Gaslighting Defined by Types of Gaslighters

October 23, 2011 Kellie Jo Holly


Defining gaslighting is tough, but explaining the types of gaslighters is easy. Dr. Robin Stern offers insight into the types of gaslighters. Read this.

Have you watched the movie Gas Light with Ingrid Bergman? In the movie, a woman's lover slowly but surely causes her think she is insane. The movie title lends itself to a type of emotional abuse called gaslighting. Gaslighting occurs when someone persuades you to "believe the unbelievable" despite your instinct's whispers of "Something is not right here..."

When I think about myself at the beginning of my relationship with my ex-husband, Will, I remember being slightly wounded, but strong. I was competent and trusted my thoughts and feelings. His gaslighting caused me to doubt myself and my perceptions; it rolled my thoughts around until I felt like silly putty with his fingerprints all over me. Six months into the relationship when he held my face to the stove, previous gaslighting enabled him to bring me back home even though I was determined to stay away.

In fact, I'd packed my bag and took it to work, intending to move back into the barracks. Will talked me out of it by making a same-day appointment with the chaplain. We couldn't talk about the physical violence or he would lose his job. (Me agreeing to see the chaplain even though we couldn't talk about the physical assault is my first hindsight clue he'd already got into my mind.)

The chaplain worked us through an alternate problem. We had many.

I had hope that Will would abide by his promise made outside the chaplain's office to never do it again. However, "I don't remember that" was his mantra. He said "I don't remember that" so many times it felt like he was telling me I was lying (also gaslighting).

I went home with him that night, feeling that something is not right but shoving my instincts down in favor of accepting the idea that Will was partially right. After all, his insistence that something was wrong with me was already ingrained into my psyche . . . gaslighting works.

Gaslighting Defined

Gaslighting occurs when one person consistently assaults another person's emotions and intelligence to the point of causing self-doubt in the victim. The point of gaslighting is to increase the victim's self-doubt so that eventually victim believes what the abuser says is true no matter how ridiculous.

Whether the gaslighter's insults drip off the abuser's tongue like honey or callously and overtly attack the victim's character (or mental health) depends on both the abuser's style of bringing their victim under control and the effectiveness of previous gaslighting attempts.

Types of Gaslighters: Their Style of Gaslighting

The abuser, your gaslighter, may try several different types of gaslighting before settling on the one that works best for him or her. However, if your gaslighter has effectively used gaslighting in past relationships, s/he may see you as less of an experiment and immediately begin using his or her own special style.

If you do not respond favorably to the gaslighter's modus operandi, the abuser may end the relationship early and search of someone who will respond easily.

If you've ever met a great guy or girl who dropped you like a sack of potatoes for no good reason, maybe you should count yourself lucky. It's very possible that the excuse, "It's not you, it's me" speaks the entire truth!

The Three Types of Gaslighters Defined

In her book, The Gaslight Effect, Dr. Stern says that there are three types of gaslighters. She exposes the Glamour Gaslighter, Good-Guy Gaslighter, and the Intimidator.

My abuser was a combination of the Intimidator (primarily) and Good-Guy. Do you see your gaslighter's type in Dr. Stern's list?

Intimidators bully, withhold and guilt-trip.

  • Verbal abuse in the form of a joke ("I'm just teasing! Can't you take a joke?).
  • Frequent temper tantrums, loud and scary.
  • You feel afraid of him.
  • He uses your worst fears against you ("You're so stupid!" or "You're just like your mother!").
  • He uses silence as a weapon.
  • He does not seem to like you at all - he doesn't like your attitudes, beliefs, etc.
  • He threatens to leave, take your kids, leave you ruined, gut you like a pig, etc.

Good-Guys need to appear good and reasonable while getting their own way.

  • You can't quite put your finger on "what's wrong" or feel dissatisfied even though he appears to help and support you.
  • He works to please you and others yet you feel unsettled and unheard.
  • You feel he always gets his way in the end but you can't figure out just how it happened.
  • You describe a great relationship to yourself and others but increasingly feel depressed and discouraged about life in general.

Glamour Gaslighters create a special world just for you.

  • You and your friends are impressed by how romantic he is.
  • He doesn't seem to take your tastes into account when surprising or treating you romantically.
  • He is overly charming in most situations.
  • He appears two-faced in that you know what venom he spouts behind the backs of those he is most kind to in public.
  • Your friends become nervous about how romantic he is (they sense a false front).
  • Insists on being physically or otherwise romantic after you've told him you're not into it right then.

