Gaslighting In Friendships: Identifying Manipulative Behaviours

Gaslighting In Friendships: Identifying Manipulative Behaviours

Gaslighting, a term originating from a 1938 play and later popularised by a 1944 film, refers to a form of psychological manipulation aimed at making someone doubt their own perception, memory, or sanity (Drescher, 2024). While often associated within the context of romantic relationships or workplace dynamics, gaslighting can also occur within friendships. Identifying and understanding these manipulative behaviours is crucial for nurturing healthy friendships and preserving personal well-being.

Recognising gaslighting in friendships

Gaslighting in friendships often begins subtly, where an individual employs tactics to undermine their friend's confidence and sense of reality. These behaviours can include:

Denial and minimisation: The gaslighter may deny events or conversations that have taken place, or they may downplay their significance. For example, if a friend expresses hurt over a hurtful comment, the gaslighter might respond with, "I was just joking. You're too sensitive."

Blame-shifting: Gaslighters often deflect responsibility for their actions by blaming their friend instead. They may twist the narrative to make their friend feel guilty or at fault for the issues in the friendship. For instance, if a friend confronts them about cancelling plans at the last minute, the gaslighter might say, "You're always so needy. I needed some space."

Manipulative withholding: Gaslighters might withhold information or affection as a form of punishment or control. They may use silence or withdrawal to make their friend feel anxious or insecure about the friendship.

Projection: Gaslighters may also project their own negative traits or behaviours onto their friends. For example, if they are dishonest, they may accuse their friend of being untrustworthy.

Invalidation: Gaslighters invalidate their friend's feelings and experiences, dismissing them as irrational or unwarranted. They may say things like, "You're overreacting" or "You're being paranoid."

Impact of gaslighting on friendships

Gaslighting can have profound effects on the victim's mental and emotional well-being. Over time, the constant manipulation and doubt can erode their self-confidence and self-esteem (Bashir, 2023). They may become increasingly dependent on the gaslighter for validation and reassurance, further perpetuating the cycle of abuse.

In friendships where gaslighting occurs, the power dynamic becomes skewed, with the gaslighter exerting control over the victim's thoughts and behaviours. This imbalance can lead to feelings of isolation and helplessness, as the victim struggles to assert their own reality in the face of constant manipulation.

Furthermore, gaslighting can damage trust and communication within the friendship, making it difficult for the victim to express their needs and boundaries. They may fear being dismissed or ridiculed by the gaslighter, leading to a breakdown in intimacy and connection.

How to respond to gaslighting

Recognising gaslighting behaviours is the first step towards protecting oneself from manipulation. Here are some strategies for responding to gaslighting in friendships:

Trust your instincts: If something feels off in the friendship, don't dismiss your feelings. Trust your intuition and pay attention to any red flag that arises.

Establish boundaries: Set clear boundaries with your friend and communicate them assertively. Let them know what behaviours are unacceptable and be prepared to enforce consequences if they continue to gaslight you.

Seek support: Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or mental health professionals for support and validation. Talking to others can help you gain perspective and clarity on the situation.

Consider ending the friendship: If the gaslighting continues despite your efforts to address it, it may be necessary to re-evaluate the friendship. Remember that you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness, and don't be afraid to walk away from toxic relationships.


Gaslighting in relationships or friendships can have devastating effects on one's mental and emotional health. By recognising manipulative behaviours and taking steps to assert boundaries and prioritise self-care, individuals can protect themselves from the harmful effects of gaslighting.

For those struggling to cope with the aftermath of gaslighting or other forms of emotional abuse, seeking professional support can be immensely beneficial. Child therapists in Singapore specialise in helping young people navigate complex interpersonal relationships and develop healthy coping strategies. Additionally, adult counselling services in Singapore offer support and guidance for individuals dealing with the aftermath of gaslighting and other forms of emotional manipulation.

Remember, you are not alone, and help is available. By reaching out for support and taking proactive steps to protect yourself, you can break free from the cycle of gaslighting and cultivate relationships that are built on trust, respect, and mutual understanding.


Bashir, M. (2023). Six Signs That You Are Being Gaslighted And How To Break Free. Forbes.

Drescher, A. (2024). Origin Of The Term Gaslighting. Simply Psychology.