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Women and medical gaslighting: What to know

On Behalf of | May 3, 2024 | Misdiagnosis

A missed diagnosis – where a doctor dismisses symptoms of a serious medical condition as nothing important – can happen to anyone. 

However, women may be particularly prone to a certain failure in modern health care known as “medical gaslighting” which makes a missed diagnosis more likely. 

Why don’t doctors listen to women?

Many women have sought out medical help to only have their pleas dismissed by doctors and nurses. The reality is that there have been historical and ongoing biases in medical care that hurt women. Medical research has traditionally focused predominately on male subjects, leading to limited understanding by providers about how some diseases manifest in women.

In addition, social biases and stereotypes often tend to make doctors dismiss chronic health complaints as something relatively benign, such as:

  • Stress or anxiety: A lot of women are told their physical symptoms are just manifestations of psychological disorders, even though their doctors aren’t actually qualified to make that assessment.
  • Attention-seeking: Women are often expected to tolerate pain better than men. If they complain about pain that doesn’t have an obvious cause, they may be dismissed as drug-seeking or attention-seeking.
  • Hormonal changes: Young women are told that their conditions are just part of the normal struggles that go along with being fertile and having a menstrual cycle, while older women are told their symptoms are normal for menopause.

In reality, the common problem women patients have seeking accurate diagnoses of their conditions is nothing that will be resolved overnight. In the meantime, however, a patient who believes they are a victim of a missed diagnosis or a misdiagnosis can seek legal help to address medical malpractice.