You can find Dr. Sterns book on Amazon at The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life by Dr. Robin Stern. I recommend you read the product description near the end of the page as it offers 15 tell-tale signs of gaslighting.

Do you recognize your abuser in these types of gaslighters? Do you see some other examples?

You can find Kellie Jo Holly on her website, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2011, October 23). Gaslighting Defined by Types of Gaslighters, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

Dr Musli Ferati
August, 2 2018 at 3:36 am

The field of interpersonal relationships is still remain debatable issue, because there are many unknown and intrigued aspects of this social performance. As to belong to gaslighting, we can say that unhealthy and toxic interpersonal relationship are becoming more challenging and more provocative, as well. Gaslighting is methaphoric term for abusive and harmful interpersonal communication, when one person as gaslighter violate emotionally and psychologically another person, as victim, for long time. Against many professional acquaintances on this antisocial interpersonal relationship, I would to stress the role and place of victims on gaslighting interaction. As you mentioned, gaslighters chose and find out their victims carefully to provide theirs antihumane conduct. In order to stop gaslighting style of relationship it ought to change and improve personal attitude and behave toward person with this antisocial personality disorder. Each person as victim in respective gaslighting relationship should be vigilant and watchful for hidden and hostile intention of spotty person. beside this useful remark, victims should be prepare to protect oneself dignity and personality toward regardless emotional assaults of any gaslighters in concrete abusive relationship. So, it is of crucial importance to manage healthy and solid interpersonal relationship in turmoil social network, such is up to date society.

Denise C.
July, 22 2018 at 11:53 pm

How does one initiate an intervention type, come to Jesus session with a gas lighter? I suspected he was a sociopath, my husband, but he does not have all characteristics. Reading this article and others about narcissists and gas lighters, it is like the articles were written exactly about him. I refuse to co sign the bulls**t and do not take him personally. Well 95% off the time, but then I talk myself through his mental issues. I wonder if because he has experienced so much loss and death of people he was close, both familial and intimately, that he created or strengthened his gas lighting behavior. I hate the victim word, I truly do because I don't see myself that way. I feel like I have gained a more concrete sense of self worth and he all of a sudden looks very small to me. Never the less we are committed, and I am not a quitter. How do you convince a gas lighter to see their own behaviors? How do you guide someone to understanding that this is an actual mental condition? I have tried being very calm, monotoned, and clinical in terms of removing myself as a hurt spouse, but that of an outsider using the correct terminology to his behaviors. He does seem to take some of what I say and chew and reflect on it. However, it seems as if his insecurities overcome him and he resorts back behind his wall.

September, 2 2017 at 6:36 pm

My abuser was a very subtle gaslighter. He would conveniently "forget" crucial conversations we had had. Like specifically that I wanted to have a baby and I believed it was the right time for us to start a family and would he please think it over? The other main gas lighting and I'm not sure it really was gas lighting even was just plain denying any thought or idea that I ever had. Like one time a had a new apartment with a garage opener with three buttons on it. One day the garage door wouldn't open, I pressed the button and it didn't work. So he says you pushed the wrong button. Well the thing is that he had never used that thing before and I had, so how the @$&" would HE know? It turned out the garage door was on the fritz because of the neighbors garage door reprogramming mine. He was ALWAYS right and absolute my WON every single argument we ever had in 8 years. He also really warped my mind by convincing me basically that a lot of things I learned in school was completely wrong like vaccines are dangerous, they are building concentration camps underneath the Denver airport and the govt is going to take away all the guns and ammo so we better stock up! He made me scared to think of so many bad things about the world, and that the end was near we would not have electricity and such things so get ready!

September, 16 2013 at 6:15 am

Wow, This is what my father does to my mother! He's even done it to me. The main problem with my dad is that he doesn't like women. He often likes to bring up the topic about how emotional and moody women are and have a good rant about it when it's just my mom and I. I feel as though he does this to discredit people, especially my mother. It's as if he feels in control as long as he can openly accuse any reaction she has to his bad behavior as emotional, irrational, and moody, and that she's being a "typical female". Not long ago I went to my dad about some concerns I had about my brother, who I know is excessively drinking and may have depression. When I told my father the concerns , he basically told me my "story" was all over the road and I changed what I said about my brother several times and that he didn't believe there was a problem. When I calmly asked him what part he didn't understand, he ignored me and acted as if I wasn't there. He turned his head away from me completely. I believe he did that to get a reaction out of me...I didn't give him one. Now that I know this has a name, I'm able to identify it better and protect myself from hurts and I don't want to allow someone else to make me feel bad.

