If you’re feeling ignored by your Doctor, you could be experiencing medical gaslighting.
I’ve been there, and when I look back on some of the situations I have been in, I cannot believe I just accepted it. I have learnt a lot over the years on my health journey, partially how to advocate for myself with Doctors, so I wanted to share what I know with you.
If you’re feeling ignored by your doctor or find yourself thinking ‘my doctor doesn’t believe me’ on a regular basis, then you could be experiencing medical gaslighting.
What Is Medical Gaslighting?
Firstly ‘gaslighting’ means that you have someone question what you are experiencing to the point where you question if you really feel that way.
So what is medical gaslighting?
If you tell a Doctor about your pain and symptoms and they repeatedly question it, to the point where you even start to question it yourself, or feel like you’re going slightly crazy, that’s medical gaslighting.
If you walk away from doctor appointments thinking “my doctor doesn’t believe me” you could be experiencing medical gaslighting.
What are some examples of medical gaslighting?
When I was 30 I found out I needed a full hysterectomy. I wanted more children and really didn’t want to be in the menopause so young, so obviously I was upset.
My Doctor was not the most sympathetic to this situation. I wanted to fight to keep my fertility, he simply said I shouldn’t and offered no alternatives.
Fact: you are entitled to request you change Doctors, get second opinions and even change CCGs (community care groups, more on this later) Note: I am based in the UK.
I also didn’t realise any of this. So I continued seeing this particular Doctor for a while until I learnt you can ask for second opinions so I requested one.
Essentially he made me feel I was crazy for being bothered by any of this and like my feelings were not valid. Once my womb was even compared to a walnut as if it was so insignificant.
Another real life example of medical gaslighting is when my Mother in Law visited her GP with pain in her right hand side and leg. He diagnosed arthritis and sent her off with a treatment plan with a physiotherapist.
She thought ‘my doctor doesn’t believe me’ so when this didn’t work and the pain was worse a few months later she went to a different doctor and was diagnosed with kidney cancer.
Unfortunately this was a fatal example of medical gaslighting and she passed away shortly after.
Some more broad examples of medical gaslighting include:
- Dismissing symptoms. This is particularly common for conditions such as endometriosis. Often it can be brushed aside as ‘just a bad period’ and it takes on average 7 years for women to get diagnosed.
- Being ignored. You may feel you intuitively know something is wrong and put this forward as a suggestion to your doctor, only to be ignored.
- Being blamed. When you visit your doctor he suggests you are not following a certain treatment plan properly, therefore you are to be blamed for your problem.
- Misdiagnoses. You may be misdiagnosed and follow the wrong treatment plan. If you then express concerns that your symptoms are continuing you could be dismissed.
- With holding information. If you feel the doctor is withholding information about you and your health
What Affect Can Medical Gaslighting Have On You?
In the worst case scenario, medical gaslighting could be fatal. It can cause you to struggle with trust issues when it comes to doctors and impact your mental health and make you lose confidence in yourself.
When you feel ‘my doctor doesn’t believe me’ it can make you really question if everything you’re experiencing is in your head and you may feel like you’re going slightly crazy.
If you start to distrust doctors you may find yourself avoiding health care which can lead to long term damage.
What Can You Do About Medical Gaslighting?
You may need to advocate for yourself if you’re thinking ‘my doctor doesn’t believe me’
Here’s how you should advocate for yourself if your doctor doesn’t believe you and how to become an informed patient.
Take notes – Write down questions you want to ask, symptoms you experience and even try track your health symptoms on a daily basis for a few weeks before your appointment
Research – (I don’t mean asking Dr Google about your symptoms!) Make sure you are aware of Doctors in your area, research them and see who you think may have more experience with your problems. You could also switch GPs, either in the same surgery or change your surgery completely.
Ask others in similar situations – when I went though my health issues I found asking people with similar problems really valuable. There are lots of facebook groups for different conditions, if you think you are facing something (for example PCOS) find a support group and put your symptoms in and see if that was what other people experienced before they were diagnosed. Support groups are actually fantastic post diagnoses too.
Don’t go alone – It may help to take a partner or friend with you to your appointment, and make sure they understand the symptoms you are experiencing.
Request a second opinion – in the UK we are within our rights to get a second opinion whenever we feel we need one, even a third! You know that big chunk of your wage that comes out every month that you never see… that’s what it is for! So don’t feel guilty about it. Let me repeat that, do not feel guilty for asking for what you are entitled too.
Be confident and assertive – I know first hand how hard this can be but if you do all of the above it should put you in a better position to feel confident and you naturally will become a little more assertive.
Remember you know your body better than any book does, repeat this to yourself on a regular basis, because it is true. No medical textbook can know YOUR body better than YOU.
My experience advocating for myself
I had my hysterectomy due to an ovarian tumour, as I said earlier I didn’t like my doctor. I took it upon myself to find more opinions on my condition, my fertility and eventually how my hysterectomy was performed.
The surgeon I didn’t like wanted to perform a hysterectomy via laparotomy (open stomach). You can read more about my experience recovering from a laparotomy here, it’s hard!
This would have been my second laparotomy in a few months, a lot for the body to go through. I knew I didn’t want this and I ended up getting funding from my CCG* to have it done in London via someone I was very comfortable with and was an expert in keyhole vaginal assist hysterectomies.
When I met this surgeon I knew I wanted to have him perform this surgery. He really put me at ease and even told me his wife had had the surgery too, so he always performed the surgery as he would want someone to on his wife.
Now I am very confident in Doctors appointments and am more aware of what I might need to aid a diagnosis. Unfortunately I have learned the hard way but if I had to sum it up I would say ‘if you feel like you’re being annoying, be more annoying’ It totally pushed me out of my comfort zone but it was worth it.
I actually have my doctor’s secretary in my phone book now and we are on a first name basis!
*CCG aka Community Care Group. If you’re reading this in the UK be aware of CCGs. This is your community care group. They will try and keep you and your surgery etc inside your CCG, it’s all to do with funding.
To have my surgery in London I had to convince my CCG to fund this, as having the surgery in London would have been outside my CCG. It’s hard but not impossible, as I did manage to do it!
Summary | “My Doctor Doesn’t Believe Me” Medical Gaslighting
Medical gaslighting occurs when a patient feels their doctor isn’t listening to them. It can lead to the wrong diagnoses, and can even be fatal in some cases. If your doctor isn’t listening to you it is important to learn how to advocate for yourself and gain confidence when talking to medical professionals.
I hope this has helped. I would also like to add there are some fantastic doctors out there and one that you feel doesn’t believe you might be the perfect doctor for someone else.
Any questions you are welcome to email [email protected] or message me on insta @itsourremedy