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What Do You Do if Your Doctor's Not Listening to You?

  • Category: Primary Care
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Baton Rouge General
What Do You Do if Your Doctor's Not Listening to You?

If you search for ‘medical gaslighting,’ you’ll find story after story of women being dismissed by doctors and later finding out they had a tumor, a heart condition, or a severe disease that could have been treated if caught earlier. While medical errors happen to both men and women, women are misdiagnosed by doctors far more often than their husbands, fathers and brothers. Studies show women are 50 percent more likely to be misdiagnosed when having a heart attack and 33 more likely when having a stroke. In addition, women face longer waits to be diagnosed with cancer and heart disease. They’re also less likely to be offered pain medications. One study found that women who went to the emergency room with severe stomach pain waited 33 percent longer than men with the same symptoms.

Medical gaslighting occurs when a provider inappropriately dismisses a patient’s concerns. Often, women say their issues are blamed on hormones, stress, weight, or anxiety. And while it’s true that those factors can create medical issues, women are disproportionately diagnosed with mental health issues when there’s actually something else going on.

So how do you know when you’re provider’s dismissal is inappropriate? And how do you avoid this kind of gaslighting?

First, keep in mind that there are many times when your concerns really may be unfounded. It’s not uncommon for patients to visit a hospital or physician convinced they have a specific illness when they don’t. The difference is in how you’re treated. If your concerns are heard and considered, but the tests clearly show you don’t have a brain tumor – that’s not gaslighting. But, if some of the following behaviors occur, you should pay close attention.

  • Criticizing or ridiculing your concerns.
  • Doubting your trustworthiness or rewording your concerns to sound less severe.
  • Refusing to participate in a conversation or to discuss particular possibilities.
  • Accusing you of making something up or ignoring important factors you bring up.

If you notice your provider acting dismissive or if you feel you aren’t being heard, there are a few things you can do.

  • Affirm to your doctor that you know your body, and what you’re experiencing is not normal. Ask them to help you find out what’s going on, what tests may be available.
  • Keep a symptom journal. Write down when your symptoms began and how often they occur and when they get worse so you can show your physician a record of what you are experiencing.
  • If the doctor is being dismissive, push back. Engage them as you would a partner. Let them know you appreciate their expertise, but remind them that you are the foremost expert on your own body. Work together to reach a diagnosis and treatment plan.
  • If you feel like you’re not being listened to, find a second opinion or ask the physician to refer you to a specialist.
  • If all else fails, bring a trusted friend or family member to your appointments to help you make your case.

Finding a provider you trust is a major factor in staying healthy as you age. To find a physician, visit