When you suspect something might be wrong with your health, the most logical thing for you to do is to go and get checked by your doctor, trusting that they will be able to identify the root cause of the problem and prescribe an adequate treatment for it. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, talking to your doctor about the symptoms you’ve been experiencing and expressing your health concerns feels like hitting against a brick wall.
That’s often referred to as medical gaslighting – when a medical practitioner doesn’t take patients seriously, downplaying or entirely dismissing their symptoms as if they don’t know what they’re talking about or they’re exaggerating. This behaviour is not just extremely frustrating for the patient, making them doubt their instinct and judgment, but it can also be life-threatening as it can lead to misdiagnosis or medical negligence.
As experts at Medical Negligence Law explain, medical negligence happens when a doctor or healthcare provider causes harm to a patient by failing to deliver adequate treatment or care. Communicating effectively with your physician can minimise the risk of medical errors and lead to better health outcomes. But what if you feel like your doctor isn’t listening to you and tells you there’s nothing wrong, despite your attempts at explaining your symptoms? In this case, there are a few things you can do to get them to listen to you and make sure your voice is being heard.
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Document signs and symptoms
Sometimes it’s not about the doctor is not listening to you but about not having enough time to do it. Unfortunately, the medical system is far from perfect, and doctors have to comply with very strict time limitations which only leaves them with approximately 15 minutes to consult each patient and figure out what’s wrong with them. This means doctors are always in a rush and struggle to give patients the attention they require.
If you feel like you never have enough time to talk to your doctor about your health issues and explain to them what’s happening to you, try to document your symptoms by writing them down. So, when you step into your doctor’s office, you won’t fumble for words or give vague responses. You’ll know exactly what to focus on and what to say, not to mention you’ll come off as more credible. This will make your doctor’s job easier and help you take full advantage of every minute you spend with them.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
When talking with your doctor, communication shouldn’t be one-sided. It’s a two-way street, meaning that your doctor has to offer you information about what might cause your symptoms and what the adequate course of treatment could be, and you should feel free to ask questions and require further clarifications.
Engaging in an open conversation with your doctor and asking questions is beneficial for both parties: it gives your doctor the opportunity to learn more about you, often stemming from contextual clues, and it provides you with reassurance and peace of mind as you gain more information about your symptoms and options.
If your doctor seems to ignore or dismiss your symptoms, feel free to repeat them over and over again until they finally hear you. Keep in mind that doctors have a lot on their plate and some of the things you say might not register with them, or they simply might forget that you’ve mentioned certain information in the first place.
Doctors are humans too, and they make these types of mistakes, so don’t worry about annoying them with your insistence. Whether there’s a specific symptom or concerns regarding a potential treatment that is keeping you up at night, it’s important you speak up and freshen their memory as many times as necessary.
Ask someone to accompany you
It never hurts to have an extra pair of eyes and ears with you when you’re going to doctor’s appointments, so you might as well ask a family member or a friend to accompany you. It’s comforting to know you have someone who supports you by your side, especially if you don’t feel at ease in a medical setting.
This can give you the strength and courage to advocate for yourself and be a bit more assertive when talking to your doctor. What’s more, if you doubt yourself and don’t know if it’s you or the doctor who’s at fault for the miscommunication, the other person can provide an objective perspective and bring some clarity to the whole situation.
Seek another opinion
If despite your best efforts, you can’t seem to get through to your doctor and your words still fall on deaf ears, it might be time to start looking for another doctor. Unfortunately, not all doctors and patients are a match, and that might be the case for you as well.
Therefore, you have to look for a health provider that checks your boxes and is right for you. Obviously, one of those boxes has to do with the way you communicate and how willing they are to listen to what you have to say. And don’t stop at a second opinion if you still don’t feel 100% sure that you’ve made the right choice. It’s your health at stake, so feel free to see as many medical professionals as you want before making a decision.
Trust your instinct
Doctors may have all the training, experience, and expertise in the world, but no one knows your body better than you do. So, if you feel there’s definitely something wrong with you and your instinct tells you to keep on searching for an answer, despite every health professional telling you that you’re perfectly fine, don’t give up.
Dismissive doctors might try to persuade you that it’s all in your head, but your body doesn’t lie. Your symptoms are real and you have to do whatever it takes to get health providers to hear you out and get the answers that you need.
Also read: A Quick Guide to Self-care During Menopause