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Medical Gaslighting

Medical gaslighting is unfortunately an action that can result in a case of medical malpractice. When a woman visits their doctor with an obvious injury—a broken wrist, for instance— medical personnel won’t question the woman’s injuries.

But a woman who presents to a physician with murkier symptoms may be given any number of diagnoses, correct or incorrect.

Furthermore, it occurs too often that many doctors habitually tell a woman, “it’s all in your head,” with an official diagnosis of anxiety or other related mental illnesses for physical symptoms. Doctors routinely hand out antidepressant prescriptions to women without a second thought.

Women are twice as likely as men to be on an antidepressant, especially after age 40. Women experiencing pre-menopausal or menopausal symptoms are prescribed antidepressants for the symptoms and never taken off without being offered any other treatment options.

female patient in serious condition

If you’ve ever felt like your doctor is giving you the brush-off, you’re not alone. Social media has given women a new way to interact with others who have received the same dismissive treatment. It also has a name: Medical Gaslighting.


“Gaslighting” is a term coined from a 1944 film called Gaslight. In it, a man tries to convince his wife that she’s losing her mind by slowly turning down all the gas-powered lights in the house. She wins in the end.

In this situation, when a woman sees a doctor for an ailment and is either given a wrong diagnosis, told it’s “all in your head,” or in other ways is dismissed with a “there’s nothing wrong with you,” there is a chance the doctor is engaging in medical gaslighting. Women with symptoms like headaches or fatigue or nausea may be told the pain is not of concern. If a doctor dismisses, belittles, rationalizes, or otherwise invalidates the concerns or complaints with a flimsy explanation of “anxiety” or other mental condition, a woman’s real medical problem may go untreated or unexplored.

Why Are Women Gaslit By Doctors?

Several factors play into this scenario:

• Women have been routinely excluded from medical research prior to the 1990s, so less is known about female physiology

• Women are more likely to be misdiagnosed and given a mental health diagnosis, even when a male patient presents identical symptoms

• The over-worked US medical system prevents doctors from truly listening to female patients and shortchanges their patient, sending them out the door with a quick fix prescription that may only mask a greater medical issue.

• Gender biases by both male and female doctors that may be ingrained in medical school

• Minority women may see a greater amount of gaslighting no matter their education or background, leading to greater illnesses

Too often one of the first go-to excuses by doctors is a woman’s hormones, even though men also have hormones. Many women have saved their own lives by Googling their symptoms, talking with other women on social media, and making their own diagnoses. They will need to seek  a doctor who will listen and run diagnostic testing. Many go through multiple doctors before they are either believed or find someone who is willing to help.

Women’s Health magazine gives five warning signs that you are experiencing medical gaslighting.

Gaslighting can Result in Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice includes several types of negligence by a healthcare provider while a patient is under their care. One big factor is failure to diagnose. Without a correct diagnosis, a misdiagnosis, or a dismissal of symptoms, a patient’s condition can continue to worsen to the point of severe illness or even death. If a doctor is not thorough in how he/she comes to a diagnosis, the result can be harmful to the patient.

For instance, if a patient is experiencing appendicitis (a/k/a ruptured appendix) he or she will have typical symptoms of severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, among others. Normally when a patient experiences these symptoms, he or she will head to a doctor or hospital for treatment. Once the appendicitis is properly treated with antibiotics and surgery, it resolves quickly and the patient recovers.

But suppose that a doctor dismisses a female patient’s symptoms as “just period pains” and doesn’t bother to take a blood test. Left unchecked, the pain gets worse, but the woman believed her doctor’s assessment and does not seek treatment elsewhere.

Appendicitis is a life-threatening emergency that can lead to severe sepsis and eventually death if not treated. A doctor who dismisses the woman’s symptoms has failed to diagnose her condition, ultimately leading to worsening illness. She likely would have grounds to sue for medical malpractice.

This is just one example of the many ways medical malpractice can occur. A doctor who engages in medical gaslighting risks their patient’s life and their own career and reputation. For women, medical gaslighting destroys trust in the healthcare system that is supposed to take care of them.

Medical Malpractice Lawyers in Texas

In the populous Houston area, it is important to find an experienced and diligent lawyer who can work with you to obtain compensation for your personal injury as a result of medical gaslighting or medical malpractice in general. We at Paxton Law have the experience and compassion to help clients, women or men who have been harmed by a failure to diagnose. We all expect that our healthcare providers will  care for us properly when we’re sick. When that doesn’t happen and that failure cause unnecessary pain or suffering or causes irreparable damage or death, it’s time to act. The medical malpractice lawyers at Paxton Law in Houston are ready to fight for you and help you get the compensation you deserve.

Medical malpractice cases are complex and require experienced legal counsel to be successful. Don’t let medical gaslighting – medical malpractice take away years of your life. Contact us today by calling (281) 978-2244 or visiting our website for a free consultation.



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