July, 21 2013 at 5:55 am

My partner would be nice for a while. giving me attention and being in the relationship. when they saw I was needy ,they would emotionally abuse me and I would wonder what I did wrong. all the time they knew what they were doing. would tell me to go see the Dr. or how I only made hollow promises to not upset them.

July, 12 2013 at 7:50 pm

I am a college student studying psychology to specialize in drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Gaslighting is a new discovery for me and I am extremely interested. I realize one of my family members is a gaslighter from what I have read so far.
Sadly, I also recognize these traits in two friends who live together. Both are supposedly recovering alcoholics. One uses program religiously, the other quit. Being around them is difficult. I have to work hard not to fall for their "crap" when in their company. I am curious to know if this behavior is learned or a reaction to childhood trauma. Both have experienced constant childhood situations. Where can I find more information?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 15 2017 at 4:16 am

Alcoholics often turn into psychopaths because it creates the same damaged brain that psychopaths have

Cathy Slack
February, 13 2013 at 9:47 am

She had OC. My uncle told me my mother killed herself. My mother was an alcoholic and took Darvon for arthritis pain. She had several hundred of these pills. Her doctor always gave her what she wanted. Anyway, my uncle told me there were pills thrown all over the floor and the room was a mess. There was a manual typewriter on the bed and she was typing a letter. My mother could not sit up and type in bed. I feel it was staged. She had a place for everything and there was never a mess near my mother. My father had a girlfriend and was going to file for divorce. I do not know what happened for sure but my grandmother and I thought we had a pretty good idea. I went crazy trying to figure it out. My father asked me for the money my mother left me while I was in the hospital for thyroid cancer surgery. I will never know but i will always feel confused.

August, 18 2012 at 1:41 am

I only recently learned there was a name for this behavior and that others were aware of this eerie almost super natural type of abuse, the worst. It also seemed like no one believed me.
The abuse got was pretty bad, one example is, one day my favorite blue jeans just didn't look or seem right they seemed dirty. I analyzed the jeans in the light and with pencil he had shaded every girl name that one could think of on every square inch of the jeans. It was very faint.
When getting dressed, I went to get a pair of underwear and all my underwear were stretched out huge beyond stretching any more. Weird stains on my clothes that were not there before, seems and hems coming down on everything, terrible gouges in all my shoes that I know I did not do and all the soles of my shoes coming away from my shoes like a flap, but I saw the pry marks where the soles had been pried away from the shoes, Even clothing that I just got back from the cleaners had runs, snairs, and fresh coffee stains down the front of brand new clothing with thee tags still on them, I never wore the blouse and tshirt which had coffee stains down the front and were coming apart at the seams.
I had several pairs of shoes and one morning before work I could only find one of each shoe. I was always late for work in the morning for a while.
My hair seemed to be getting shorter and shorter as if it had been layered, my hair started to look noticably horrible. One morning I found wads and wads of hair in my underwear drawer.
No matter how much time I spent organizing and cleaning, things were always disorganized although I am certain I deliberately put things in their place and made a mental note of it, like a brush or my deoderant, my keys etc... I was always looking for things I know I put away. Even my purse.. I organized nice and tidy to find dirt, wrappers, papers, my wallet dumped out, hair etc.
He'd be in the kitchen, at the stove or in the fridge with his back turned to me, he'd be talking out loud although I could not make out what he was saying, so I'd say what did you just say? And he'd say, I didn't say anything...
This would happen a lot as if he was trying to make me think I was hearing things. Or he'd laugh and i'd ask what was so funny and he'd tell me he wasn't laughing then patronize me, asking me if I was ok. I really did question my sanity thinking that no one in the world would spend this much time doing this.
It started happening when I started to grow out of him intellectually. I was striving for betterment, going to school, working etc, and he could not hold a job for more than a couple weeks at a time so he was always home.
Anyways, I put a stop to it and threw him out. Once he left the disorganization, distruction and chaos instantly stopped. Things stayed clean, I found things were where I had put them last. My hair grew back etc. I think this was an extreme case when compared to other stories.
There are good men out there somewhere but I believe that most of them have that innate instinct to dominate and that most of them don't gaslight on purpose but they are naturally wired to dominate. I would allow a "good" man to dominate me by my own free will to surrender that control by choice, but I guess that's not the way they want it to work. I will stay single until I find someone who will not insult my intelligence. I find that is the most common thing I come across, with every man so far is that I get treated as if I were not very smart at all. I end it immediately and have, for the most part, given up on finding someone who doesn't do that.

