A gaslighting narcissist is a person with narcissistic personality disorder who uses gaslighting as a form of control and manipulation.
Gaslighting is a form of abuse that can make you question reality or feel confused. Overtime, this can lead to a lower self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, and other negative effects.
If you’re experiencing gaslighting, a person living with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) may use this tactic as a way to cause doubt in you and gain advantage in an argument.
In addition, someone who may not formally be diagnosed with NPD, but exhibits narcissistic traits, may also engage in gaslighting behaviors. Understanding how to recognize the signs of a gaslighting narcissist may help you cope and find trusted support.
Narcissistic gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that a person with NPD may use to gain power and control over another person. This type of abuse can possibly make those who experience gaslighting question their:
- own instincts
Traits of a gaslighting narcissist
Many people can show signs of narcissism without being diagnosed as someone who lives with NPD.
For a person to receive a diagnosis of NPD, a person
- is preoccupied with fantasies of power, brilliance, success, beauty, or perfect love
- has a grandiose sense of self-importance, such as exaggerating achievements or expecting recognition as superior without completing an achievement
- requires excessive admiration
- lacks of empathy and unwilling to identify with the needs of others
- believes that they are “special” and can only be understood by or should only associate with other special people
- is envious of others or believes others are envious of them
- shows arrogant or haughty attitudes and behaviors
- has a sense of entitlement, such as compliance with their expectations or an unreasonable expectation of favorable treatment
- takes advantage of others to achieve own ends or is exploitative
A person with NPD may not engage in physically abusive behavior, but they may be emotionally abusive to fulfill their needs. Gaslighting a domestic partner may fulfill needs such as:
- getting their way
- feeling special
- feeling power over the other person
According to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, not all abusers are living with mental health or personality disorder. Similarly, not all people living with NPD use gaslighting or other forms of abuse on their partners.
Gaslighting can take several forms. Some common types include the following:
Countering occurs when the abuser questions your memories even when you’re sure you remember it correctly.
Example: “Your memory is always terrible, I never said that to you.”
Withholding is a technique where your abuser doesn’t listen to you or pretends not to understand what you’re saying.
Example: “I don’t want to talk about this again with you.”
3. Blocking or diverting
Blocking or diverting occurs when the abuser either questions your thoughts or changes the subject to avoid talking about a subject any more.
Example: “That doesn’t sound like something might happen, are you sure you didn’t just imagine the whole thing?” OR “It’s awfully late, let’s not talk about this right now.”
4. Forgetting or denial
Another common gaslighting technique is to “forget” what happened or denying things, such as promises they made or having said something.
Example: “I don’t remember any of this.” OR “You’re just making things up to make me sound bad again.”
5. Intermittent reinforcement
Intermittent reinforcement describes a cycle of providing affirmation to you at one time and then making you feel small or bad about yourself another time. The abuser may make you look forward to times when they will be affirming while treating you poorly most of the time.
Example: “You’re really beautiful!” “You wear way too much makeup. You look like trash when you put on that much.”
Trivializing involves making your feelings or opinions seem unimportant or irrelevant.
Example: “It was just a joke, don’t be so sensitive.” OR “Really? You’re getting this angry over nothing!”
7. Blatant lies
An abuser may just flat out lie to your face without showing any signs they are doing it. Over time, this can make you question what if anything they are saying is true.
Narcissistic gaslighting can be difficult to recognize, particularly if you’re living with a partner who’s using it against you.
One way to help you determine if you, a friend, or family member is experiencing gaslighting is to look for signs in yourself or others that may indicate this form of abuse.
Some signs to think about include:
- questioning if you’re too sensitive or insecure
- having trouble making simple decisions
- constantly second-guessing yourself
- becoming more withdrawn or unsociable
- defending your abuser’s behavior
- feeling confused
- feeling worthless, joyless, incompetent, or hopeless
- constantly apologizing to your abuser
- lying to friends or family about your relationship
Experiencing or noticing any of these signs doesn’t necessarily mean your partner is abusive. But if you find that you identify with one or more, you may want to try talking to a trusted friend, therapist, or family member.
They may be able to provide additional insight into what’s going on and help you figure out ways to cope.
Gaslighting can make you, a friend, or family member feel small, insignificant, or have a low self-esteem. This is by design. They want you to feel insecure about your thoughts and feelings.
For a person with NPD, gaslighting can give them a sense of power over you, reinforce their need for superiority, and make you more dependent on them.
If you recognize signs of this type of abuse in yourself, you may want to reach out to trusted family members or friends. They may be able to help provide support.
You could also reach out to a counselor or other mental health professional. They can help you figure out what is going on and provide support for your needs.
If you feel like your life may be in danger, you may want to contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline. You can contact them by:
- calling 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)
- texting “START” to 88788
- visiting their website and selecting “Live chat”
In addition to providing live support, you can review their website for information on local supports and help.