12 Signs Someone Is Playing Mind Games (+ Why They Do It)

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Some people love playing games – but how do you know if they’re doing it with you?

Whether it’s a friend, a partner, a family member, or a coworker, it can be tricky to tell what’s really going on sometimes.

If you think someone might be playing mind games, here are 12 signs to look out for…

1. You never know where you stand.

They constantly leave you wondering how they really feel and where you actually stand with them.

They might be very hot and cold, or sometimes suddenly turn on you for no apparent reason.

If you’re feeling confused and dejected, they’re probably trying to mess with your head. 

2. You’re questioning yourself more.

Second-guessing yourself and the decisions you make is horrible – it makes you feel insecure and alone.

Someone might be playing mind games with you if they regularly make you doubt yourself.

Maybe they question you a lot, or lie to you, like saying one thing one day and the opposite the next, making you wonder if you’re making things up or if they’re just tricking you (this is known as Gaslighting). 

3. They put you down, a lot.

Some people get a kick out of making others feel bad about themselves. This is a classic power play, and will leave you feeling insecure and shy, as well as confused and upset.

They might make rude comments about your appearance, humiliate you in front of your friends, or subtly bring up conversations they know will make you uncomfortable, just to prove a point.

Either way, it’s unfair and will leave you feeling pretty rubbish about yourself. 

4. They try to turn others against you.

Have you noticed them talking badly about you to your other friends? Maybe they make a point of saying nasty things about you in front of others, or make things up to make you seem like the bad guy.

People who play mind games often get a weird thrill from isolating you from your loved ones, either subtly or explicitly. 

5. They claim you’re a liar.

They might start telling other people that you’re a liar, or even falsely accuse you of making things up.

Maybe they’re trying to convince those around you that you’re not a nice person or that you’ve been bitching about them and are lying now when you say that you haven’t been.

This is a horrible situation to be in and you may feel as though you have to endlessly defend yourself and explain what’s really going on. 

6. They make endless comparisons.

A more subtle mind game is continuously making comparisons between you and other people.

Maybe your partner tells you that your friends are way more fun than you on a night out, or they compare you to their ‘crazy’ ex whenever you have an argument.

Either way, you’ll be left feeling angry and upset, unsure of what’s really going on and why you deserve this.

You’re a wonderful person in your own right, so why do they need to endlessly compare you to others?

7. You always have to go to them.

One of the most common mind games, especially during dating and relationships, is when they force you to go to them every time.

They never text first or call you, they never suggest plans – instead, you’re the one texting and double-texting them; you’re the one almost begging to see them.

This can make you feel very rejected and unattractive. It’s confusing when someone is clearly interested, but will never be the first to come to you – and that’s exactly why they do it. 

8. They regularly shut you out.

Do you feel like you’re just blocked from their life every so often?

If someone is regularly shutting you out, they’re doing it to confuse you and keep you guessing about what’s going on.

You’ll end up feeling upset and hurt that they don’t want to talk to you.

Sometimes, this is their way of ‘testing’ you to see how much you care and how far you’ll go to get their attention – it makes them feel important and attractive having you chase around after them. 

9. They never let their guard down.

Maybe it’s always you opening up, starting to initiate deeper conversations about feelings – and it’s always them leaving you high and dry.

If they never reveal anything about themselves, you’ll probably be left wondering why they don’t trust you or what they want to keep hidden from you.

It can be upsetting and may make you question how genuine your friendship or relationship is with them – why don’t they want to let you in?

With this kind of mind game, you’re left exactly where they want you – vulnerable and desperate. 

10. They try to make you jealous.

This is such childish behavior, and yet so many people do it!

One of the classic ways to mess with someone’s head is to try to make them jealous.

Maybe your friend has started posting pictures of herself with another friend on Instagram in the hopes you see it. Maybe your partner is flirting with other people or messaging their ex.

This kind of jealousy-inducing behavior will, obviously, leave you feeling jealous!

It’ll also make you feel pretty insecure and confused about what’s going on and why you don’t seem to be enough for them – and you’ll wonder why they would want to hurt you like this. 

11. They’re secretive.

Someone acting secretive and suspicious is bound to get to you after a while. You’ll wonder what they’re keeping from you and why they’re being so weird about things.

It might make you question if they really like you, if your partner is cheating, or even if your friends are secretly meeting without you to bitch about you.

This kind of thing can make anyone feel insecure and paranoid – you’ll feel alone and you won’t know what’s going on, which is a horrible place to be.

12. Your gut is telling you.

Of course, if your gut is telling you that something is a bit ‘off,’ it probably is.

There might not be a definite behavior or explanation, but there’ll be something that makes you question if this person is just toying with you.

Mind games are unfair to play on anyone, so listen to your gut and try to move past this toxic phase. 

Why do people play mind games?

There are so many different reasons for playing mind games, and they vary from person to person, and from situation to situation. 

Some people do it to feel superior – they like making you doubt yourself and want to make you feel insecure.

Maybe they’re threatened by you and want to stop you (and others) from realizing how amazing you are.

Equally, they could be jealous of you – they want you to feel bad about certain things so that you become more shy and less likely to go out with guys they fancy, for example, or they want to turn your friends against you because you’re more popular than they are. 

Some people do it because they like the thrill of toying with someone’s emotions. They want to keep you guessing and they like how desperate you become for their attention.

Maybe you’ve just started dating and you don’t know where you stand with them, or a friend has suddenly started acting weirdly toward you.

It could be that they just like messing with your head – they could be narcissistic or self-involved, and do it for the kicks. 

Some people do it to punish you. They might be trying to manipulate you into behaving in a certain way by acting out when you do something they don’t like.

For example, your girlfriend might start putting you down every time you come home from a night out with friends. She might be trying to show you that she doesn’t like you going out, and wants to make you ‘pay for it’ by being demeaned every time you do it. 

How to deal with someone who plays mind games.

It can be really hard to be involved with someone who plays mind games, whether they’re a family member, partner, or close friend.

It’s confusing and you never really know where you stand. They might even apologize after doing it, only to start again a few days later.

This can very quickly become a toxic cycle of abuse and can spiral out of control before you realize what’s going on.

Try to speak to them about this and explain how it makes you feel. They may not be aware they’re doing it, or they may not realize just how much it’s affecting you.

They should apologize and make it clear that they will actively improve their behavior going forwards.

If they can’t or won’t accept responsibility for their actions, or continue to act this way after you’ve told them it upsets you, the next step is up to you.

If you think that they will change, you have to decide how long you wait.

If you decide to move on, speak to other loved ones and ensure that you’ll have a support system around you – living with someone who plays mind games is hard, but leaving them is often even harder as they’ll try to trick you into coming back and may get even worse.

Remember that you can seek professional help if you are struggling to cope and need some further guidance.

Look after yourself, know your worth, and know when to walk away.

Still not sure what to do about the mind games your partner plays on you? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.

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About Author

Lucy is a travel and wellness writer currently based in Gili Air, a tiny Indonesian island. After over a year of traveling, she’s settled in paradise and spends her days wandering around barefoot, practicing yoga and exploring new ways to work on her wellbeing.