What You Need to Know About Medical Gaslighting
Medical Gaslighting is when a healthcare provider dismisses your complaints or concerns; They don’t seem to take you seriously or they may blame your symptoms on vague causes, such as stress.
Though medical gaslighting may not always be intentional, it can cause a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, which can have serious consequences for your health.Many factors influence medical gaslighting including unconscious bias. This can be very traumatic for the patient.
Examples of Medical Gaslighting
People of color are frequently affected by medical gaslighting. This is often rooted in racism – a public health crisis that has resulted in significant health disparities. One example, according to research, is providers incorrectly believing Black people are biologically different from white people.
Additional research about medical gaslighting based on race:
- Healthcare providers believing that Black people have thicker skin and less sensitive nerve endings
- Healthcare providers being over twice as likely to use negative descriptors in patient charts of Black patients compared to white patients
- Medical gaslighting has also had devastating consequences since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is a story from Dr. Susan Moore, a physician who was denied medication for her COVID-19-related chest pain
Female-identifying people are also some of the most common victims of medical gaslighting specifically surrounding premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or mental health issues. This aligns with past diagnoses of “female hysteria.”
Biases that still exist in modern day include:
- Female-identifying people spending more time waiting in an emergency room for the same conditions as male-identifying people
- Undiagnosed conditions like endometriosis until after having surgery, despite multiple visits to healthcare providers
- Heart disease misdiagnosed in female-identifying patients as a psychological condition
How To Know If You Are Experiencing Medical Gaslighting
- Your symptoms or concerns are dismissed or ignored without cause
- You feel as if your healthcare provider is blaming you
- Your symptoms are written off as being “normal” without explanation
- Your diagnosis is full or mostly based on your gender, race, sexuality, or irrelevant medical history without doing further testing
- Having to argue just to be listened to and taken seriously by your healthcare provider
What To Do if You Think You’re Experiencing Medical Gaslighting
- Keep a symptom journal
- Prepare a list of questions for your next appointment
- Take a relative or friend with you to your appointment
- Contact a patient advocate through the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy (NAHAC)
- Get a second opinion
- File a complaint; you may be within your rights if you were a victim of malpractice or medical negligence
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