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Medical Gaslighting in Women: What Is the Problem?

Many situations generate injustice towards women, such as medical gaslighting. We'll tell you what it is.

The Woman Post | Ariel Cipolla

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One day, you go to the doctor for a specific ailment. You want peace of mind, so you expect a proper diagnosis. However, the doctor dismisses your symptoms and tells you that the situation is irrelevant. Your symptoms may even worsen, but the doctor insists that there is nothing wrong with you.

If a similar situation has ever happened to you, you may have been a victim of physician gaslighting. According to DOI research, 1 in 7 physician patients suffer from a diagnostic error. Most of these problems arise from a lack of knowledge on the part of the physician.

However, according to the same research, women are more likely to be misdiagnosed than men. Hence, the term "medical gaslighting" emerged. This term arose from a play called Gaslight, which is about a man who seeks to drive his wife crazy.

The Problems of Misdiagnosis of Women

Precisely, this problem generates enormous psychological discomfort in women. Mainly because they have a "maddening" search for an accurate diagnosis and a possible treatment for their disease. In addition, there is an interesting element to highlight: The racial difference.

According to Karen Lutfey Spencer, a renowned University of Colorado researcher who studies medical decisions, it is common for doctors to diagnose and treat men and women differently. However, much more so if they are African-American or foreign women.

The reality is that, according to the Netherland Heart Journal, women have to wait longer to receive a diagnosis of various heart diseases. They also receive more conservative treatment and are not always given painkillers. In addition, black patients tend to receive poorer care.

So what is the doctors' excuse for the symptoms? The answer is in the head. Many doctors attribute medical problems to mental health and even a lack of self-care. According to the Journal of Women's Health, this also leads to another problem. This is, women are twice as likely to be misdiagnosed with mental illness.

It should also be noted that part of the misdiagnosis is based on the scientific industry itself. Scientists know less about the female body than the male body. For example, they did not include women of reproductive age in clinical trials for fear of harm to the fetus for some years.

This means that, in some circumstances, there is not enough accurate data to diagnose women properly. In addition, it is common for women to have different symptoms than men, as is the case with heart disease. Then, doctors, who know men's symptoms, do not give a good diagnosis.

As a result, women who come in with symptoms that do not match what the men were taught in medical school are automatically dismissed. In other words, they gaslight them and forget that symptoms are important and personalized for each individual.

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Now, how is it possible to solve this problem? It is not simple, but there are indeed some measures that can help. First of all, it is necessary to start researching women's diseases to have more references about their symptoms.

Once this is done, it is also essential to generate new training and updates to the medical curriculum. This means that future and current doctors can learn about the differences between the clinical pictures of men and women so that they have better references when diagnosing.

What to do if you need immediate help with some of your symptoms? When doctors see many patients, they tend to diagnose based on bias and not on reality. On the other hand, it is also advisable to have more time with their patients and see fewer of them.

Until you are reassured, you should not stop seeing your doctor. You should always emphasize your symptoms, even if the doctor dismisses them. If you do not feel confident with a doctor, you can seek a second or third opinion. This way, you will be able to avoid medical gaslighting.