Gaslighting: What is it?

Dr Matthew Cullen, Psychiatrist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney

Often, I get asked what is gaslighting? Gaslighting is, at its essence, a form of abuse, a form of manipulation.

What happens with gaslighting?

So typically in a relationship, usually male to female, but not always, the gaslighter will work constantly to undermine the confidence of their partner in the relationship, manipulate their perspectives in a way that makes the partner feel like they’re not as good a person, not as credible a person, not as able to be an equal in the relationship. Gaslighting is very often found with narcissists because they want a relationship where there is a power imbalance, where their inflated ego is very important, relative to the individual they’re in a relationship with, i.e. the person they’re gaslighting.

How to get help

Coercive control is not yet a crime in Australia, but some of the behaviours used by abusers in a coercive controlling relationship may be. You have a right to feel safe, and there are many services that can support you if you are in an abusive relationship.

If you are in immediate danger, call triple zero ‘000’.

Important national numbers for help

  • Emergency 24/7 – 000
  • 1800 RESPECT 24/7 – 1800 737 732
  • Kids Help Line 24/7 – 1800 551 800
  • Sexual Assault Counselling Aust – 1800 211 028
  • Men’s Line – 1300 789 978
  • Men’s Referral Service 24/7 – 1300 766 491
  • TIS – need an interpreter? – 131 450

Important online help for your safety

  • 1800RESPECT chat online (24/7) – www.1800respect.org.au
  • Kids Help Line webchat counselling (24/7) – kidshelpline.com.au
  • MensLine online counselling – mensline.org.au
  • Men’s Referral Service live chat – ntv.org.au
  • Women’s Safety NSW

Last Reviewed: 10/08/2020

myDr

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