In the realm of healthcare, trust between patients and medical professionals is of paramount importance.
However, there are instances where this trust can be eroded through a phenomenon known as medical gaslighting. Even worse, medical gaslighting can lead to major failures in treatment and medical malpractice.
What is medical gaslighting?
Medical gaslighting is a form of mistreatment that occurs within the health care system. It involves medical providers downplaying or outright dismissing a patient’s concerns or experiences.
The term “gaslighting” originates from a psychological manipulation tactic where one person makes another question their own reality or sanity. Indeed, patients subjected to medical gaslighting may be labeled as “drug seekers,” “attention seekers” or emotionally disturbed in some way, despite having very real medical problems.
Medical gaslighting can affect anybody who seeks medical care, especially if they don’t present with typical symptoms for their condition or have a hard-to-diagnose disorder. However, certain groups may be more vulnerable than others:
- Women: It’s long been recognized that women are not treated the same as men when it comes to their medical care. Their complaints are more likely to be attributed to psychological factors rather than taken seriously. Conditions like endometriosis, fibromyalgia and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome are examples where women’s experiences are frequently dismissed.
- Minority and marginalized communities: Patients from minority or marginalized communities, including racial and ethnic minorities and LGBTQ+ individuals, may experience medical gaslighting due to biases or stereotypes consciously or unconsciously held by their providers.
- Individuals with chronic or invisible illnesses: People with chronic or invisible illnesses, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, MCAS or other autoimmune conditions, may face challenges in treatment simply because it can be difficult to get definitive “proof” of their condition. Some doctors simply don’t believe what they can’t see on a test, so patients get told their imaging or exaggerating their symptoms.
The effect of medical gaslighting can be devastating. It can easily lead to delayed or missed diagnoses, leading to prolonged suffering, an avoidable progression of a disease and potential permanent health complications. Being invalidated or dismissed by healthcare providers can also cause significant emotional distress, anxiety, self-doubt and frustration. If you believe that you’ve been the victim of medical malpractice through medical gaslighting, take time to find out more about your legal options.