When patients feel gaslighted, it's time to find another physician, says Northwell Health leader 

Almost by definition, the concept of medical gaslighting might be easy for some clinicians to brush off, but physicians have joined the conversation — #medicalgaslighting — on TikTok to raise awareness that dismissing a patient's healthcare concerns is not only short-sighted, but it's bad medicine.

Medical gaslighting is defined as when a physician downplays the complaints a patient is describing — to the point where the patient feels like they are not being heard or that their symptoms are being minimized.

Shannon Clark, MD, an OB-GYN and maternal-fetal medicine specialist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, took to the popular social media platform herself to set the record straight. 

"I want to say something that just might blow your mind," Dr. Clark said. "It is possible for someone to have a medical condition or complaints or symptoms that are not related to any mental health condition they might have. It's true. So automatically attributing any complaint a patient might have to their mental health condition is just plain bad medicine."

Reading through the lines of Dr. Clark's comment, one can see how she underscores points made in scores of other TikTok posts by patients and physicians who said having severe pain and other ailments dismissed as mental health concerns is disheartening at best and can, according to a July 2022 New York Times article, be deadly. 

Over 2,800 readers posted comments to the article talking about "misdiagnoses that nearly cost them their lives or that delayed treatment, leading to unnecessary suffering."

The flame has been turned up on medical gaslighting when it comes to women's health, the LGBTQ community, older individuals and people of color, according to the article. 

Jennifer Mieres, MD, a cardiologist, senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer at New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Northwell Health, said on TikTok that if a patient feels they are being gaslighted, it's time to find another physician.

"We know that medical gaslighting is a huge, huge phenomena," she said, and if a clinician dismisses a patient's symptoms, it's a "warning sign."

"Hit the pause button and take control again and say, 'Let's talk about my symptoms. Did you not hear me? This is really what is bothering me. This is limiting my life,'" she said. "'I am dysfunctional and I need your help.'"

Dr. Mieres added that patients should be clear with physicians and not accept being dismissed. "Calling it out is important. And if you're still not being heard, finding another doctor is definitely important."

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