & Alcohol Won’t Help
Enduring the pain of gaslighting can be psychologically devastating. You may become overly suspicious of other people and develop relationship issues with yourself and others. These experiences can lead to the development of mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Numbing your pain using drugs or alcohol may feel like the only way out. This path could lead to an addiction, requiring treatment in a dual diagnosis program. The good news is that there is another way out.
Discover Tools to Protect Yourself
The first thing you can do is get informed. By understanding what gaslighting looks and feels like, you can learn to recognize it and know you’re not crazy. The next time you believe you’re being gaslit, pay close attention to what is said and how the message is expressed. Take notes if you plan to confront the person, as this will not only validate what you’re experiencing but might help the individual see the harm they’re causing.
If this person is a family member that you cannot avoid, do not engage or entertain them when they start to argue with you. Remember, they will play off your emotions and use what you say against you. Talk to other family members to seek support in holding them accountable for their harmful behavior. They may benefit from therapy themselves.
If this person is a romantic partner, do not wait to reach out to family, friends, or abuse support groups in your community. Their perspectives can reaffirm your experience and help you build the courage to either leave the relationship or find ways to work through it in therapy. A professional can help you establish healthy boundaries with the individual and help them understand and change their behavior.
Gaslighting is a manipulative form of emotional abuse that makes you question your experiences, opinions, and competencies. Learning how to identify this abusive pattern of behavior will give you the power to address it and realize that you are not crazy. At Oceanfront Recovery, we understand how hurtful and confusing is it to endure the psychological games of gaslighting. Emotional abuse can lead you to drink excessively and use drugs you never thought you’d touch. We are a small but dedicated team of experienced clinicians that know how to identify the warning signs of abuse, which include mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Our fully licensed residential treatment program will not only heal you from addiction but empower you with the tools to manage negative thoughts and behaviors you may have developed as a result of your painful experience. Change your story today. Call (877) 279-1777 to speak to one of our representatives.