• Unfortunately, sometimes parents do gaslight their children, or manipulate them to question their sanity and cause them to doubt their own judgment and memory.
  • Oftentimes, parents who engage in gaslighting have narcissistic personality traits and/or suffer from alcohol/drug abuse.
  • Parents may outright lie to their children, discredit their thoughts, and cause them to feel self-conscious, anxious, weak, and confused.
  • If you suspect a parent is gaslighting you, you should consider talking to a professional.
  • You should also explore the possibility of attending family therapy together if you’re interested in repairing your relationship with your parent.

Camille and Amma couldn’t be more different. Camille is a 30-something journalist who prefers to stay under the radar. Amma, on the other hand, is her more outgoing and rebellious kid sister. That said, there is one common thread between them: their mother Adora. Or more specifically, her abuse.

If you’ve seen (or read) “Sharp Objects,” you know just how manipulative Adora can be. It’s obvious from the start that Adora’s parenting isn’t healthy, as she talks down to Camille and inappropriately babies Amma. Viewers and readers alike quickly observe the manipulation — often, gaslighting behavior — and grow cautious, even afraid, of Adora as they root for the daughters.

Unfortunately, gaslighting mothers (and fathers) are a reality. We’re going to provide signs of a gaslighting parent and tips for coping if you have a manipulative mother, father, or both.

Gaslighting Parents: Warning Signs

Adora manipulates her daughters into doubting their own judgment, decisions, and memories — this is gaslighting. And while Adora, Camille, and Amma are but fictional characters in a popular miniseries, gaslighting is seen in many parent-child dynamics. Lisa Larsen, PsyD, delves into how this form of manipulation is employed by parents:

“I often see parents who have narcissistic personality traits or who abuse drugs or alcohol manipulate their children into questioning their sanity. They can outright lie to their children about what they did and what happened, or they can say things to their children like, ‘Are you sure you saw that?’ Sometimes, if the child has a diagnosed mental illness, a parent will use that to discredit the child’s credibility. They can do this in a falsely sweet way like, ‘Are you sure you aren’t just having symptoms? Have you taken your medication today?’

Alternatively, parents can be harsher about it, by outright insulting the child, such as, ‘What do you know? You’re just crazy!’ The child can start to suffer from anxiety, confusion, low self-esteem, and question their own reality. They might be less assertive than other children in speaking truth to power and become socially passive. Unfortunately, being passive can lead to others manipulating and bullying them as well. Sometimes, the parent will make a show of loving their children to the public, but verbally lash out at them at home, heaping blame and inappropriate responsibility on the child at home.”

Put an End to the Manipulation

I’m going to leave it to you to find out how Camille and Amma deal with their mother’s manipulative ways. In the meantime, if you suspect that your mother or father (or both) is gaslighting you, consider Larsen’s advice:

  • Talk with a mental health professional about your concerns.
  • Confide in a trusted individual about the manipulation.
  • Consider going to family therapy to potentially correct this unhealthy dynamic.
  • No matter what, put your well-being first.

Larsen explains that though it takes courage, it is important to come forward and discuss your parent’s manipulative behavior — preferably with a professional: “Unfortunately, though, it can be hard for the child to even know that they are being gaslit and they might start to believe the lies that are being told to them.”

She goes on to say that counseling can be helpful to repair the family if making these repairs is desired. “Hopefully, the child can enter psychotherapy or counseling, or the whole family can be seen to help change this unhealthy dynamic. If the parents see that it is hurting their child, hopefully, they will have enough empathy to own what they are doing and stop it.”