Gaslighting Phrases that Make You Question Your Sanity

A person who uses gaslighting lines such as "You're imagining things" or "You're crazy" to deny you the right to inquire about something is a psychological abuser. This kind of person is hard to spot at first, so you must be aware of the way in which they operate.
Gaslighting Phrases that Make You Question Your Sanity
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

The gaslighting phrases listed in this article can definitely make a person question their sanity. However, they’re not written in any interpersonal relationships manuals. Furthermore, no one ever warns you that some people are quite skilled at manipulating others. Some are really good at making others doubt their feelings, behaviors, and even memories. As you may have already guessed, it’s a highly damaging form of psychological abuse and more common than you may think.

Gaslight is a film (two, in fact) in which the Machiavellian character of Paul Mallen makes his wife Bella believe she’s losing her mind.

The anguish and permanent doubt of the female character questioning herself to the point of almost reaching the brink of madness reveals how far the art of psychological abuse can go. 73 years later, Dr. Stephanie Sarkis published an article that went viral. It discussed the signs of gaslighting, a practice present in almost any human bond.

People practice it with their partners and coworkers. Of course, it also takes place between parents and children. It’s important to recognize the mechanisms of this type of abuse in all cases. Thus, take your communication style into account.

Two people talking.

Nine gaslighting phrases that make you question your reality

Research work, such as that conducted at Harvard University, are reminders that gaslighting is a form of abuse of power. Those interested in dominating others are quite adept at it. To do so, they design, apply, and evoke a type of abuse to undermine the identity of the other by discount them and making them feel insecure.

This kind of abuse is more common in couples but it can also happen in work settings. Many coworkers use gaslighting phrases to keep you under control or even minimize your performance. They do so because they consider you a worthy opponent and want to get you out of the way. These are complex and stressful situations, no doubt.

This is why knowing some of the expressions typical of a gaslighter might help you.

1. “I know what you’re thinking, I can see it in your face”

The psychological manipulator and gaslighter is a supposed expert in mentalism. In other words, they want you to believe they can guess what you’re thinking, that you’re like an open book and that your expressions reveal everything you’re thinking.

Moreover, the mere “I know what you’re thinking” is an attempt at domination. This is because what’s on your mind isn’t even that important. Your internal reality doesn’t matter. Only what the other person believes, regardless of how absurd it may seem, matters.

2. “You’re just too sensitive”, one of the gaslighting phrases

This phrase is a favorite of gaslighters and they use it to try to minimize your needs and make you believe that you’re overreacting and given to drama.

3. “You’re to blame for everything that happens”

Projecting guilt onto other people‘s shoulders is a sophisticated and recurrent resource of every manipulator. However, as classic as it may be, it always makes a dent.

The projection of guilt boycotts the self-esteem of others and makes them feel more and more insecure about their own behavior.

4. “We discussed it! Don’t you remember?”

Denying something you know is obvious is another resource of the gaslighting expert. Insisting that you had certain conversations and reached certain agreements or even that you said something in particular (when it isn’t true) are common and damaging strategies in these cases.

5. “I’m sick of you being so obsessive!”

A psychological abuser keeps many of these gaslighting phrases in their repertoire. They say things like “You’re crazy”, “Your nonsense drives me crazy”, or “You’re neurotic”. Once again, these intend to make a person doubt themselves and believe their behavior is harmful to the relationship.

6. “You’re stressed out and not thinking clearly”

Another goal of the gaslighter is to tear down your mental strengths. They’ll try to make you believe that you’re not well, that you worry about nothing, that you’re out of control, and that everything you do and say makes no sense. They’ll tell you that you’re stressed and not thinking clearly if you demand respect or anything else you may want or need.

A man confused by some gaslighting lines.

7. “You need to learn to communicate better”

Gaslighting phrases make you question your reality and are the kind of manipulation that even undermines the personal area. Making you doubt your social skills, your strengths, and even your knowledge is commonplace. They’ll tell you that you’re a poor communicator, so they can’t understand you. That it’s quite difficult to talk to you.

8. “Some people just can’t take a joke” is one of the typical gaslighting phrases

A psychological manipulator’s jokes, far from being funny, cause deep wounds. They’ll make use of hurtful irony and sarcasm and such comments, far from making you laugh, merely negatively affect your self-esteem.

9. “I only have these types of problems with you”

“There’s clearly something wrong with you because this kind of thing never happens to me with others.” Anyone who drops this kind of reasoning on you is clearly trying to gaslight you. They want to knock you down and make you believe that you have a problem and you’re not even aware of it.

To conclude, gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse that resorts to much more than dialectical engineering. In fact, some of them are so sibylline that you often don’t see them coming at first. However, all you need to do is monitor how certain people make you feel to notice this behavior.

In other words, distance yourself from anyone who makes you doubt yourself and your worth.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Sweet PL. The Sociology of Gaslighting. American Sociological Review. 2019;84(5):851-875. doi:10.1177/0003122419874843

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.