What Is Medical Gaslighting?

woman talks to doctor on tablet about what medical gaslighting is

In recent years, the term “gaslighting” has gained more attention in popular culture. It refers to a form of psychological manipulation where an individual or group causes another person to question their own perceptions, memories, and sanity. While this behavior can occur in many different settings, medical gaslighting specifically refers to instances that happen in a healthcare setting.

In simpler terms, medical gaslighting occurs when a healthcare provider undermines or dismisses a patient’s symptoms, concerns, or experiences. This can range from downplaying their pain to outright disbelieving them. It is a pervasive issue that can have serious consequences for patients’ physical and mental health.

One way to counteract medical gaslighting is to get in touch with a reputable expert on your condition for a second opinion. The Clinic by Cleveland Clinic offers virtual second opinions that connect patients with world-class experts to review their cases and provide recommendations for diagnosis and treatment. While not all cases of medical gaslighting involve a misdiagnosis, receiving a second opinion can be invaluable in validating your concerns and ensuring you receive the care you need.

What Is Medical Gaslighting?

Medical gaslighting is a term used to describe the experience of patients who feel they are being manipulated or disbelieved by their healthcare providers. It can occur when a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional downplays symptoms and concerns, refuses to run necessary tests, or suggests that the patient’s symptoms are not real.

In essence, medical gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that can lead to patients feeling unheard, dismissed, and mistrustful of the medical system as a whole. It can also result in delayed or missed diagnoses, incorrect treatment plans, and, in some cases, serious harm to the patient’s health.

Examples of Medical Gaslighting

Medical gaslighting can take many forms and occur in a variety of medical settings. Here are some examples of what it might look like:

  • A patient with chronic pain is told that their symptoms are all in their head and they should just “toughen up” instead of receiving proper pain management.
  • A woman expresses concerns about her menstrual cycle, but her doctor dismisses them as normal without running any tests or further investigating potential underlying causes.
  • A patient of color is told that their symptoms are due to their race rather than being properly diagnosed and treated.

In each of these scenarios, the healthcare provider is invalidating the patient’s concerns and experiences, causing them to question themselves and potentially suffer from inadequate care.

What You Can Do if You Experience Medical Gaslighting

If you feel like you are experiencing medical gaslighting, it’s important to advocate for yourself and seek out additional support. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Educate yourself – Familiarize yourself with your condition and its symptoms so that you can better communicate with your healthcare provider. This will also help you recognize when something feels off or when your concerns are being dismissed.
  2. Seek a second opinion – As mentioned earlier, a second opinion can be invaluable in validating your concerns and ensuring you receive proper care. The Clinic by Cleveland Clinic offers virtual second opinions that connect patients with world-class experts.
  3. Speak up – Don’t be afraid to speak up and assert yourself when communicating with your healthcare provider. Remember, you are the expert on your own body and your voice deserves to be heard.

While medical gaslighting is a serious issue, it’s important to remember that not all healthcare providers engage in this behavior. However, it’s crucial for patients to be aware of the signs and advocate for themselves if they feel like their concerns are being dismissed or invalidated.

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