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5 Ways your Healthcare Provider may be Gaslighting you

Feb 2, 2024

3 min read

Tips to counter medical gaslighting, telltale signs to look out for, and how to find a supportive doctor for your needs.

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A silhouette of a man being controlled by the hands of a puppet master.
Anjan Sachar- Fluent Health

ANJAN

SACHAR

How often have you found yourself at the doctor’s clinic and received a diagnosis before they’ve even heard your entire case? While the prescribed medication or protocol you receive may work in certain situations, you will likely find yourself returning to the same doctor or seeing another one eventually due to misdiagnosis.  Gaslighting may be a term popularised by modern dating, but authoritative figures like healthcare professionals are likely also contributing to it. 

Mumbai-based cosmetic dentist Dr Namrata Jadwani Takhtani says, “Medical gaslighting can be a traumatic experience for many who may then find it difficult even to trust a doctor with genuine intentions.” 

We dive into ways to identify gaslighting with the 5 most common red flags—and what to do if you find yourself in such a situation with your healthcare professional.

1. They aren’t listening to you

This is possibly the most common concern when seeking help from a medical professional. While listening is an extremely important skill, listening with intent is what sets a doctor apart. “Assuming the problem without giving the patient the comfort to share their problem in entirety, thereby either missing or trivialising their problem, can affect the diagnosis,” says Dr Jadwani Takhtani.

Misdiagnosis can lead to further complications, prolonging the duration of your treatment. If you’re unsatisfied with the doctor’s orders, counter medical gaslighting by getting a second opinion.

2. They dismiss your symptoms

No matter how insignificant a symptom may feel to you, you must tell your doctor about every abnormality you feel and, of course, for them to take it all into account. Dr Jadwani Takhtani lists not seeming to take your symptoms seriously, not asking the pertinent questions and not taking interest as red flags to watch out for. In a situation like this, repeat your concerns and be firm yet courteous when explaining what you’re dealing with to establish the importance of your symptoms.

Blog quote

Medical gaslighting can be a traumatic experience for many, who may then find it difficult even to trust a doctor with genuine intentions. 

Dr Namrata Jadwani Takhtani, Seven Oral Care, Mumbai

3. They have a gender bias

Subconscious or intentional gender bias is one other way healthcare providers may gaslight you. We may joke about men blaming a lot of women’s concerns, like moodiness on their period, but this is something doctors may do as well. 

“It’s true that many healthcare providers may not take one gender seriously, attributing their concerns to hormones and diagnosing accordingly,” adds Dr Jadwani Takhtani. If you find yourself in a situation like this, it may be of merit to change your doctor to someone of the same sex to rule this out.

4. They treat you based on your income

“As much as this shouldn’t be the case, sometimes low-income groups may get less time and attention, leading to misdiagnosis.” There are a lot of senior doctors who provide their services on certain days every week at charitable clinics and hospitals. If you encounter one who isn’t treating you well, it’s time to switch.

 5. They tell you that it’s in your head

While it’s great to see mental health become a common topic of conversation today, doctors can often dismiss symptoms by blaming physical concerns on a patient’s mental health. We know our bodies are meant to be treated holistically, but when a physical ailment is tacked onto something like stress without proof of correlation, it may leave you doubting yourself. 

Ask your doctor for more explanation on how they reached said conclusion and to provide actionable advice on what you can do, physically and mentally. Take the advice only when you walk out satisfied.

How to find a supportive doctor

If you’re hard-pressed to find a medical professional who suits your needs, here’s what you need to remember, according to Dr Jadwani Takhtani: “Make sure that you are comfortable sharing your symptoms without judgement. Look for someone who listens to you patiently and kindly.” 

If trial and error hasn’t worked, ask around, keeping these points in mind. Word of mouth may help lead you in the right direction. Another tip to identify gaslighting and safeguard yourself is to check the doctor's credentials on various authentic websites so you feel assured about your choice of a medical practitioner. 

Medically Reviewed By:

Dr. Keerthi Pai, Clinical Psychologist


Anjan Sachar- Fluent Health

Anjan Sachar is an award-winning beauty editor, event curator and content consultant with over nine years of experience in beauty and wellness writing. She has previously worked in-house with ELLE India and VOGUE India and, today, is the founder of and beauty event curator at The Red Lipstick Club. She also contributes to editorial publications in India and overseas, including Vogue Business, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Reviewed USA and Byrdie Beauty.


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