How to spot medical gaslighting

Medical gaslighting, where a healthcare provider assumes your diagnosis - whether intentionally or not - and gaslights you to go along with their chosen treatment, is an unfortunate common occurrence that many women experience when seeking help. Many are hesitant to reach out for help out of fear their issues will be dismissed and it often leads to misdiagnosis.

It is important to identify the signs of medical gaslighting when seeking out treatment to remove yourself from the situation and get proper care with a different clinician. Ms. Roisin Traynor, an experienced mental health counsellor and Joii Medical Panel advisor, highlights how to spot medical gaslighting.  

  • Your provider interrupts you and doesn’t let you elaborate or explain further. 
  • Your provider downplays/belittles your concerns or symptoms.  
  • Your symptoms are blamed on mental wellbeing without proper referral to a mental health professional. 
  • You are told it's “all in your head” and made to feel blamed or shamed for your symptoms. 
  • Your provider questions your medical history and ability to recollect events.  
  • You feel rushed when explaining yourself. 
  • Your provider ignores your preferences for treatment or refuses to run tests.  

How to approach medical gaslighting

Ms. Traynor emphasizes how medical gaslighting is a serious occurrence that many patients face when seeking out treatment. She offers advice on how to approach and manage it: 

  • Advocate for yourself by keeping a logged diary noting symptoms, pain scale and descriptions, frequency, triggers, and days experienced. By going to your appointment prepared, you can lead the conversation.  
  • Prepare a list of questions about your symptoms and any concerns you may have.  
  • Bring a supportive person.  If you've experienced gaslighting in the past, you may be apprehensive about trusting a healthcare provider.  Having a trusted friend, partner, or parent by your side can help you feel supported and defended. 
  • Focus on your main concerns. GP appointments can be very short (10 – 15 minutes on average), so you’ll need to make sure you are well prepared. We’ve worked with Professor Andrew Horne, an endometriosis expert, on how to establish a conversation and what to tell your doctor at your appointments.  
  • Switch providers and get another opinion. Some specialists will only see patients from a referral, so ask for one from your current doctor. You can say something like, ‘’Thank you so much for your time. I want to be fully informed in my decision, so I’d really appreciate if you could refer me to a specialist to hear another opinion.’’ If you feel awkward to ask your current doctor for a referral, you can search for another specialist in your area or ask friends and family who their doctor is.   
  • Change the conversation. If you feel like your physician is not listening, restructure the conversation. Ask your physician about next steps in your treatment plan, including, ‘’What do you think is happening? What conditions can we rule out? What can be done for treatment at this stage?’’. Make sure you are coming away with answers to your questions and a plan in place. 

While it may be difficult to feel adequate support and help from your GP, you should never feel ashamed, ignored, or dismissed. Your experiences, symptoms, and concerns are valid, and they're not just in your head. It's about time we break this silence and work towards a change in how women's health is approached and understood.

Written by: Joii Team


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