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  • Janina Winnicki, IHO Volunteer

5 Categories of Gaslighting

  • "I never said that; you're just crazy!"

  • "You remember it wrong; that never happened."

  • "I didn't do that; you did!"

Do these phrases seem familiar to you? If so, you may be a victim of gaslighting, which is a highly effective manipulation tactic often used by abusers. The abuser's main goal is to gain power over the victim by

making the victim question their perception of reality.

How does gaslighting work?

Gaslighting usually occurs when the victim confronts their abuser about something. Though the result of gaslighting is universal, it can come in different forms. Some are easily recognizable; others less so. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, there are 5


Withholding. The abuser pretends not to understand or refuses to listen to the victim upon confrontation.

Example: Victim: "Why did you hit me last night?"

Abuser: "I don't know what you mean; you're just trying to confuse me!"

Countering. The abuser denies the victim's confrontation by countering with an opposite story.

Example: Victim: "Why did you yell at me?"

Abuser: "I was just talking normally; you never remember things correctly!"

Blocking/Diverting. The abuser diverts the conversation or questions the victim's feelings.

Example: Victim: "Why do you always make me feel bad about myself?"

Abuser: "That's just something your mom told you; it's all in your head."

Trivializing. The abuser downplays the victim's feelings.

Example: Victim: "What you did yesterday makes me really sad."

Abuser: "Calm down; you're too emotional."

Forgetting/Denial. The abuser denies or pretends to forget things that happened.

Example: Victim: "You promised you wouldn't do this!"

Abuser: "I don't remember, ever saying that. It never happened."

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse and stems from relationships in which there are power imbalances.

Gaslighting can occur in any relationship, whether at work, in friendships, families, and romantic relationships, though most commonly in the latter. Gaslighting usually starts subtly, so the abuse may not be evident to the victim at first.

Some questions to help identify gaslighting are:

  1. Do you feel isolated?

  2. Do you question your sanity/perception of reality?

  3. Are you afraid to talk to your partner about problems because you know they won't listen?

  4. Do you feel that nothing you do is "right" or "good enough," especially for someone else?

If you or someone you know is experiencing gaslighting or any other form of abuse, you can

call Interval House Ottawa's crisis line: 613-234-5181 or

text the Unsafe at Home Text and Chat line at 613-704-5535.

External Resources:

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