As mental health care becomes more accepted and accessible, discussions about topics such as abuse, mental illness, or anger management seem to increase as well. This is a good sign culturally, as it shows stigma is breaking down. However, we need to be clear on some terminology used in everyday life. Otherwise, we may label someone or a situation in a way that can actually be harmful.
A term that has gained popularity lately is gaslighting. It has been used on television shows and podcasts as a way to describe an element of arguments or difficult relationships. While the term is used, many people still may not know what it really entails. So, what is gaslighting really?
- A form of psychological abuse where a person or group makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories.
- Signs of gaslighting can include feeling confused, unable to trust yourself, questioning if you are too sensitive, constantly apologizing to the abusive person, and becoming withdrawn.
- Gaslighting can develop gradually, which makes it difficult to detect.
- Some techniques include questioning someone’s memories, pretending not to understand someone to prevent further conversation, belittling someone’s feelings, questioning the credibility of someone’s thoughts, or using a stereotype to manipulate someone.
- Gaslighting is common where there is an imbalance of power, which can occur in intimate relationships, the workplace, or even the doctors office.
- People who engage in gaslighting may have a lack of empathy, need for admiration or attention, or believe they are better than others. This does not excuse their behavior—it helps us understand where it is coming from.
If you are experiencing gaslighting, know there is help. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522. If you are in the Chicagoland area and would like to speak with a mental health professional, please call Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000.
Written by Kathryn
2021 Graduate Intern