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The word came from the stage play Gaslight,Wikipedia wherein an abusive husband turns off lights while denying he is doing so, so as to make his wife feel insane to the point where she is psychiatrically committed, so he can steal her inheritance.
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Gaslighting is a form of unhealthy psychological manipulation wherein the abuser attempts to manufacture thoughts or feelings of mental instability in the victim.[1][2] The abuser may do so unconsciously, or so as to destabilize the victim, make them feel upset, trick them into giving double breakfast, induce delusional states in them, and/or exercise control over them. The National Domestic Abuse Hotline considers gaslighting a form of serious abuse.[3] Gaslighting forms the first phase of the DARVO behavior (Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender).[4][5]

Schizophrenia-like symptoms that previously did not exist have been shown to be induced by professional psychiatric treatment.[6] Psychiatrist Theo L. Dorpat argues that this is widespread in clinical settings due to some medical professionals having authoritarian attitudes or wanting to exercise social control over their patients.[7]

Gaslighting in detail[edit]

Various phrases sometimes used to gaslight.

The most commonly cited gaslighting tactics abusers use were outlined by Patricia Evans and include:

  • Withholding information from the victim;
  • Countering information to fit the abuser's perspective;
  • Discounting information;
  • Using verbal abuse, usually in the form of jokes;
  • Blocking and diverting the victim's attention from outside sources;
  • Trivializing ("minimising") the victim's worth; and,
  • Undermining the victim by gradually weakening them and their thought processes.[8]

Gaslighting is a form of denialism where one party maliciously and repeatedly denies facts, the denial of which causes harm (psychological or physical) to another party.[9]


Gaslighting is thought to be used particularly by people with antisocial personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder traits.[10]


Although gaslighting as an abuse tactic is not questioned by anyone except extreme sociopaths and narcissists, it is true that some people claiming gaslighting may not be experiencing gaslighting. Theoretically, they may instead by experiencing a real delusion not induced by an abuser. At the same time, some prominent anti-psychiatrists such as David CooperWikipedia claim all serious cases of non-drug-induced persistent delusions are caused by interpersonal abuse or neglect, particularly from authority figures such as parents.[11]

It is possible to gaslight someone experiencing delusions, as making a person feel out of touch with reality is not going to stabilize them, and is just going to make them more delusional. And that is obviously not healthy. Someone may have a delusion that a gaslighter may utilize to make the person have more delusions. Arguably it may be useful to have someone delusional instead merely recognize their delusions instead of making them feel more delusional, so as to work them out of their delusions, a principle of CBT talk therapy.

Because the term has made it into public consciousness but people don't always take the time to look up the definition of a word and instead just pick it up from context, it is becoming common for online users to label as "gaslighting" any form of lying or deception. While gaslighting does include those things, it's much more specific than that.


See also[edit]


  1. What is gaslighting? And how do you know if it's happening to you? It's an unfortunate reality that happens in personal relationships and by public figures to the peoples they serve. by Sarah DiGiulio (July 13, 2018, 4:19 AM PDT) NBC News.
  2. What Does Gaslighting Mean: Understanding and Identifying this Manipulative Tactic. by Job Agency Info
  3. What is Gaslighting? National Domestic Violence Hotline.
  4. How Narcissists Use DARVO to Escape Accountability by Manya Wakefield (Apr 30, 2020) Narcissistic Abuse Rehab.
  5. Perpetrator Responses to Victim Confrontation: DARVO and Victim Self-Blame by Sarah J. Harsey et al. (2016) Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma 26(6): 644-663. doi:10.1080/10926771.2017.1320777.
  6. The gaslight phenomenon--an institutional variant by C. A. Lund & A. Q. Gardiner (1977) Br. J. Psychiatry 131:533-4. doi:10.1192/bjp.131.5.533.
  7. Gaslighting, the Double Whammy: Interrogation, and Other Methods of Covert Control in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis by Theodore L. Dorpat (1996). Jason Aronson. ISBN 9781568218281.
  8. The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize it and How to Respond by Patricia Evans (1996) Adams Media Corporation. 2nd ed. ISBN 1558505822.
  9. When It Might Not Be Gaslighting: There are a range of factors to consider when identifying gaslighting. by Ahona Guha (uly 7, 2021) Psychology Today.
  10. The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout (2006) Harmony. ISBN 0767915828.
  11. The Death of the Family by David Graham Cooper (1971) Penguin Press.