Most everyone feels relieved when their doctor tells them something they’re concerned about is nothing serious – or nothing at all. However, what if your body is telling you something is very wrong, and your doctor continues to dismiss it?
That’s been called “medical gaslighting.” It can happen to anyone, but it seems to happen more to women and people who are older and/or overweight. One woman says that when she fell off a bike, her doctor blamed the pain in her arm on her weight and the added stress on her joints. When she finally got an x-ray, it revealed she’d chipped a bone.
Much more serious cases of gaslighting can cost people their lives. For example, many doctors still fail to recognize the signs of a heart attack in women.
“Medical gaslighting” generally isn’t generally intentionally manipulative and isn’t done to make people think they’re crazy. However, it can make them doubt their own instincts about their body and even convince them their pain is in their imagination.
Often, when doctors fail to diagnose a condition, it’s because they fail to listen to their patients or do even basic diagnostic testing. Sometimes, they’re sure they know what’s going on (or isn’t) based on previous experience. Doctors may take some patients more seriously than others based on their own prejudices.
Watch out for these behaviors
Patients need to recognize the signs that their doctor isn’t providing them with the attention and care they need to properly diagnose them. Here are some examples:
- Your doctor regularly interrupts you, so you don’t have a chance to fully explain your symptoms or concerns.
- Your doctor minimizes your symptoms without doing a physical exam or ordering blood work or imaging.
- Your doctor tells you it’s just stress, anxiety or your imagination.
- If you insist on finding out what’s wrong, your doctor says you’re being rude.
If you’re getting nowhere with your doctor and continuing to experience symptoms, find another doctor if possible. Of course, that’s easier in some areas than others. Sometimes, by the time a patient gets an accurate diagnosis, the condition has because even more serious and potentially past curing. If you or a loved one has suffered harm because of a doctor’s failure to diagnose it, find out what your legal options are for justice and compensation.