What Is Medical Gaslighting?
If you have some form of chronic illness, especially one like endometriosis where it is both invisible and classed as “a woman’s disease”, then chances are you will have already experienced medical gaslighting in some shape or form.
I myself have experienced it in several different forms. Some were laughable, whilst other occurrences have had a more serious impact.
Medical gaslighting can have such a severe effect on patients, that it can lead to medical trauma. It can also lead to patients not seeking further help with their symptoms which, in some cases, can be dangerous for their health.
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation and emotional abuse. It happens when a person makes their victim question their own actions, perceptions, memories or beliefs, in order to belittle the victim and control them.
Medical gaslighting, however, happens when a health care professional, i.e. a doctor, downplays or dismisses what a patient is telling them. This can manipulate the patient into thinking they are exaggerating their own symptoms, or, imagining them all together.
How medical gaslighting can present itself
- Disregards what you are telling them and makes you think that what you have to say isn’t important.
- Makes you feel belittled, silly, or like you are wasting their time.
- Doesn’t believe what you are telling them and everything you say is wrong.
- Minimalizes your symptoms, saying "it’s normal" or "nothing".
- Assumes a diagnosis based on your gender, identity, age, sexuality, ethnicity, or even something like your weight, without any further tests.
- Says that it’s all in your head or blames your symptoms on mental illness - but refuses to refer you on for any help with said mental illness.
- Disregards evidence such as test results, surgical findings or information from other doctors. They may blatantly lie about the evidence when it’s right in front of them.
- Stonewalls you and takes away your ability to think clearly. You may become emotionally exhausted trying to fight your corner.
- Makes you doubt yourself and question your own sanity - you know what they are saying is incorrect, but they convince you that you are wrong.
- Causes you to replay situations and conversations, questioning yourself and other people.
- Tells you that you are overreacting, being sensitive, or crazy.
- Raises their voice when you try to question something they have said.
- Won't compromise and refuses to enter into or continue dialogue with you.
- Dismisses you, whilst possibly refusing tests or treatments. You might leave not having received the help and support you need.
The negative impacts
Gaslighting in any form can be very damaging to the person at the receiving end of it. Especially so if it delays a diagnosis or treatment. Dismissive and disrespectful comments can destroy all the trust you have in that person, but so much can be gained from a positive relationship with your doctor.
Every patient deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Nobody should be made to feel inferior, afraid, or that they cannot trust a doctor.
How old were you when you were diagnosed with endometriosis?