How Gaslighting And Narcissism Are Related

Updated April 2, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

To be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), a person has to meet the diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5). Some of the symptoms officially associated with NPD are a pattern of grandiosity, a lack of empathy, and a need for admiration. 

The term "gaslighting" comes from the 1938 British play Gas Light, where a husband attempts to drive his wife crazy using various tricks, causing her to question her perceptions and sanity. Gaslighting is a type of psychological abuse meant to make the victim feel as if they cannot trust their thoughts, filling them with self-doubt. While gaslighting is not an official part of an NPD diagnosis, many people with this personality disorder may use gaslighting in their relationships. It’s also important to note that not everyone who engages in gaslighting has NPD.

Explore the gaslighting and narcissism connection

How gaslighting and narcissism are related

Here are some ways that the two are related:

The lie and exaggerate

People with NPD may be prone to frequent lies and exaggerations about themselves and others and tend to lift themselves by putting others down. People with this personality disorder may be adept at distorting facts, telling deliberate falsehoods, participating in character assassinations, and engaging in negative coercions. 

Why is it so effective, even when the evidence points toward a blatant lie? Because it usually works! When caught in a lie, many people might admit to it and apologize. But someone with NPD may refuse to admit that they’re lying and try to turn it around on the other person, saying they’re the one lying or that they’re misremembering the situation.

They rarely admit flaws and are highly sensitive when criticized

People with NPD rarely admit fault. And when they do, be assured that it's not for your benefit but theirs. They may put on the mask of admission, but more likely, it's only to get something they want. Remember that it is all about their needs, progress, and gain. However, many people with NPD have thin skin and emotional sensitivities and may react defensively when called to account for their negative behavior. When challenged, they are likely to either fight back with temper tantrums, excuse-making, denial, and blame or take flight by abruptly leaving, avoiding the other person, giving the silent treatment, or other forms of passive-aggressiveness.

False image projection

To counteract their lack of confidence, people with NPD may project false and exaggerated images of themselves. In the case of persons with vulnerable narcissism, they will try to convince others of their importance as their coping mechanism. Many people with this form of NPD like to impress others by making themselves look good externally. On the other hand, people with NPD who gaslight create an idealized self-image not by puffing themselves up but by demoralizing others to obtain perceived superiority. They may achieve this through several tactics:

  • They question the other person’s memory despite the victim remembering things correctly. ("Are you sure about that?" "Look what happened the last time you thought you were right!")
  • They redirect the conversation from the point at hand to questioning the other person’s thoughts, thus controlling the conversation. ("What are you even talking about?", "I'm not discussing this again!")
  • Convincing the other person that their views and emotions aren't important. ("Are you going to let something so small ruin what we have?")
  • They pretend to forget things that have occurred to manipulate the other person into believing the act didn't happen. ("What are you talking about?" "You're exaggerating.")

Rule breaking and boundary violation

Many people with NPD enjoy getting away with violating rules. For example, they might do something as seemingly benign as cut in line at the movies, purposefully under-tip a waiter or waitress, invade another person's personal space, borrow items without returning them, use another person's things without asking, disobey minor traffic laws, break appointments without calling ahead to reschedule, and not following through on promises. 

Emotional coercion

For most of the partners of people with NPD, frequent manipulation and subsequent suffering are where the most damage is caused. They manipulate and twist others' thoughts and feelings and, in the course of action, may show little remorse for causing pain to the people in their lives, including loved ones. They often blame their victims for having caused their pain and troubles. Many people with NPD may have unpredictable mood swings, and you are prone to be swept up in a dangerous and upsetting emotional drama if you’re in their orbit.


Explore the gaslighting and narcissism connection

The bottom line is that people with NPD  have one main goal: to do whatever they can to benefit themselves and get what they want, no matter the cost. And no one is exempt. You're fair game if you're in their way of what they desire. And one of the primary tactics for this is manipulation.

People who gaslight can conduct psychological manipulation toward individuals and groups through persistent distortion of the truth to cause their victims to question themselves and feel less confident. Simultaneously, people with NPD may falsely position themselves as the "expert" or "authority" on all subject matters, whether in a relationship, at work, or in society. And just like someone who gaslights, they may criticize or judge others while using their "position" as validation.

People who gaslight and those with NPD can cause immense trauma in a relationship, whether a partnership, a marriage, or friends and family. Worse yet, you could be traumatized even before being consciously aware of it. Here are some dangers gaslighting and narcissism can pose to a relationship.

The dangers of gaslighting and narcissism relationships

Why are narcissism and gaslighting relationships dangerous?

They can erode your trust in yourself

The primary strategy is to convince you that you can't live without them and that you'll need to rely on them entirely to survive. Someone who gaslights may demean and insult their partner more aggressively, while someone with NPD will try to make their partner believe they are inferior to them.

They can hurt your relationships with friends and family

Often in relationships with people with NPD, you may be well into the relationship before realizing how down and out you are. And by then, your partner may have already met your closest friends and family. You might end up believing them over your friends and family, damaging your trust and bonds in these other relationships.

They make you forget who you are

After dealing with someone with NPD or gaslighting, you might very well be at a place where you've lost most or all of you identity. It’s likely the relationship was all about them, not you. As a result, you might have forgotten who you are, what you like to do, and what you need and desire.

People with NPD may feel inadequate and empty, and instead of seeking help, they prey upon others to fill that need. Being in a relationship with a gaslighter or narcissist can be confusing and damaging, and it's essential to realize that it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. It's important not to feel guilt or shame for not seeing the red flags. 

Help is available

If you are in a relationship with a narcissist or someone who is gaslighting you, talking to a professional can help. Many people don’t realize how much this form of verbal, mental, and emotional abuse affects them. A professional can help you work through any negative feelings and help you get some of your self-esteem back. 

Online therapy is a convenient and effective way to get help from a professional right from the comfort of home. You can attend sessions from anywhere you have an internet connection and communicate with your therapist via video chat, instant message, text, or phone call. One review of 14 studies found that online therapy was just as effective as in-person treatment. If you’re ready to learn more, sign-up with Regain to get started.


Gaslighting is not a factor in diagnosing narcissistic personality disorder, but it is a common tactic of people with the condition. If you are experiencing gaslighting, talking to a therapist can help you get the support you need to move forward.

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