Living with Chronic Pain

What Is Medical Gaslighting?


What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse in which one person repeatedly denies another person’s reality. This can cause the victim of gaslighting to feel invalidated or to doubt their own reality or sanity. Gaslighting can occur in romantic relationships, politics, social media, and even in healthcare.

What is medical gaslighting?

Medical gaslighting occurs when a physician or other medical professional dismisses or trivializes a person’s symptoms. They may mistakenly determine that pain or other symptoms are not real or simply a result of stress or depression. When this happens, it may take years, if ever, to receive a proper diagnosis. It can also cause an individual to doubt their own pain or sanity.

Who is at risk?

Medical gaslighting can happen to anyone, but certain individuals are more likely to experience it than others. Women are more likely than men to have their symptoms mistakenly attributed to stress or mental health conditions. People of color, the LGBTQ community, and other marginalized groups are also more likely to experience medical gaslighting. This can cause individuals to delay or avoid medical care.

How can it be prevented?

Bringing a friend or family member to medical appointments may help prevent medical gaslighting. Unfortunately, gaslighting is more likely to occur when an individual is alone. Finding health care professionals who are attentive, honest and respectful is of utmost importance.

If gaslighting does occur, the offending medical professional should be reported to the clinic manager, hospital board, or regulating agency. This can help prevent other people from having the same experience. A mental health professional can help individuals process and recover from medical gaslighting or other medical traumas.

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