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What Is Medical Gaslighting? - How to Recognize It and What to Do - Prevention Magazine

What Is Medical Gaslighting? - How to Recognize It and What to Do - Prevention Magazine

Oct 04, 2022 2 mins, 21 secs

But gaslighting exists outside of domestic relationships; it’s a common occurrence in the medical community.

Medical gaslighting is when a health care professional dismisses a patient’s concerns or symptoms and wrongly blames their illness or symptoms on psychological factors.

Patients have to advocate for themselves when they feel there is a health problem,” adds Christine Metz, Ph.D., an endometriosis researcher at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research.

Medical gaslighting is real, and when your concerns are being brushed aside you may feel alone in your pain.

Anyone can fall for medical gaslighting, but it’s more common for women.

Another study compared the medical outcomes of men and women who came to emergency rooms for stomach pain and found that women were 33% more likely to wait longer than men and receive less pain relief medication despite having similar symptoms.

Of all the fields, however, Metz says most cases of medical gaslighting involve cases of reproductive health.

“Many people don’t want to talk about menstrual pain, they don’t want to talk women’s reproductive health because it’s a taboo in society and people feel uncomfortable talking about it,” she explains.

Women may also have a habit of normalizing their pain and symptoms, especially if it’s been experienced by other people in the family.

Malone says that across all groups, women and people of color are the ones most likely to have their symptoms dismissed and experience medical gaslighting from their providers.

A delay in diagnosis because a doctor is not taking your symptoms seriously could prevent women of color from receiving life-saving treatment.

A 2015 study in the Journal of Women’s Health found that African American women have a two month longer diagnosis delay and surgical treatment of early stage breast cancer than white women.

The 2019 review found that people who felt stigmatized for their size often delayed medical care, and when they would go to the doctor, they saw multiple providers.

The major sign of medical gaslighting is when your doctor downplays your symptoms or does not believe you.

Malone says that medical gaslighting among women or African Americans can also come as generalizing speech.

Malone says it’s a sign that your doctor hasn’t looked at you as a person rather than an overgeneralized statistic.

“It takes a strong person to say to the physician that your symptoms are real,” says Dr.

Your notes and medical history can help to start the conversation by talking about when you first started seeing signs of pain or other symptoms, any potential triggers, and how long the symptoms last.

“It's very easy to forget what you’re going to say when a doctor dismisses your concern because it’s a little shocking,” explains Dr.

Malone says it’s important to be your own advocate for your care.


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