Shedding Light on Gaslighting: How to Advocate for Yourself in Healthcare

Shedding Light on Gaslighting: How to Advocate for Yourself in Healthcare

Let's talk about a not-so-fun experience and what you can do about it.  It's been one that I've dealt with many times and maybe you have as well. 

You walk into your Doctor's appointment and tell them all about your health concerns.  You go through the list, maybe even get emotional because you're sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.  And when you leave, you end up feeling dissatisfied because the appointment didn't go the way you had hoped.

Maybe they dismissed you by just giving you a handout on how to diet and exercise (as if that's the magic thing that's going to make you feel better), maybe they told you it was just your "anxiety" that had kicked in, maybe they talked over you while you tried to speak about what you were experiencing.  I could go on and on with examples but I think you get the point.

Whatever the reason, that's called medical gaslighting, and it's something way too many women face.  And not to single out men here because men face this as well but for some reason, women tend to experience this more.  All you have to do is google and you'll see what studies have shown this.    

Here's the thing: you are your body's expert and you know when something feels off. If a doctor or another health care worker brushes off your worries, minimizes your symptoms, or blames them on stress or "being a woman," then that's a red flag.

I can remember going into early labor with my oldest daughter and telling my husband that I needed to get to the hospital.  We called them en route to let them know we were on our way, arrived there and even hours later after being on monitoring machines that showed I was having contractions, still made to feel as if I didn't know what I was talking about. 

It wasn't until they did some test that showed that my water had in fact broke and was slowly leaking.  Soon after that news was given, I was life flighted to a neighboring hospital that had a NICU that could take care of our baby that was born the very next day.  Thankfully, she was born with minimal complications and now is a thriving and healthy adult who happens to work in the health care industry.

While we all know that many women experience braxton hicks contractions and are often sent home because it's not quite time to deliver yet, I knew in my heart and head that something wasn't right and well, it was confirmed eventually.  That was one of the first times that I experienced medical gaslighting.  Almost 30 years later and I've got some stories I could share.

So, you may be wondering what are some things that you can watch out for when you go to your next appointment.  They are:

  • The Brush-Off: Doc doesn't take your symptoms seriously, might even chuckle.
  • "It's All in Your Head": Phrases like "anxiety" or "stress" get thrown around without any exploration.
  • Blaming Your Lifestyle:Suddenly your weight, diet, or even period is the culprit, not a potential medical issue.
  • Doctor Know-It-All: You get interrupted or talked over. Your concerns aren't heard.
    And here's what you can do as your own  healthcare advocate:
    • Remember, You're in Charge!  This is your body and you're allowed to make the decisions that work best for you.
    • Be Prepared: Write down your symptoms, questions, and medical history beforehand.  I like to use my chronic pain symptoms tracker and bring it with me to each appointment.  I don't have to try and remember everything which makes it easier for me.
    • Speak Up! Don't be shy, clearly explain your concerns.
    • Ask Questions: Don't leave confused. Get clear explanations on tests and diagnoses, side effects of medications that they want to prescribe, etc. 
    • Second Opinion: Don't hesitate to seek another doctor for their opinion.  Different Doctors sometimes have different ways of treating things.  I have several close healthcare worker friends and it's interesting to hear their perspective on meds, treatment, etc.
    • Ask friends and family for recommendations of doctors who listen to women or who they feel comfortable with.
    • Look for doctors who specialize in women's health.
    • Don't be afraid to switch doctors until you find a good fit.  

      I hope that this blog post has helped you understand a little more about this sensitive subject matter and some ways you can advocate for yourself. 

      Remember, you are strong, you are valid, and your health matters! Don't let anyone gaslight you out of getting the care you deserve!

      If this post was helpful for you (or you think it would be helpful for someone you know), please be sure to share it with one of the options below.   

      In this together!



      Please note: This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider for personalized guidance.

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