Gaslighting Inwards The Medical Literature

Have y'all felt that your sense of reality has been challenged lately? That the give-and-take “truth” has no pregnant whatever more? Does the existence of alternative facts brand y'all query your ain sanity? In modern usage, the term gaslighting refers to “a cast of psychological abuse inwards which imitation information is presented to the victim alongside the intent of making him/her uncertainty his/her ain retention in addition to perception”.
Gaslighting is a cast of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of uncertainty inwards a targeted private or members of a group, hoping to brand targets query their ain memory, perception, in addition to sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, in addition to lying, it attempts to destabilize the target in addition to delegitimize the target's belief.

In Dec 2016, the amazing Lauren Duca1 wrote a widely shared slice for Teen Vogue, Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America. In it, she argued that Trump won the election past times normalizing deception. Duca noted that the term gaslighting originated from the 1938 play Gas Light past times Patrick Hamilton, in addition to explained it inwards this way:
"Gas lighting" is a buzzy cite for a terrifying strategy currently beingness used to weaken in addition to blind the American electorate. We are collectively beingness treated similar Bella Manningham inwards the 1938 Victorian thriller from which the term "gas light" takes its name. In the play, Jack terrorizes his married adult woman Bella into questioning her reality past times blaming her for mischievously misplacing household items which he systematically hides. Doubting whether her perspective tin live trusted, Bella clings to a unmarried shred of evidence: the dimming of the gas lights that accompanies the belatedly nighttime execution of Jack’s trickery. The wavering open fire is the 1 thing that holds her conviction inwards identify equally she wriggles gratuitous of her captor’s control.

Gaslighting inwards the Medical Literature

Barton in addition to Whitehead (1969) were the showtime to study cases where a patient's mental reason was manipulated for stuff (or situational) gain, calling it the “Gas-Light Phenomenon”. If these incidents audio similar something direct out of domestic noir or a TV law-breaking drama, you'd live right.

Case 1 48 twelvemonth onetime mechanic, married for 10 years, alongside 3 children
Mr. A. was admitted 1 eventide to a psychiatric infirmary equally an emergency. His full general practitioner, when bespeak for his admission, had said he was mentally sick in addition to had attacked his wife. ...

On admission the patient said he had felt tense in addition to depressed for nearly vi months in addition to related this to his wife’s changed mental attitude towards him. He said she had function "cold", in addition to he idea she mightiness have got been seeing some other man. He denied he had been fierce in addition to idea he had been sent into infirmary because of his "nerves".
His married adult woman had concocted an elaborate tale of abuse, proverb he had function “irritable, bad-tempered, in addition to liable to unprovoked fierce outbursts inwards which he sometimes striking her in addition to 1 time struck her alongside a hatchet.” She likewise claimed his retention was deteriorating, in addition to she categorically denied having an affair. Mr. H5N1 was hospitalized for 12 days alongside no obvious physical or psychiatric disorder in addition to left feeling to a greater extent than relaxed.

However, he returned to infirmary 2 weeks later: “He said his married adult woman had started taunting him, proverb he was mad in addition to should live inwards a mental hospital. His married adult woman said that his mental status had considerably worsened in addition to that he had attacked her twice.”

Fortunately for Mr. A, his boss overheard a conversation betwixt 2 men inwards the local tavern. One of the men was Mrs. A's lover, discussing how the 2 of them had plotted to larn rid of Mr. H5N1 using the imitation claims of mental illness in addition to abuse. The infirmary staff confronted Mrs. H5N1 alongside her lies:
She finally agreed that she had plotted alongside her boy-friend to larn rid of her husband, but claimed she had been led on past times him in addition to directly really much regretted her behaviour. Following some draw of piece of job solid unit of measurement counselling Mr. in addition to Mrs. A. became reconciled in addition to 5 years afterward were all the same living happily together.

Case 2 45 twelvemonth onetime pub possessor married for xiv years

Mr. B was admitted based on his wife's story nearly her husband’s “heavy drinking, erratic behaviour, in addition to aggressive outbursts.”
On admission to the unit of measurement Mr. B. gave a history of domestic difficulties in addition to described mild symptoms of anxiety in addition to depression. ...  He agreed that he was irritable but said that he had never been aggressive in addition to did non acknowledge whatever of the mutual symptoms of alcoholism. ... latterly ... his married adult woman had lost involvement inwards him in addition to had started associating alongside younger men. She oftentimes stayed out all night, in addition to when he asked her nearly this behaviour she told him non to live airheaded in addition to defendant him of beingness a boozer who should live position away.
H5N1 fellow member of the staff eventually found out nearly Mrs. B's fabrication in addition to her intent to larn rid of her husband, function along the pub, in addition to “then actually start living.” Unlike the final result of Case 1, Mr. B left his married adult woman in addition to was quite happy without her 5 years later.

Case 3 72 twelvemonth onetime widow

This instance is unique, because it goes beyond mere mental manipulation. Mrs. C. was referred to a psychiatric infirmary because of a "confusional state" in addition to "fecal incontinence" that made her unfit for the onetime persons' domicile where she resided. She had moderate Parkinson's affliction in addition to slight dementia, but she was fairly good oriented in addition to pleasant inwards demeanor. She stayed inwards the infirmary for vi weeks in addition to showed no signs of fecal incontinence patch there. And indeed it turned out that her incontinence had been cruelly induced past times large doses of laxatives:
The lady running the domicile had been unable to prepare a goodness human relationship alongside Mrs. C. in addition to considered "she was a naughty onetime thing making life hard for me, my staff, in addition to other folk on purpose".

