Have you ever experienced medical gaslighting? My guess is probably so.
It happens when you're experiencing serious symptoms, and you know something is wrong, but your doctor explains away your symptoms with something along the lines of:
"You're too young to be this sick."
"It's just anxiety/depression."
"It's just stress."
"Maybe you're just obsessing about your symptoms too much."
"Chronic pain is a normal part of being female [or any specific gender identity, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, weight, etc.]."
"You just have a low pain tolerance."
"There's no need to run any imaging or lab work, I already know your results would come back normal."
"You seem perfectly healthy to me."
When patients are repeatedly told that their symptoms are no big deal, that prevents them from finding a diagnosis, as well as the treatment, symptom management strategies, and community that come along with having a diagnosis. They can't target their dietary and lifestyle modifications to their specific disease. Patients need to know exactly what they're up against in order to start healing.
Medical gaslighting not only prevents patients from getting the medical care they need, it also makes them question their own perception of reality. It makes them wonder, "Am I making this up? Am I delusional?" Patients start to feel isolated and unworthy of any help or accommodation. If they don't already struggle with their mental health, they will likely begin to see their mental health decline at this point.
So what are the red flags of medical gaslighting to watch for? Here are some of the big patterns I've noticed with doctors:
~ The word JUST. Any time your serious symptoms are JUST anything: stress, anxiety, low pain tolerance… That sets off alarm bells for me. That word indicates that the doctor is minimizing symptoms.
~ Blaming your symptoms on a mental illness without actually screening for that illness or providing a referral to a psychiatrist or a therapist. If your doctor believes your symptoms are related to a mental illness, they should always connect you to providers who can help.
~ Dismissing your symptoms or assuming a specific diagnosis based solely on your sex, race, ethnicity, gender identity, age, sexuality, weight, or any aspect of your appearance. Some disabilities and illnesses do affect certain demographics more often than others, but doctors should never make any assumptions about your illness based on these factors alone.
~ Refusing to order any imaging or lab work without explaining why.
~ Not listening to you or not giving you a chance to ask questions. That's the provider's first and most important duty.
Please share your own experiences with medical gaslighting in the comments below or get in touch on Instagram @autoimmuneabbey to chat more.
#autoimmune #ChronicIllness #InvisibleIllnesses #ChronicPain #ChronicMigraines #spondylitis #Ableism #Spoonies #SpoonieProblems #Gaslighting #MedicalPtsd