Medical gaslighting: Women are more at risk than men

Studies show that women's pain and symptoms are more likely to be ignored or minimised by doctors. Picture: Pexels

Studies show that women's pain and symptoms are more likely to be ignored or minimised by doctors. Picture: Pexels

Published Jul 10, 2024


Medical gaslighting happens when doctors don't take a patient's symptoms seriously.

This can lead to serious health problems because the real issues are ignored or downplayed. Unfortunately, women often experience this more than men.

For years, my friend Samantha felt extremely tired and was in constant pain. The fact that she was clinically obese (which is weighing 30% over her ideal weight) didn’t help her case.

Every time she visited the doctor, they told her it was just stress or that she needed to lose weight. Samantha knew something was wrong, but her concerns were dismissed over and over again.

This happens to many women. Studies show that women's pain and symptoms are more likely to be ignored or minimised by doctors.

Many times, women are seen as more emotional, which can lead doctors to think their symptoms are not real. This stereotype can cause lengthy delays in getting the right diagnosis and treatment.

Samantha’s story changed when she decided to question her GP’s response. She started writing down all her symptoms, noting how often they happened and how bad they were.

She also kept track of her doctor visits and what was said. Eventually, she found a doctor who listened to her and took her symptoms seriously. This doctor diagnosed her with a chronic autoimmune disease. If her symptoms had been taken seriously earlier, she could have avoided years of pain.

There are ways to fight against medical gaslighting. Here are some tips:

1. Speak up for yourself

Trust your instincts. Write down your symptoms and how often they occur. This information can help doctors understand what you are going through.

2. Get another opinion

If your doctor doesn't seem to take your concerns seriously, don't hesitate to see another doctor. Different doctors can have different perspectives, which can help in getting the right diagnosis.

3. Learn and share

Educate yourself about medical gaslighting. Knowing that it can happen helps you to be more prepared. Also, share this information with others so they can be aware too.

4. Find support

Joining support groups or talking to people who have had similar experiences can be very helpful. These groups can offer advice and emotional support.

5. Doctor training

Doctors need to be trained to recognise their own biases. Ongoing education about gender bias can help improve how they treat their patients.

Samantha’s journey proved the importance of not giving up. Even though it was tough, her determination led to a proper diagnosis and treatment. Her story highlights the need for doctors to listen to all patients, especially women, who are more often victims of medical gaslighting.

Medical gaslighting is a big problem that can cause serious health issues. By speaking up, seeking second opinions, raising awareness, finding support, and ensuring doctors are well-trained, we can fight against this problem. Every patient deserves to be heard and taken seriously, just like Samantha finally was.

IOL Lifestyle