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What is medical gaslighting?

Medical gaslighting is a term that describes when medical professionals such as doctors, or nurses dismiss or trivialise the health concerns of their patients. Signs include not taking your symptoms seriously, suggesting they’re all in your head, or refusing to refer you to a specialist or to prescribe you the medication that you need.

How to spot medical gaslighting

Here are some common phrases that may indicate that you’re experiencing medical gaslighting:

  • “It’s all in your head. Maybe you should see a psychologist.” 
  • “There’s nothing wrong with you.”
  • “You’re overreacting. It can’t be as bad as you say”
  • “If you lose weight, you’ll feel better.”
  • “You should just learn to live with it.”

These responses can be really distressing for patients as they undermine their experiences, their confidence, and their trust in their ability to know when something isn’t right with their own bodies. 

Medical gaslighting often results in patients choosing not to pursue further medical investigation or treatment which can lead to really serious consequences, even death. To learn more about what medical gaslighting looks and feels like, check out this video.


How to deal with medical gaslighting


  • Trust Yourself: If you feel something’s wrong, believe in yourself. No one knows your body better than you!
  • Seek Another Opinion: If your concerns are ignored, see another doctor.
  • Speak Up: Be clear about how your symptoms affect you.


  • Advocate for yourself or bring someone with you who can: If you feel like you can’t advocate (or speak up) for yourself, it’s a good idea to bring a trusted friend or family member with you to be your advocate. For more information on advocating for yourself 


  • Keep Records: Document your symptoms and medical visits.


The impact of medical gaslighting on women


Historically, clinical research has heavily focused on male bodies, with studies only carried out on men. This has led to a critical gap in society’s understanding of women’s health issues. This bias means that women’s symptoms are often misunderstood or dismissed in medical settings. Studies show that women wait longer than men for the same diagnostic tests and are less likely to be given effective pain management solutions. The implications can be severe, ranging from delayed diagnoses to inappropriate treatment plans and in the worst cases, death. Learn more about the impacts of medical gaslighting on women here. 

Intersectional Identities Increase the Impacts of Medical Gaslighting

Medical gaslighting can be especially damaging for women, who often report their symptoms being dismissed or downplayed by healthcare professionals. In fact, studies show that women are more likely to have their chronic pain conditions misdiagnosed or treated inadequately compared to men. 

This issue is even worse for individuals with intersectional identities. Intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, helps us understand how overlapping social identities—including race, gender, and disability—interact in systems of discrimination or disadvantage. For example: 

  • First Nations women in Australia face significant barriers to accessing healthcare, which leads to worse health outcomes and higher rates of maternal mortality
  • Similarly, disabled people and those from culturally and racially marginalised groups often experience medical professionals interpreting their symptoms as psychological rather than physical. 
  • Gender-diverse people seeking gender-affirming care also encounter substantial hurdles to receiving healthcare, including scepticism and ignorance about their health needs from medical providers. 

You can learn more about how gender-diverse people experience medical gaslighting in this Vox article.

These disparities highlight the need for a more inclusive and informed healthcare system that recognises and addresses the specific challenges faced by these groups. For further information or support on dealing with medical gaslighting, resources like the Australian Human Rights Commission or Health Direct Australia offer guidance and avenues for reporting discriminatory practices.

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