5 Major Red Flags Someone Is Gaslighting You—And What You Can Do

An expert explains gaslighting and how to break free from this form of emotional abuse.

Many of us have found ourselves in toxic relationships, where we are constantly confused and unsure if what we think is happening actually is.

This is often the result of a form of emotional abuse, where one person deliberately misleads the other. This may make victims of gaslighting question their own sense of reality. They may even think they are losing control of their own minds.

We often think of gaslighting as something that a spouse or partner may be guilty of, but it’s actually something that can exist in all sorts of relationships, from employment situations to toxic friendships and even parent/child dynamics.

Jonice Webb, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and author of two books, Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect and Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships, knows a thing or two about the types of gaslighting that exists in relationships.

Webb spoke to HelloGiggles about the many places in which you may come across gaslighting in your life — and the signs to watch out for.

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What is gaslighting?

Woman Upset

Those who are being gaslit are conditioned to question their own sanity. It’s a form of emotional abuse.

“Gaslighting happens when one person undermines another’s sense of reality, making it difficult for them to trust themselves,” Webb says. In short, gaslighting is a form of manipulation.

Narcissistic and manipulative people are typically those who gaslight in an effort to “gain power and control over the other person,” she adds.

Webb says that those who gaslight may say one thing and do another, but pretend they don’t know what you’re talking about when you call them out. 

“[They may] insist they never said what they said, or [give] compliments with hurtful barbs hidden in them,” says Webb.

Gaslighting can exist in all types of relationships

Workplace Emotional Abuse

If you’re in a situation with a friend or a colleague who makes up wild stories and insists you’re the one not getting it, you are possibly being gaslit even though you’re not romantically involved.

“Gaslighting can happen in any relationship between two people,” Webb explains. “It may feel different to the recipient depending on the type of relationship, but the warning signs are the same.”

Know the 5 major red flags

The purpose of gaslighting is to control you by making you question everything you believe about yourself and the world around you.

According to Webb, the following are 5 major red flags that someone is gaslighting you:

Red Flag 1: You’re doubting your own truth.

Red Flag 2: You’re questioning yourself excessively.

Red Flag 3: You’re feeling confused.

Red Flag 4: You’re frequently thinking you must be perceiving things incorrectly.

Red Flag 5: You know this person is a perpetual liar.

Those who gaslight you are going to care about how things impact them — not how things may hurt you. “If you feel someone may be lying to you about things that are very obvious and expecting you to believe them, that’s a sign,” she advises. 

This person is harming you emotionally and then proceeding to act like it was nothing, expecting you to pretend like it didn’t happen. 

How to protect yourself

Woman Distressed

Gaslighting is a major red flag in any relationship, whether personal or professional.

If and when you do come across someone who is clearly gaslighting you, know that it’s time to remove yourself from the situation — as well as the person.

“You can’t usually protect yourself from a gaslighter while staying in the relationship,” says Webb. “Distance, boundaries, and refusing to engage are the best ways to protect yourself.”

No matter if it’s a work colleague, a romantic partner, a friend, a sibling, or someone else in your life, let them know straight-up that they are gaslighting you and that you won’t stand for that kind of manipulative, emotional abuse. Seek solace in other more trustworthy and straightforward people in your life.

Aly Walansky
Aly Walansky is a NYC-based freelance writer focusing on food and travel. Read more