Medical gaslighting refers to when a healthcare provider downplays or ignores your symptoms and/or complaints. Studies show that women, people of color and people who identify as LGBTQ are less likely to be correctly diagnosed with medical conditions related to heart disease or pain disorders among others. 

Some signs that your provider may not be taking your concerns seriously include:

  • They do not acknowledge your symptoms when you bring them up. 
  • They conclude that your symptoms are related to a mental illness with no explanation, work up or evaluation to rule out other causes. Additionally, they do not properly screen for or refer you to a specialist to screen for or manage the proposed condition if it is outside of their area of specialty. 
  • They continually interrupt when you try to explain your symptoms or ask questions.  

Some tips that can be helpful in navigating these situations include:

  1. Ask questions

Having a list of questions for what you want to address during that appointment, in order of priority. Keep in mind that if your appointment is an annual/well check exam, you may need to schedule a separate appointment to address specific questions if they fall outside the scope of that appointment. In these scenarios, ask to schedule a follow up appointment to address your specific concerns. 

  1. Have a support person during your appointment 

Having a support person present can help redirect the conversation back to your pressing issues. They can speak up if they find you’re getting stressed, anxious or intimated during the appointment. 

  1. Clarify your plan

You should leave each appointment having a clear understanding of your next steps, whether it be blood work, imaging studies or a specialist consultation. You should also have a clear sense of how the results of these tests will be communicated and how to get a hold of your care team. 

  1. Shop around

If all else fails with a specific provider, find another provider that listens to your concerns. You should feel heard by your provider. You should also leave your appointment feeling that you and your healthcare provider are on the same team.

Dr. Deborah Ikhena-Abel
Dr. Deborah Ikhena-Abel
Dr. Ikhena-Abel obtained her medical degree from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and completed her residency in OB/GYN at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine in Worcester, MA. She completed her fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Northwestern University. She considers it a privilege to help patients grow their families. Dr. Ikhena-Abel specializes in caring for several women’s health conditions including infertility, fertility preservation, polycystic ovarian syndrome, uterine fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome, recurrent pregnancy loss and irregular or absent periods. She is a reviewer for Fertility and Sterility and the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics. She also serves as an abstract reviewer for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine.