Many New Yorkers have heard the term “gaslighting,” but it’s not something commonly thought of as occurring in medical situations. Unfortunately, medical gaslighting happens more often than you might think. This is what it means and how you can tell if you are a victim.
Understanding medical gaslighting
Medical gaslighting is a toxic behavior perpetrated by doctors on patients that can result in harm. A person sees a doctor for a legitimate medical concern and expects to be treated with respect and professionally diagnosed. However, if the doctor is unable to make a diagnosis based on the patient’s symptoms, they are required to order the appropriate tests or refer them to a specialist. When a doctor fails to take those actions and dismisses the patient’s concerns, it is considered medical gaslighting and can be a form of medical malpractice.
Signs that you are a victim of medical gaslighting
Women and people of color are most often the victims of medical gaslighting. Some common signs are that a doctor waves off your concerns or tells you that “it’s all in your head.” Sometimes, they exhibit bias against patients when their concerns might seem related to conditions that only affect women. For example, a woman goes to the doctor complaining about debilitating abdominal pain and is told to take pain relievers during her menstrual period.
People of color often experience gaslighting when doctors downplay their symptoms. The doctor might refuse to prescribe necessary medication or treatment.
Steps to take
If you experienced medical gaslighting, document everything so that you have a journal of evidence. Get a second opinion so you can have your concerns addressed and get a diagnosis for your symptoms. Advocate for yourself and file a complaint against the offending doctor.
Medical gaslighting can have lasting negative effects. Not getting answers when you need them could be devastating depending on your condition.