Domestic Violence
Gaslighting is a form of domestic violence that can be as harmful as physical abuse. [Representational Image]Creative Commons

When it comes to domestic abuse, many of you may have heard of verbal and physical abuse. Some of you may also are aware of mental torture.

However, experts have revealed that there is a form of emotional abuse that can be "as harmful as physical abuse" and it is called gaslighting.

The term is derived from Charles Boyer starrer film Gaslight, which revolves around the life of a woman who is slowly manipulated by her husband to make her believe that she is going insane.

In gaslighting, the abuser apparently uses similar techniques to gain control over their partner.

Also read 7 popular Hollywood celebrities accused of domestic violence

"Emotional abuse is an attack on your personality rather than your body, and it can be just as harmful as physical abuse. Abusers manipulate and control their victims carefully and purposefully; they switch readily between charm and rage, like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde," Net Doctor quoted Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of a charitable organisation for women and children called Refuge.

Horley has revealed that many women do not suspect their partners in gaslighting mainly because it does not leave any signs of violence like other forms of domestic abuse.

"They are the "nice guys from next door" who are always willing to do a neighbour a favour; they will mend the plumbing, weed the garden, jump-start the car... They may be the men who seem to uphold strict moral standards, who are popular at parties or in the local pubs. Or they may be quiet, "steady" chaps, the ones "you can always rely on." They present a likeable face to the rest of the world: charm obscures the abuser," she said.

According to her, the abuser tries to manipulate the victim by questioning her instincts, feelings and sanity to gain control over her.

"Distorting a person's reality can be part of a pattern of control for many abusers. It is the kind of mental torment used so successfully by torturers and terrorists who know that they can keep their prisoners compliant by frightening them and disorientating them with rapidly changing moods and situations - the more a woman doubts herself and her judgment, the easier it is for her abuser to control her," Horley said.

She also shared some tips for women across the globe to find out if they are being emotionally abused by their partners.

"Anger and intimidation are common techniques for an abuser to use to maintain control over his partner; to make her comply with his demands. However, many techniques of control are much more subtle. Extreme jealousy and possessiveness, for example, can be dressed up to look like care or concern," she revealed.

Meanwhile, New York-based clinical psychologist Ben Michaels said that gaslighting is one of the "most damaging" forms of domestic violence. According to him, the abuser is really harming their victims by manipulating their sense of reality.

"Having your reality questioned has got to be the most damaging thing out there, because our reality and the way we think about the world is kind of all we have. If they're questioning your memory, or causing you to question your memory of certain events or narratives, that's a big [red flag]," quoted him.

In a similar vein, Florida-based psychotherapist Stephanie Sarkis said, "Instead of talking out issues in a healthy way, what gaslighters do is they'll completely block you out. You'll be right in front of them and they'll act like you're not even there. They'll refuse to talk to you, or they will ghost you and not text you."

"A gaslighter might even go to your mom to avoid direct confrontation, stir things up, and bad mouth you, so that [your mom] can be the one to suggest that you do something about your mental state," Sarkis added.