Medical gaslighting is a term referring to a situation where your doctor or practitioner has blamed your symptoms or illness on psychological reasons.
Have you heard “it’s all in your head”?
Have your symptoms or concerns been dismissed by your doctor?
You may have been gaslighted.
Why would your doctor dismiss your symptoms?
You look healthy. Your symptoms may be mainly sensory in nature, so the doctor can’t see them. This can include symptoms like pain, itching, tinnitus, insomnia, fatigue, light-headedness etc.
Routine blood work comes back normal, therefore your doctor may assume symptoms are stress related.
Relevant testing hasn’t been done. Routine blood work may not be adequate to find what is going on for you. Testing for histamine and mast cell mediators usually needs to be done by an integrative or functional doctor, or someone specialized in mast cell disorders.
You are female. Gaslighting seems to be a frequent occurrence for women. (1, 2)
You are part of the LGBTQ+ or a racial community. Gaslighting is rooted in social inequalities, whether those are gender, race, social class, age, or other relationships where one person views themselves in a position of power. (3) In the case of medical gaslighting, the doctor establishes themselves as the person in power and dismisses your health problems.
How does this leave you feeling?
Questioning yourself or your own sanity?
Questioning the legitimacy of your symptoms?
Feeling like your symptoms and experiences have been invalidated?
Feeling that you have not been listened to?
Feeling discriminated against?
These are all valid ways to feel when you have been gaslighted.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Maybe you’ve just normalized your symptoms to yourself, and don’t bring them up with doctors anymore, because they were dismissed for so long, or treatments weren’t working.
Your symptoms and the experiences you feel within your own body are well-grounded. They are your body’s way of trying to communicate with you. It’s time to listen to what they are trying to tell you. It’s time your doctors listened too.
You don’t need to keep being gaslighted.
Things you can do
Awareness of medical gaslighting allows you to approach your medical visits with the understanding that you will have to advocate for yourself.
You have a voice. Here are some ways to use it:
Don’t just accept what your doctor tells you. It’s okay to push back if advice doesn’t feel right for you. Ask as many questions as you need to feel that you are choosing the best medical option for yourself.
Prepare a list of questions beforehand. Let your doctor know that you have questions you’d like answered during the appointment.
Explain that you feel you aren’t being helped properly. If you find it difficult to advocate for yourself this way, bring a friend or family member along who will stand up for you.
Ask for a referral or seek out a second opinion.
Find a new doctor. A good practitioner takes the time to listen. You deserve to be listened to. If none of the listed strategies are getting you the help you need, it’s time to change doctors.
We have a list or organizations you can use to help you find a doctor in our Online Community. Come join us!
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