Hidden Danger in Women’s Healthcare: What Medical Gaslighting Looks Like?

Published: Apr 28, 2024

Paragard Lawsuit


Have you ever been dismissed or doubted when sharing your health concerns with a medical professional? 

Unfortunately, not every doctor visit is a positive experience. Nevertheless, many women face this alarming phenomenon known as medical gaslighting. It’s a form of psychological manipulation that occurs when healthcare providers downplay, ignore, or outright deny your health issues. 

Medical gaslighting is a serious and surprisingly widespread issue, especially for women. This insidious practice not only undermines women’s trust in the healthcare system but also poses grave risks to their well-being. 

According to NPR, one in five women experience medical gaslighting. Furthermore, women of color are disproportionately impacted, with those identifying as Black or Hispanic more likely to have their concerns dismissed. Moreover, women with chest discomfort were twice as likely to be diagnosed with a mental disorder compared to their male peers. 

In this blog post, we’ll understand this hidden threat, its impact, and how to navigate through it.

Understanding Medical Gaslighting

Medical gaslighting refers to the invalidation of a patient’s experiences, perceptions, and reported symptoms by healthcare professionals. It can be seen in various ways, such as dismissive attitudes, minimizing or trivializing the patient’s concerns, questioning their sanity or credibility, or suggesting their symptoms are psychosomatic or “all in their head.” 

The psychological and emotional toll of medical gaslighting on patients can be devastating. It breeds self-doubt, anxiety, and a reluctance to seek further medical care. This can potentially lead to delayed diagnoses and deteriorating health conditions.

Can Gaslighting Cause Trauma?

Absolutely. The ongoing dismissal and invalidation of your health can lead to self-doubt, anxiety, and even trauma in the medical setting.

Where is Gaslighting Common?

Women face unique challenges in healthcare settings, and these specific areas are where gaslighting can be particularly harmful:

  • Chronic Pain Conditions: Illnesses like endometriosis, fibromyalgia, and autoimmune disorders often have complex, misunderstood symptoms. Sadly, women frequently face disbelief from doctors, with their pain downplayed or attributed to psychological causes.
  • Mental Health: It’s common for women to have their anxiety or depression written off as being “hormonal” or due to stress, rather than healthcare providers digging deeper for a true diagnosis.
  • Medication and Device Side Effects: If you experience negative side effects, a doctor might insist they’re insignificant or in your imagination. 

This highlights a dangerous potential for product defects or inadequate warnings on medical devices. The Paragard lawsuit exemplifies this, with many women reporting that their concerns about complications with the device were dismissed. 

This is supported by data as of 2024, as over 50,400 instances of Paragard injuries were reported to the FDA Adverse Events Reporting System (FAERS) Public Dashboard. Among these cases, 21,491 were labeled as serious. Whereas, there are 17 reported deaths. 

Recognizing the Signs of Gaslighting

To identify medical gaslighting, it’s essential to recognize its subtle signs. Pay attention to these red flags during medical encounters:

  • Your doctor implies your symptoms are psychosomatic (“You’re imagining it, or it’s all in your head”).
  • You’re told to stop being sensitive or that your concerns are exaggerated.
  • You feel pressured into a diagnosis that doesn’t fit your experiences.
  • You leave appointments feeling unheard, confused, or like your opinion doesn’t matter.

Body language and tone also play a role, with healthcare providers displaying dismissive attitudes or brushing off your worries with a casual wave of the hand.

How Can I Advocate for Myself During Medical Appointments?

To advocate for yourself during medical appointments, bring a trusted companion for support, and document your symptoms and experiences. Furthermore, ask questions and seek clarification. Don’t hesitate to seek second opinions if you feel your concerns are not adequately addressed.

Overcoming Medical Gaslighting

Don’t despair! Here’s how you can protect yourself from gaslighting:

  • Be Prepared: Keep track of symptoms, bring a list of questions to appointments, and consider having a trusted friend or family member with you for support.
  • Listen to Your Instincts: If something doesn’t feel right, don’t let a doctor talk you out of what you know about your body.
  • Second Opinions Matter: Never hesitate to seek another doctor’s perspective, especially if your concerns aren’t taken seriously.
  • Find the Right Fit: Look for practitioners with a reputation for patient-centered care, good listening skills, and open communication.
  • Educate yourself: Check out websites and support groups that specifically address medical gaslighting.

In cases of constant medical negligence or product liability, legal recourse might be your only option. According to TorHoerman Law, victims of such cases have the right to seek justice and hold accountable those responsible for their suffering. This includes pursuing legal action against healthcare providers who fail to take their concerns seriously and uphold the standard of care.

A recent example is a woman in Scotland, suing the NHS Grampian for negligence. The woman, Helen Goss, claims that she experienced medical gaslighting and dismissal related to her daughter’s (Anna Hendy) Long Covid symptoms. The case is the first in Scotland as it highlights the damaging consequences of gaslighting and the need for accountability within healthcare systems.

How Can I Report Medical Gaslighting?

You can report your experiences to the hospital administration, or your state’s medical board. If nothing works, consider seeking legal advice.

In conclusion, medical gaslighting is an unacceptable and harmful practice that undermines women’s healthcare experiences. 

By recognizing the signs, advocating for ourselves, and holding healthcare providers accountable, we can help knock down this insidious behavior. Remember, you are entitled to be heard and receive the care you deserve. If you suspect medical gaslighting, trust your instincts. Advocate for yourself, seek supportive doctors, and know that you’re not alone.

Share your story, offer support to others, and demand a future where patients, especially women, are treated with compassion and respect.