Gaslighting Phrases: If Your Partner Says Any of These You May Be Victim

Do you feel you're second-guessing yourself all the time or find yourself apologizing for something you don't remember saying, thinking or feeling? Have you often questioned not just your words, thoughts and feelings but also your sanity? These and several other signs may indicate that you are a victim of gaslighting.

For example, when a person is having an affair and their partner confronts them, "they deny reality and blame the victim," Dr. Eve Kilmer, a psychologist and certified emotionally focused therapy (EFT) couples therapist based, told Newsweek.

The person would tell their partner: "You're insecure and crazy jealous," Kilmer said.

Read on to find out more gaslighting phrases to look out for in your relationship and how to get help.

What Is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is "a process of emotional abuse whereby a person's reality and reality in general is denied," Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a psychologist and professor at the California State University, Los Angeles told Newsweek.

The victim of the gaslighting is portrayed as or told that they're somehow "mentally not well or not thinking clearly," she said.

This process is repeated until the gaslighted person experiences a sense of self-doubt, confusion and ultimately "just falls in line unquestioningly with the gaslighter," according to the psychologist.

"It's an indoctrination process that takes place over time and often occurs when there is an experience of trust or expertise (that the gaslighter is someone trustworthy) or more powerful," Durvasula explained.

A September 2019 study published in the peer-reviewed American Sociological Review describes gaslighting as "a type of psychological abuse aimed at making victims seem or feel 'crazy,' creating a 'surreal' interpersonal environment."

The study claims gaslighting abusers "mobilize gendered stereotypes; structural vulnerabilities related to race, nationality, and sexuality; and institutional inequalities against victims to erode their realities."

A man and woman mid-argument at home.
A woman looking over her shoulder, while a man appears to be gesturing at her during an argument. Gaslighting takes place gradually and the abusive partner's actions may appear harmless at first. iStock/Getty Images Plus

Gaslighting Phrases

Below are some common gaslighting phrases, as highlighted by Durvasula.

  • Stop being so sensitive.
  • That never happened.
  • Your mind seems off, you need help.
  • Why can't you take a joke?
  • Why are you always so angry?
  • Why can't you let go of the past?
  • Stop exaggerating it wasn't that bad.
  • I don't actually think that is what you are feeling.
  • Stop getting so worked up.
  • You have no right to feel that way.
  • It's all in your head.
A couple mid-argument on a sofa.
A man and a woman on a couch appearing to be in the middle of an argument. Gaslighting is a form emotional abuse whereby a person's reality is denied. iStock/Getty Images Plus

Signs That You May Be a Victim of Gaslighting

Gaslighting usually takes place gradually and the abusive partner's actions may appear harmless at first. But over time—amid the confusion, hurt, isolation and anxiety created by the ongoing abuse—the victim can eventually "lose all sense of what is actually happening," explains the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

So it's important to identify the signs of gaslighting, such as ones highlighted below by Dr. Robin Stern, a psychoanalyst, at the hotline's website.

  • You're constantly second-guessing yourself.
  • You're often asking yourself: "Am I too sensitive?" multiple times a day.
  • You're often feeling confused and even "crazy."
  • You're always apologizing to your partner.
  • You can't understand why you aren't happier despite there being so many "apparently good things" in your life.
  • You often make excuses for your partner's behavior to friends and family.
  • You withhold information from friends and family so you won't have to explain or make excuses.
  • You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
  • You begin lying to avoid "the put downs and reality twists" from your partner.
  • You have difficulty making simple decisions.
  • You're aware that you used to be a very different person–more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
  • You're feeling hopeless and joyless.
  • You feel as though you can't do anything right.
  • You question whether you are a "good enough" partner.
A couple arguing on a sofa.
A man and woman arguing while sitting on a couch. An gaslighter will shape the narrative of a given situation in the way they want and will want you to think you caused the issue. iStock/Getty Images Plus

How Can I Get Help As a Victim of Gaslighting?

Durvasula advises getting therapy helps because "a good therapist will never gaslight you and will validate your reality."

Having trusted friends or family members who also validate your reality can help break the cycle of gaslighting, the psychologist advised. "Just one validator of your reality can make a big difference in the gaslighted cycle," she said.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline recommends the following to help combat gaslighting:

Keep Proof of Incidents

Be it in a journal or by recording voice memos, taking pictures, sending yourself emails or telling a trusted friend or family member, keep a log of every incident. This is not only for the benefit of your own mental health but can be useful should any legal action need to be taken against the abuser.

Devise a Safety Plan

This is a personalized plan that outlines ways to remain safe while you're either in the relationship, are planning to leave or after you leave the relationship. The plan details how to cope with emotions you face, tell friends and family about the abusive situation you're facing, how to take legal action, among other measures.

Focus on Self-Care

Whether you're still in the relationship or have left it, it's important to focus on looking after yourself (doing what's best for you and what brings you comfort) and healing your mind. This would entail processing what's happened (or is still happening) and recognizing that your abusive partner is manipulating the situation by shifting the blame on you.

"Abusive partners shape the narrative the way they want it. They want you to think you caused it, but you didn't ('If you hadn't done this, I wouldn't have done that.').," the hotline explains.

You'll also need to learn to trust your instincts again, allowing yourself to believe your own thoughts, feelings, intuitions and decisions, which have long come into question due to the gaslighting.

If you think you may be a victim of gaslighting or another form of abuse, contact 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 TTY or chat to someone online at thehotline.org, the National Domestic Violence Hotline advises.

Woman with head down sitting against wall.
A woman sitting on the floor with her head on her knees and back against a brick wall. Gaslighting victims experience self-doubt, confusion and isolation as a result of the abuse. iStock/Getty Images Plus