What Is Medical Gaslighting?

Table of Contents

What Is Medical Gaslighting

Table of Contents

Medical gaslighting is the act of a medical expert trying to make you believe that symptoms you are aware of are being caused by something else, or even that you are imagining them.

Let’s take a look at medical gaslighting in detail!

What does medical gaslighting entail?

When a medical expert rejects a patient’s worries or symptoms and incorrectly attributes the patient’s disease or symptoms to psychological causes, this is known as medical gaslighting.

Doctors frequently do not want to gaslight patients and may not even be aware that they are doing so. Although spending years in training to become specialists in their area, physicians are still just human and occasionally make errors.

Whether intentional or not, medical gaslighting has serious repercussions. It can make it harder for someone to receive the proper diagnosis, subject them to pointless or inefficient therapies, and erode their belief in future medical judgments.

When you have comments in your file that can lead other physicians to believe you’re merely a difficult patient, you might be labeled as a hypochondriac—someone who has a strong fear of becoming or perhaps becoming terribly ill.

Medical gaslighting is a genuine phenomenon, and when your worries are dismissed, you could feel helpless and alone in your suffering. In the end, you are the authority on your body, and you should constantly pay attention to your health issues. The first step to dealing with gaslighting and receiving the support you need is being aware of its potency.

Who is more susceptible to medical gaslighting?


Medical gaslighting may affect everyone, but women are more likely to fall victim to it.

According to research, women are 50% more likely than males to receive the incorrect diagnosis following a heart attack and 33% more likely to have the incorrect diagnosis following a stroke. In addition, women who have autism spectrum condition may have a delayed or incorrect diagnosis.

Another study examined the medical results of men and women who visited emergency departments for stomach discomfort and discovered that, despite sharing the same symptoms, women were 33% more likely to wait longer than men and to receive less pain medication.

Those having issues with their reproductive systems

Yet, across all specialties, incidences of medical gaslighting most frequently concern issues with reproductive health.

Young kids and teenagers

A person’s chance of experiencing medical gaslighting also depends on their age. Society has trained us to dismiss teenage health issues as a natural aspect of puberty or something that would pass as we become older. While in reality, menstruation discomfort or acting strangely might be an indication of a more serious problem, such as endometriosis or a mental health issue.

People who are underserved

Unconscious prejudices might also exist when a person receives a medical diagnosis. For instance, compared to their white colleagues, persons of color are more likely to be labeled as disobedient and have disruptive conduct disorder rather than ADHD.

Women of color may not receive life-saving treatment if a doctor delays making a diagnosis because they don’t take their symptoms seriously.

People with obesity or excess weight

According to research, weight prejudice exists in medical treatment. A 2019 assessment of prior research on the experiences of obese patients visiting the doctor discovered that practitioners frequently ignore their problems. Patients frequently reported encounters with clinicians who were condescending and fat-shaming and who made conclusions about a patient’s health solely based on their size. Also, those who are obese or overweight are more likely to feel unheard by their provider. The 2019 analysis discovered that patients who experienced weight stigmatization frequently put off seeking medical care, and when they did, they visited many doctors.

What are the signs of medical gaslighting?

Many myriad forms of medical gaslighting are possible. When your doctor minimizes your symptoms or doesn’t believe you, it is one of the main indicators of medical gaslighting. Your doctor may accomplish this using one of the following methods:

  • Not recording your worries or failing to request clarification
  • Not participating in or paying attention to the conversation
  • Shutting down or interfering with your complaints or issues
  • You’re being forced to debate so you may be heard and taken seriously
  • Make it challenging to receive a reference or invent justifications for why they can’t
  • Does not want to talk to you about their symptoms
  • Tries to convince you that your ailments are all in your brain and blames you for them (such as obesity, stress from work, being on your period)

How might medical gaslighting be avoided?

You can halt medical gaslighting by taking certain actions. Although first, it could seem intimidating to speak up for oneself, the first step is confronting the problem.

The aim of the appointment and your expectations should be clearly stated after your sentiments have been recognized, whether you are seeking a referral or a diagnostic test.

When arguing for yourself in front of a doctor, having documentation—such as thorough observations you’ve recorded in a notebook, documenting symptoms in a calendar, or pictures of clinical signs—can be helpful. By discussing when you first noticed pain or other symptoms, any probable triggers, and how long the symptoms linger, you may use your notes and medical history to assist launch the dialogue.

Another strategy to keep the conversation on your issues is to prepare a list of questions you want to ask before your appointment (and get ready to ask follow-up questions).

Both authorities advise bringing a support person, such as a partner or a close friend. If you are unable to effectively express your concerns, they can assist by speaking on your behalf or by just being present to take notes. 

To be reassured that your worries are significant, even having them there as emotional support, may make a difference. Appointing a family member or close friend to serve as your healthcare proxy if you’re in the hospital or undergoing a procedure that could render you incapable. 

This person will speak on your behalf when your doctor reviews your plan of care if you’re on strong medication or otherwise unable to do so.


What choices do you have if you’re still being disregarded?

Switching providers- you have the right to get a second, third, or even fourth opinion if you are worried that your symptoms are not being treated.

Yet in many instances, it could be simpler to say than to do. Finding a different expert with urgent appointments who accepts your case isn’t always quick or easy. Try to receive an in-network recommendation from your present physician, if at all feasible. You can also talk with a patient liaison or nurse manager if you don’t feel confident approaching your doctor for a recommendation. As an alternative, you might consult your friends and relations to identify someone they know. 

Rephrase the conversation – if you choose to stay with your existing provider and they don’t seem to be paying attention, try changing the subject.

Consult support organizations- support groups exist for a wide range of diseases, and they might offer helpful information and services.

FAQs: Medical Gaslighting?

1. What is the medical term gaslighting?

When a medical expert rejects a patient's worries or symptoms and incorrectly attributes the patient's disease or symptoms to psychological causes, this is known as medical gaslighting. Doctors may try to persuade you that it's all in your brain or that you should listen to them since they are experts.

2. What are the causes of medical gaslighting?

Medical gaslighting is when a doctor or other health care provider minimizes or minimizes a patient's symptoms. They can incorrectly believe that discomfort or other symptoms are unreal or are only brought on by stress or melancholy. When this occurs, it can be years, if ever, before an accurate diagnosis is made.

3. Why is it called gaslighting?

The phrase is taken from the name of a 1938 British stage production called Gas Light, which was later adapted into a 1940 British and American film titled Gaslight (1944). The scenarios showed some of the fundamental components of the method in vivid, though overly simplified, detail.


1. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/gaslighting-signs-look-for#:~:text=Medical%20gaslighting%20can%20happen%20when,medical%20professional%27s%20concerns%20or%20advice

2. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20230120/medical-gaslighting-what-to-know

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