Medical Gaslighting: What It Is and What You Can Do About It
Have you ever felt ignored by your prosthetist? Having one's concerns dismissed by a medical provider is often called "medical gaslighting." And it can happen to anyone. This can lead to misdiagnoses, often leading to unnecessary pain and suffering; it could also cost patients their lives.
The issue of medical gaslighting has recently drawn the attention of the medical community and the public, particularly regarding long Covid. However, medical gaslighting isn't new. In fact, it unfairly affects people of color, women, senior patients, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. For example, some studies have found that women often wait longer than men for a diagnosis.
So, how do you recognize the signs of medical gaslighting? And what can you do about it?
Signs of medical gaslighting
Gaslighting can be subtle and can be challenging to spot. The following can be red flags:
Your prosthetist constantly interrupts you, doesn't allow you to elaborate, and isn't an engaged listener.
They downplay your symptoms and suggest that you check whether they resolve "in two weeks".
Your prosthetist doesn't attempt to try different solutions within your prosthetic socket to address your issues.
You feel that they are condescending or rude.
They do not take responsibility for issues within your prosthetic socket or gait pattern.
How to address medical gaslighting
Focus on your most urgent concern
It's no secret that prosthetists are often short on time. To make the most out of your consultation, write bullet points that outline the reason for your visit ahead of the appointment. This ensures that you can communicate effectively.
Keep detailed notes and records
Keep a log of your symptoms—what they are, when you notice them, what it feels like, etc. Also, keep records of your medications, take photos of your skin, and document sock ply count.
Before your appointment, prepare a list of questions you'd like to ask your prosthetist. Also, listen actively and be ready to ask new questions as new information is presented.
Bring a companion
A "brain freeze" can occur when people are anxious, scared, or ill. So, having someone you trust at the consultation with you can help. However, be sure to set your expectations with your companion. Do you want them to be a second set of ears? Do you want them to take notes? Or maybe you simply need their presence for moral support?
Recap your discussion
Ideally, you should leave your prosthetist's clinic feeling reassured. You can recap the conversation to ensure you have all critical information, including plans for diagnosing or eliminating various possibilities and treatment options.
Your last resort
Your prosthetist might still ignore your concerns despite doing the tips above. When this happens, you can switch providers. You are entitled to a second, third, or fourth opinion. Plus, most prosthetic facilities do not charge for consults.
Consider looking into support groups if you've seen multiple prosthetists and still can't determine what's wrong. There are numerous support groups for a multitude of conditions that can provide valuable resources.
You may also consider reporting your experience—abuse, gaslighting, delayed diagnosis, or manipulation—to the Federation of State Medical Boards. After all, health care providers need to be held accountable.