For some weeks earlier admission to infirmary Mrs. C. had been receiving ’Dulcolax’ tablets 1 3 times a day. This had produced the expected consequence alongside occasional "accidents" due to Mrs. C.’s mobility difficulties. The bear witness suggested that Mrs. C. was non wanted inwards the domicile in addition to induced incontinence was used equally a method of getting her removed to hospital.

Case 4 Another illustration is an incident reported past times Lund in addition to Gardiner (1977), where the staff of the mental infirmary conspired to function along a patient at that topographic point hence that 1 of them could alive inwards her flat. The elderly adult woman had suffered from paranoid episodes inwards the past times that were successfully treated alongside medication. But this fourth dimension “they” were actually out to larn her:
Miss A., an 80-year-old retired professional person lady, was showtime admitted to a mental infirmary inwards connecter alongside this incident nether Section 31 of the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 1960, from her pleasant apartment inwards a residential establishment. The admission notes stated that she had complained that at that topographic point were people on the premises who had no draw of piece of job organization there, that they had spoken exterior her door proverb that they were going to throw her into the river in addition to that she farther believed that these people were 'after my flat'...
Miss H5N1 was shuttled inwards in addition to out of infirmary several times until the evil plot was finally foiled:
She was admitted for the tertiary fourth dimension some 4 months afterward alongside a depressingly similar story. Her full general practitioner had been called to the domicile where the patient had allegedly ' barricaded her room'; she had precisely position a chair against the door. She was 1 time to a greater extent than admitted nether an Emergency Order in addition to 1 time to a greater extent than settled downwards really rapidly, showing no sign of disturbed behaviour. She was to a greater extent than oftentimes than non pleasant in addition to witty, showing some bear witness of valuing her independence in addition to mildly resenting the assist of the nursing staff, which she regarded equally unnecessary interference.

At this point, suspicion nearly the motives of the staff at the establishment were aroused. Discreet inquiries revealed that the rooms which Miss H5N1 occupied had been earmarked for a proposed additional fellow member of staff...

[And the rental marketplace has alone gotten worse inwards the lastly twoscore years!! So it's non surprising to regard many stories emerging from trendy urban areas (and South Carolina). For starters, y'all tin read these anecdotes of landlord gaslighting in addition to harassment from tenants inwards New York, San Francisco, Santa Monica, in addition to elsewhere.]

Case 5 Let's conclude alongside 1 concluding study from the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Kutcher (1982) described the miserable instance of Mrs. N, a 59 twelvemonth onetime financially successful woman who was referred to a psychiatrist at her husband's insistence. Marital problems were clearly the source of her distress.
About 2 years into the matrimony she established Mr. northward inwards a draw of piece of job organization equally he had entered the human relationship without a secure fiscal basis. She hence noted he would rest away from home, live unavailable when she tried to contact him, tell her he was visiting alongside friends fifty-fifty though they denied whatever visits, in addition to hence forth. When she confronted him alongside these issues he denied whatever extramarital activity.  ...
Mr. N. wasn't terribly creative; his ruse was ripped from the pages of Gaslight. An exterior political party described him equally "a threescore twelvemonth onetime Cassanova who thinks he's 25."
Numerous friends oftentimes intimated that he was involved alongside some other adult woman in addition to Mrs. northward eventually saw this for herself. When confronted, he denied it, hence said it was all over in addition to refused to hash out the thing further. He hence complained nearly her "saggy breasts" in addition to when she had surgical physical care for for reduction he ridiculed her. He hid her jewelry in addition to defendant her of losing it, oftentimes changed times they were to encounter without notifying her in addition to berated her for beingness late; in addition to told their acquaintances that she was "going a piddling strange."
Unfortunately, Mrs. N's instance was non a success story: “Currently she is all the same inwards therapy in addition to equally yet is unable to resolve the issue.”

Let's promise the United States of America of America tin collectively (and individually) find its travelling pocket on the truth hence it volition non endure a similar fate.


1 I cry back she's amazing for her persistence equally a guiding vocalisation on social media despite the grotesque harassment she's received.

Further Reading

On the Origins of “Gaslighting” (by Rosemary Erickson Johnsen)

A Few Notes on Gaslighting (by Tressie McMillan Cottom)


Barton R, & Whitehead JA (1969). The gas-light phenomenon. Lancet (London, England), 1 (7608), 1258-60. PMID: 4182427

Kutcher SP (1982). The gaslight syndrome. Canadian magazine of psychiatry. Revue canadienne de psychiatrie, 27 (3), 224-7 PMID: 7093877

Lund CA, & Gardiner AQ (1977). The gaslight phenomenon--an institutional variant. The British magazine of psychiatry : the magazine of mental science, 131, 533-4. PMID: 588872

Smith CG, & Sinanan K (1972). The "gaslight phenomenon" reappears. H5N1 modification of the Ganser syndrome. The British magazine of psychiatry : the magazine of mental science, 120 (559), 685-6 PMID: 5043219 [although Milo Tyndel (1973) pointed out those cases were naught similar Ganser syndrome].

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