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    "It's Just A Painful Period" - How To Stop Being Gaslit By Doctors

    Empower yourself with knowledge in this eye-opening article addressing the dismissal of menstrual pain. Uncover the often-overlooked issue of being gaslit by healthcare professionals when it comes to the struggles of painful periods. Gain insights into the experiences of individuals who have faced invalidation and learn strategies to effectively communicate your concerns to healthcare providers. 

    By Liv Surtees / Jan 28 2024

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    Whether you’ve heard from friends how they’ve been gaslit by partners, you’ve stumbled upon the endless amount of TikTok videos about gaslighting, or you’re well versed in the red flags of gaslighting, you’ve likely heard of gaslighting in relationships: it’s a form of manipulation that makes you question your own sanity. 

    However, have you ever heard of medical gaslighting?

    If you’ve ever felt that your doctor has belittled your symptoms, you’ve been sent away from receiving medical help because what you’re experiencing is deemed “normal”, or you’ve been made to feel like you’re making up your pain, you may have been subject to medical gaslighting!

    Unfortunately, medical gaslighting is a real issue and it can not only damage the trust you have in medical professionals, but it can also lead to conditions and illnesses not being properly dealt with.

    In this article, we’re going to take a look at exactly what medical gaslighting is, what you can do to make sure you aren’t being subject to it, and how you can find the best healthcare and support for you.

    what is medical gaslighting?

    Medical gaslighting follows the same idea of gaslighting in relationships, however, healthcare providers might not quite as clearly try and manipulate you to a point where you’re questioning your own sanity. Instead, medical gaslighting often occurs when healthcare providers ignore, doubt, or completely dismiss the symptoms that you’re feeling and try to convince you that you’re experiencing them for a less serious or completely different reason.


    Medical gaslighting can force you to feel as if you’re being overdramatic, it can cause illnesses and conditions to go undiagnosed and treated, and it can reduce the likelihood of your returning for medical help since you feel as if you won’t be taken seriously.


    Women are also more likely to face medical gaslighting than men, especially when it comes to seeing medical professionals about female health conditions. 


    One of the most common examples of medical gaslighting is when a woman complains about heavy or painful periods, only for the doctor to say, “it’s normal, take painkillers”, rather than listening to their concerns seriously and further investigating the symptoms.


    Although it’s certainly not fair to say that all medical professionals gaslight, it is important to be aware of the fact that gaslighting happens often so that you know what you can do about it in the case that it even happens to you.


    So, if you are currently dealing with medical gaslighting or you want to be prepared for it in the future, what are you supposed to do to make sure your health needs are actually met?


    8 ways to avoid medical gaslighting

    Here are 8 things you can do to avoid gaslighting, whilst also taking the right action if you do unfortunately experience it.

    speak clearly + openly about your symptoms

    Although you may unfortunately still deal with medical gaslighting even by doing this, one of the best ways to avoid being medical gaslit is by communicating clearly and openly, without emotion, to the medical professional that you’re seeing. 

    It may be easier for a medical professional to gaslight you if you’re a little bit all over the show about your symptoms, you’re not divulging all of the information you want to tell them, or you’re diminishing your symptoms. Instead, have a list of your symptoms (either in your mind, on your phone, or even on a note), communicate how you feel in the most direct way possible, and be honest about how you feel.

    know it's fine to tell your doctor what you think your diagnosis might be

    Let’s be honest, we all run to the search engine as soon as we realise something isn’t quite right with us (if you don’t do this, you’re a much better person than me!). 


    Even more specifically, if you have been dealing with certain symptoms for a while, you may have spent a lot of time researching and you may suspect that you have a specific illness or condition. 


    Although when you head to a medical professional you may not want to share your “self-diagnosis” with them, doing so actually isn’t a bad idea! If you seriously think that you have a specific condition or you may know what’s wrong with you, share this and ask for what you think you need. 


    This may be effective at stopping them from gaslighting you since they realise you’ve done your research (so the issue must be incredibly important to you) and you’re tailoring your appointment towards specific things.

    don't assume negative tests mean you're fine

    If you’re someone that’s has a chronic illness or you have a condition that’s hard to diagnose, it can be incredibly frustrating to keep doing tests and then have the tests come back negative. The truth is, just because certain tests come back negative, doesn’t mean you don’t have a specific condition.


    So, when doctors push back and tell you that you’re fine just because your tests came back negative, you can tell them that you don’t accept that everything’s fine - after all, you still have the symptoms and you deserve someone to help you find the answers you’re looking for and give you the support you need.

    confront the medical practice if gaslighting continues

    If you suspect that you have been gaslit by a medical professional, you are well within your right to make a formal complaint to the medical practice. 


    Although you may be concerned about “making a fuss”, don’t be. After all, these medical professionals are supposed to support you and fight for your health needs: if they’re not doing that, you can complain to the health service they work for. 


    This isn’t just important for you to feel empowered, but it may also help the health service look into medical gaslighting internally and stop others from being put in the same position you are.

    don't see this medical professional again

    This obviously may be difficult if you are limited to the number of doctors you have access to, but do your best to not see this medical professional again. 


    Seeing the doctor that has medically gaslit you in the past may not just make you feel awkward and not properly heard, but it may also just have you going round in the same circle again with your health. Let the health service you’re using that you don’t want to see this doctor again the next time you book an appointment.

    research + seek out specific medical professionals

    Although it may take a little more effort for you to do, a great way to ensure you are getting your health needs met is by doing research into medical professionals that are specifically trained in the area you need help with or help you with your symptoms. 


    Then, actively seek them out and go and try to make your appointments with them instead - they are going to be less likely to medically gaslight you since they work in the area you need help with and they may be more likely to understand your symptoms and take them seriously.

    head to a gynaecologist for female health issues

    When it comes to female health concerns, it’s even more important that you specifically go to see a gynaecologist since medical gaslighting by doctors tends to happen to women more, especially with female health conditions. 


    Of course, there still may be an opportunity for you to be gaslit, but it’s much less likely since gynaecologists are going to be more aware of symptoms related to female health conditions and therefore they’re hopefully more likely to take you seriously and support you.

    open up to your support network

    Medical gaslighting can cause serious implications. Distrust, anxiety, and even depression can be experienced, and that’s without taking into account the physical symptoms you’re experiencing from prolonged health issues that aren’t being properly dealt with. 


    Therefore, it’s important that you keep your mental health supported: reach out to your family and friends about what you’re dealing with and reach out for professional mental health support if you need it.

    medical gaslighting is tough, but you can stop it in it's tracks

    Although it’s incredibly concerning that medical gaslighting is real, it may also help you feel better about experiences you’ve had since you can now label it, and you’re now better prepared to deal with it moving forward!


    Together, let’s push back against medical gaslighting and stand up for our health.

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