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6 Ways to Avoid Medical Gaslighting

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This is a follow-up to my last article about medical gaslighting. You can read the first article here.

If you have been a victim of medical gaslighting, you are not alone.

In the dozens (maybe hundreds) of doctor’s appointments I’ve been to, these ideas have helped me speak up for myself. They don’t guarantee anything, but they may give you a better chance of getting medical help as you continue your personal health journey.

 1. Learn to advocate for yourself.

This was really hard for me at first because I spend so much time trying to hide my pain and convince people that I’m OK because there’s nothing they can do to help anyway. Flipping the switch to try to get someone, in this case a doctor, to believe I truly was in pain was difficult. The first thing you have to do if you want anyone to take your pain seriously is to learn how to take your pain seriously for yourself. Don’t downplay your pain. If it affects your life, learn to speak up. Explaining your experience with pain is not attention-seeking, so get rid of that thought. It may take time, but you will eventually learn how you are comfortable explaining your pain, and talking about it will become easier.

 2. Bring a friend with you.

A simple way to be taken seriously is to bring someone with you who can back you up. It’s easy to feel almost ganged up on at an appointment by yourself, especially if a doctor is committed to not hearing you. Bringing someone along that can support you and help you remember details about the appointment or about your health is invaluable. Shout out to my amazing Mama who has been with me at almost every one of my appointments in the last three years. She’s learned a lot on this journey as my chronic illness ally and I wouldn’t have gotten this far without her validation and constant support.

 3. Write down everything.

Doctor’s appointments are often a whirl of information. Things can get lost very easily in conversation. A simple but incredibly helpful way to make sure you were able to say what you need to say is to write down what you want to say beforehand and then take notes during the appointment as well. This is especially helpful if you’re transferring medical data between doctors or seeing a doctor for the first time.

 4. Have clear goals.

Having a clear goal in mind before visiting a doctor can save you a lot of frustration. The simpler the goal, the better. Sometimes it helps to have just one symptom, one medication, or one problem you want to specifically address in an appointment. When you come in focused on a certain thing, doctors will have a harder time brushing it aside.

 5. Ask questions.

If you have questions, ask them. Don’t hesitate for a second. Knowledge is literally power, especially in the medical world. Ask questions about diagnostic processes, medication, medical protocol, anything you think will help you.

 6. Ask for a second opinion.

A lot of people seem to think second opinions are somehow taboo or rude in the medical world. I think that is ridiculous. There is nothing taboo about seeking more opinions about your health. It’s your health. A good doctor will not be offended if you see someone else for a second opinion. In fact, a great doctor may even suggest it. Don’t be afraid to seek further medical help if you have doubts or just want more clarity about your diagnosis and treatment.

If you have been a victim of medical gaslighting, it’s critical for you to understand that it is not your fault. What happened to you wasn’t because you weren’t good enough at explaining yourself or speaking up for yourself. It likely happened as a result of human and scientific error. Medical testing isn’t foolproof and doctors aren’t perfect.

This list isn’t meant to be a guilt-trip for those who have suffered malpractice. I just want to give those with chronic illness the very best chance at being heard, getting help and finding hope.

Getty image by Andrei Vasilev.

Originally published: March 4, 2020
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