How to recognize medical gaslighting and what to do about it.

Christina, who lives in Portland, Maine, said she felt for years that doctors ignored her. When she lost 50 pounds, doctors sometimes blamed her body size when she discussed health issues.

One incident occurred a few weeks after she fell off her bike. “My elbow was still hurting,” said Christina, 39, who asked not to be named when discussing her medical history. “I went to my regular primary care doctor and she just shrugged it off saying, ‘Well, you’re overweight and that’s putting stress on your joints.’

In the end, Christina visited the emergency center, where the paramedics took an x-ray and found that she had a broken bone in her arm.

It can happen to anyone where a healthcare professional ignores someone’s concerns, which is often referred to as medical gaslighting. Recent New York Times article more than 2,800 comments were received on this topic, with some reporting misdiagnosis that almost cost them their lives, or that treatment was delayed resulting in unnecessary suffering. Patients with lungs covid wrote about how they felt ignored by the doctors they turned to for help.

Recently, the problem has attracted attention – as in medical community and the public at large for disproportionate impact on women, people of color, geriatric patients as well as LGBTQ people. For example, studies have shown that women more likely how men are misdiagnosed with certain conditions—for example, heart disease as well as autoimmune diseases – and they often wait longer for diagnostics. And one group of researchers found that doctors more likely using negative descriptors such as “naughty” or “agitated” in black patients’ medical records rather than white patients’ medical records, a practice that can lead to disparities in healthcare.

“Gaslighting is real; This is what happens all the time. Patients – and especially women – should be aware of this, ”the doctor said. Jennifer H. Meares is professor of cardiology at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine in Hofstra/Northwell and co-author of Women with Smart Hearts.

Here are some tips on how to protect yourself in healthcare settings.

Gaslighting can be subtle and not always easy to spot. When seeking medical attention, experts recommend keeping an eye out for the following red flags.

  • Your ISP constantly interrupts you, doesn’t let you elaborate, and doesn’t sound like an interested listener.

  • Your doctor minimizes or downplays your symptoms, for example by asking questions about whether you are in pain.

  • Your doctor refuses to discuss your symptoms.

  • Your doctor will not order key imaging or laboratory tests to rule out or confirm a diagnosis.

  • You feel that your doctor is being rude, condescending, or humiliating.

  • Your symptoms are blamed on a mental illness, but you are not referred to a psychiatric hospital or screened for such an illness.

“I always tell my patients that they are experts in their bodies,” says the doctor. Nicole Mitchell, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. “We are working together to find out what is going on and what we can do about it. It really needs to be shared decision making.”

Keep detailed notes and records. Dr. Mitchell recommended keeping a journal in which you write down as much detail as possible about your symptoms. Her suggested clues include: “What are your symptoms? When do you feel these symptoms? Do you notice any triggers? If you have pain, what does it look like? Does it come and go, or is it constant? What days do you notice this pain?

In addition to your notes, keep a record of all your lab results, images, medications, and family medical history.

It’s like meeting your accountant at the IRS, dr. Mieres said, “You definitely won’t show up without a receipt.”

To ask questions. Then ask again. Prepare a list of questions questions you would like to ask before the appointment, and be prepared to ask more questions as more information becomes available. If you don’t know where to start, Dr. Mitchell recommended asking your doctor, “If you were me, what questions would you ask right now?”

Invite a support person. Sometimes it can help to have a trusted friend or relative accompanies youespecially when discussing a treatment plan or a complex medical problem.

When people are sick, scared, or anxious, it can contribute to “brain freeze,” the doctor says. Mires said. “We stop thinking, we don’t hear well, we don’t process information.”

Speak with your support worker to clarify their role and discuss your expectations, she added. Do you want them to take notes and be a second pair of ears? Or do you primarily need them there for emotional support? Are there times when you prefer your friend or relative to leave the room so you can discuss personal matters?

Focus on your most pressing problem. Health care providers are often short on time, and the average primary health care visit lasts only 18 minutes. the study published in 2021. Mieres recommended taking 10 minutes before your visit to write down bullet points that summarize the reason for your visit so you can communicate effectively with your doctor.

Fix the next steps. Ideally, you should leave the meeting feeling confident. Tell your ISP that you’d like to understand three things: best guess what’s going on; plans for diagnosing or eliminating various possibilities; and treatment options, depending on what is found.

Change provider. The study based on data from 2006 and 2007, it was estimated that approximately 12 million adults in the United States are misdiagnosed each year, and about half of these errors can be harmful. If you are concerned that your symptoms are not being treated, you have the right to request a second, third or even fourth opinion.

But in many cases this is easier said than done. It is not always quick or easy to find another specialist who accepts your insurance and can make an immediate appointment. If possible, try to get an in-network referral from your current doctor. For example, you could say, “Thanks for your time, but I’d really like to hear another opinion on this. Could you refer me to another specialist in your field?”

If you are not comfortable asking your doctor for a referral, you can also speak with a Patient Liaison Officer or Nurse Supervisor. Alternatively, you can ask friends and family or call your insurance company to find someone online.

Reframe the conversation. If you choose to stay with your current provider but that person doesn’t seem to listen to you, Dr. Mieres recommended that patients try redirecting the conversation by saying something like, “Let’s hit the pause button here because we’re having a disconnect. You don’t hear what I’m saying. Let me start again.”

Or, as an option: “I have had these symptoms for three months. Can you help me find what is wrong? What can we do to understand this together?”

Contact support groups. There are support groups for many conditions that can provide helpful resources and information.

Tami Burdick, who was diagnosed in 2017 granulomatous mastitisrare chronic inflammatory disease of the breast, found help in an online support group for women with the same condition.

She was initially referred to an infectious disease specialist, who rejected the results of a breast biopsy that found bacteria.

“I developed terrible, painful abscesses that opened and flowed on their own,” Burdick, 44, said.

In search of answers, she conducted extensive research into the disease. And from a support group, she learned about a gene sequencing test that can identify potential pathogens. Mrs. Burdick asked her oncology surgeon to order a test and found that she was infected with a specific virus. microorganism associated with granulomatous mastitis and recurrent breast abscesses. It took seven months of investigation, but she finally got an answer. To help other women, she self-published a book about her experience working with her oncologist.

“If an infectious disease specialist had looked into this more deeply,” she continued, “perhaps I could have started taking antibiotics right away and I would never have needed surgery.”

Appeal to a higher authority. If you are being treated in a hospital, you can contact patient advocacy staff who can help. You can also resolve this issue with your doctor’s supervisor.

Finally, if you are unhappy with the care you receive, Dr. Mitchell said you might consider reporting your experience to Federation of State Medical Councils.

“Any cases of abuse, manipulation, gaslighting, delays in diagnosis are events that need to be reported and that healthcare professionals should be aware of,” says the doctor. Mitchell said. “Physicians must be held accountable.”