Gas-lighting is a ‘repeat, systematic series of lies designed to make the victim doubt her reality.’ Any human relationship is fertile ground for gas-lighting but it’s such a pervasive form of abuse it’s not always easy to spot. Here’s how.

Annabel Kantaria

Annabel Kantaria

You’re always being told you’re too sensitive, too emotional or over-reacting. This is perhaps one of the clearest signs that you’re being gas-lit. Quite simply, the gas-lighter’s blaming you for reacting to his/her unreasonable behaviour.

You’re constantly doubting yourself, be it your memory, your judgement, your behaviour or your decisions. Your gas-lighter always has a different spin on events to you – eventually you start to question yourself. You thought he took sugar in his coffee but he rolls his eyes and reminds you he stopped taking it a month ago. You even had a long chat about it… he must be right: your memory’s rubbish these days.

You’ve lost your mojo and you can’t put your finger on why. While it sounds very dramatic on paper, gas-lighting is a systematic form of abuse that builds up so slowly it can be difficult to tell it’s happening. As it continues, you’ll lose your self-confidence but so slowly you might not realise what’s wrong.

You make excuses for the gas-lighter’s behaviour. You know he comes across as a bit controlling and you know your friends have noticed, so you start blaming it on stress or family problems or saying how good he is to you when they’re not around.

You’re always apologising. Because the gas-lighter will make you believe everything’s your fault. No matter what you do, it’s wrong. And, if you argue, you’re ‘too sensitive’ or melodramatic.

Arguments always come back to you. You’ll never win an argument with a gas-lighter – he’ll lead you in circles until you believe everything’s your fault. You tell him you don’t like the way he’s speaking to you and he’ll laugh and say he was only messing about. Were you being too sensitive? You’re doubting yourself again.

You’re always trying to live up to your gas-lighter’s expectations. Whatever you do, wear or say, it’s never good enough.

You’ve lost your self-confidence. You’ve been told so many times that you’re wrong and you’re not good enough that it’s completely sapped your inner strength and self-belief. You no longer know who you are.

You stop fighting back. You’re so used to being told you’re wrong, you’ve stopped arguing and go along with the gas-lighter’s version of events. He’s always right, isn’t he?

Your friends ask what’s wrong. You’re not as fun-loving and carefree as you used to be; you’re much quieter. Friends can often spot symptoms before you do yourself – listen to them.