June, 10 2012 at 2:42 pm

LOL - My abuser had elements of all 3 but Intimidator as in I felt/Knew he hated Me & Definitely Good-Guy (Narcissist = reputation is important for praise) cos he tried to show he is a good guy/husband by doing helpful things for HIS Family and he did declare himself "the best husband in the whole of the city" after cooking or cleaning up "for his wife" showing his "love".
Sometimes I find humour in the situations because when I was detached from the abuse "his words & behaviour were nothing but a child self-praising and full of over-confidence" Obviously I kept a steady face in front of him & stayed silent to avoid a verbal abuse situation.
I thought of him as an obnoxious/spoilt/boastful CHILD too late to fix.

October, 27 2011 at 10:34 am

My gaslighter was an intimidator and a glamour gaslighter. She first started with verbal and emotional abuse including not speaking to me or our three children for up to 3 days while sitting in a leather chair playing phone games. She regularly insulted me in front of the children calling me a worthless son of a B*&%$, a F*&%$#@ asshole and a piece of shit. She then started with her abusive behavior on the children calling them horrible names with the F word and humiliating them. Then she started smashing our kids electronic toys in a violent rage - broke a Playstation on the kitchen ceramic floor and on another occasion took away a hand held PSP from our 5 year old son and smashed it on the floor because she could not hear the TV. After breaking one PSP she ran to the kitchen to find the other PSP toy and smashed that one on the counter while yelling every obscenity in the book. She even attacked my 10 year old son and struck him with a shoe in the face, pulled out his hair, scratched his face and told him he was a f____ asshole and a piece of S*&T. I took my 10 year old son out for a walk in early January 2011 and he voiced to me that he felt like getting a kitchen knife and stabbing himself so maybe his mother would stop treating him so bad. At this same time, she would tell me she wished I was F*****ng dead. This past Christmas 2010 we were in Keystone Colorado and she locked herself in the bedroom for 2 days and would not interact with me or the kids. She did not wrap the gifts and when I said that I would do it, she said "those F****ing animals don't deserve S*&T and you are not going to wrap any gifts. The kids got their gifts unwrapped. I went to see a lawyer and got a protective order and had her removed from the home. I now have custody of the children and she is fighting me for custody. She claims that we are exaggerating about her behavior and every time my kids go to visit her they come back with a story about how their mother sat them at the table and told them an entirely different version of abusive events or she flat out denies that anything happened. She tells my kids that they are imagining things or that these occurred in a dream because she does not recall these events. I've talked to my attorney about this and we will be filing a motion to restrict visitation because this kind of behavior is psychological abuse.

Kellie Holly
October, 26 2011 at 8:07 am

I hear your discontent and I assume you have difficulties with a female abuser. Please contribute by adding your own story, using the words appropriate to your situation.
I sympathize with the idea that women abusers are not "called out" enough by their victims. I do not know why this phenomena occurs for sure. I suspect that there are either fewer female abusers OR fewer males willing to speak out. Personally, I feel that the latter reason is the correct one.
Male abuse victims are victims of our society also. To come forward, a male must not only confront his abuser but also step out into a society that is often unwilling to understand.
Control and abuse are not sex-specific, nor are they relationship-specific. Women abuse children, men and women. Males abuse children, women and men. It is up to each individual to tell their own story; we cannot control how many stories we hear about male abusers versus female abusers. It all depends on who speaks out.

October, 25 2011 at 11:50 am

Why do you all persist in the notion that only men can be emotionally abusive? You need to start putting a she/wife/mother in here and there so people can recognize what's happening to them can be/is perpetrated by women as well.

AllUCanBe (Barb)
October, 23 2011 at 6:35 am

Hi Kellie,
This is the 2nd article I've read on "gaslighting" - a term I was unfamiliar with prior to reading the 1st post I came across recently. Thank you for sharing your personal story and experience, I believe our stories are a very powerful way to educate and help others. Thanks also for the great recommendation book by Dr. Sterns and for pointing out the tell-tale signs on the linked "Product Description" as well. I'll be sharing this post!
You didn't mention what transpired after going home with Will, you said you felt something wasn't right but stuffed down those feelings? Maybe you'll be doing a 2nd follow-up post?
Many thanks, Barb

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