Overcome Medical Gaslighting with These 3 Tips

"When doctors become dismissive, patients get hurt. Use these three quick tips to overcome medical gaslighting and get your needs met." - Lorelei
Quick Links for Overcome Medical Gaslighting with These 3 Tips

Medical gaslighting happens when a patient feels that a healthcare professional is dismissing their concerns, generally not listening to them, not engaging in a conversation and dictates a plan of care.

This happens more frequently than anyone realizes and it happens more often with women and minorities.

I could get into all of the reasons why I think this happens (system failure, lack of communication and relationship-building skills taught in med schools, moral injury of doctors and lack of reimbursement for added time needed to have conversations, etc.) but I’ll save that for another post.

As a patient, what can you do to get your needs met when a doctor becomes dismissive?

Prevent Medical Gaslighting: Know What Outcomes You Want

Are you looking to discuss your concerns and get or evaluate a care/treatment plan? A referral for a specialist, blood work, imaging? Are you looking to discuss medication options?

Get really clear on the outcomes you want from your appointment.

You are likely to feel more heard and satisfied that the appointment went well if you know what you want out of it, to include an understanding as to why those things aren’t ideal or recommended.

A good doctor’s appointment usually ends with a clear treatment plan and a feeling of confidence that you know what your next steps are and that your doctor is a partner in your care.

Avoid Medical Gaslighting: Give Your Patient History Pitch

Be prepared to give a quick and short elevator pitch that describes who you are (age, occupation, any relevant life details) because it humanizes you and gives the doctor context to your everyday life.

Doctors see people from every walk of life and have to very quickly (often within 15 minutes) establish rapport, build trust, examine, diagnose and develop a treatment plan.

It helps Doctors to have context of who you are and what you want out of the appointment.

Need support on how to get to the point faster? See my Patient History Template which will walk you through how to develop your own Patient History Pitch.

Handle Medical Gaslighting: Be Ready with Questions

Come to the appointment with questions already in mind and stay curious throughout the appointment.

Your objective should be to understand three things:

  • What your Doctor is recommending
  • Why they are recommending it
  • What you need to do about it

Questions increase engagement which can reduce medical gaslighting.

Scripts I often use:

 🌟 “Can you help me understand why you’re recommending that approach?”

 🌟 “You’ve lost me, can you try explaining it a different way?”

 🌟 “I don’t think we’re on the same page, I’m really concerned about {insert concern} but you’re discussing {other concern} can you help me understand how they are related?”

 🌟 “I’m concerned about not being able to afford this treatment plan, what is the most important thing that I do? Can you help me prioritize the plan?”

Ultimately, if you really feel that you are not being heard by your healthcare professional, it might be time to politely end the appointment and seek a second opinion.

If that’s not an option (might be only doctor in network or only doctor geographically available), another approach is to talk about your feelings –

I feel that this isn’t addressing my concerns, I feel unheard by you, I’m feeling really frustrated, etc.

Most people do not try to argue with another person’s feelings (medical gaslighting can happen as a way to avoid conflict) and by refocusing a conversation on “I” statements, you reduce the chance of conflict. My post on Better Understand Your Emotions in 5 Steps covers Nonviolent Communication (NVC) which goes into this in more detail.

Researching doctors ahead of time can also help ensure that you find the best doctor for you and hopefully avoid any kind of medical gaslighting all together. I cover all of this and more in Get the Most Out of Your Primary Care Doctor’s Visit.

Looking for personalized support on avoid medical gaslighting by better self-advocating during your next Doctor’s appointment?

Book an Ask an Advocate session and I’ll teach you how to spot medical gaslighting and how to work through it.

For more tips on how to handle Medical Gaslighting, check out these:

Message me and tell me how have you self-advocated during an appointment to get your needs met.

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Disclaimer: The information contained within this page is educational in nature and nothing within this page should be taken as medical or financial advice, as it is not medical or financial advice. You should always work directly with a licensed Healthcare Provider or a Certified Financial Professional to discuss and address any of your health-related or financial-related questions, concerns and needs. Please read the full disclaimer in the footer of this website for more information.

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