What to Do When Your Doctor Isn't Listening



September 10, 2020

Has your doctor dismissed your concerns or symptoms? 

It’s hard for a doctor to understand your symptoms if they can’t physically see or understand them. But, if you find that you are constantly addressing symptoms that are met by a doctor who says they will go away on their own, you will need to stand up for yourself to get answers. 

How to Get Your Doctor to Take You Seriously 

Do not be afraid to speak up to a doctor. Some ways to get your doctor to listen to you are to:

1. Go to your appointments with extra information about your condition 

Before your appointment, you should do some research on credible websites such as Mayo Clinic, CDC, and research universities. If you back up your claims with information from reliable medical organizations, it will be harder for your doctor to turn you away.

2. Do not be afraid to bring up your concerns over and over again

Advocating for yourself is difficult, but in situations like these, it is crucial that your doctor understands you as an individual and not just a collection of your symptoms. Do not take ‘no’ for an answer and be proactive because your persistence can directly impact your health. 

3. Bring someone with you 

It can be hard to advocate for yourself especially if it is not in your nature to do so. You can bring a family member, close friend, or a Healthcare Advisor to help ask follow-up questions or to remain persistent if your doctor is refusing to properly care for you. 

4. Keep a list of your symptoms and treatments

As with any other appointment, you should prepare a list of questions, concerns, and  symptoms beforehand so that you do not forget to discuss something during your  appointment. 

5. Make sure your doctor gets to the root of your pain. 

Sometimes your doctor is only focussed on addressing the pain you are currently feeling and does not look to address the underlying issue. If your doctor writes you a prescription, make sure to ask them questions about why they chose that specific medication and ask about what else you can do to find the root cause of your symptom(s). 

If all else fails, the next best thing to do is to look for a new doctor. You may have to go through multiple doctors before you find one that listens to you, but it is important that you get the care you need, especially if you are experiencing something that you believe is not normal for your own body.

Some of the steps above, like the first two, aren’t applicable to everyone. Some symptoms, like increased fatigue, are harder to search about online since they are more common and can lead to various different diagnoses. In that case, a doctor may say in it’s all in your head, which is not acceptable behaviour from a healthcare professional.

What To Do If Your Doctors Says It's All in Your Head

Doctors are more likely to tell you that your symptoms are psychosomatic (ie. in your head) if you are a woman compared to if you were a male. 

If your doctor dismisses your symptoms or concerns, it is a sign to find a new doctor. Here are some steps to take if your doctor is not addressing your concerns:

1. Listen to what your doctor has to say about your symptoms being in your head

Although it may seem as though your doctor is dismissing your symptoms when they say it is “all in your head,” it may also mean that they just want to explore the possibility of your brain causing your physical symptoms. Some examples of this would be stress causing your skin to break out or dizziness upsetting your stomach. 

If you do multiple tests and your doctor is still unable to locate the source, it would be worth exploring a potential mental health-related cause of your symptoms.

2. Trust your doctor and understand their abilities

It is very difficult for doctors to be able to diagnose every illness, especially if tests come back with no obvious cause. Instead of expecting them to immediately find a diagnosis for you, you should trust that they will give you the resources you need to get the right answers.

3. Work with your doctor 

You know your body better than your doctor does and only you can explain to them what is wrong. The best you can do is to provide a detailed explanation of your symptoms. By talking to them and explaining everything to the best of your ability, you can work with your doctor to narrow down possible causes or to figure out the root of your symptoms. 

4. Get more opinions 

If you feel your doctor is disregarding your symptoms, seek another doctor for a second or even third opinion. If the same thing keeps happening but you feel like there is something more to be addressed, keep seeking various doctors until you find one that listens to you. This does sound very tedious, but some people will go through five doctors before they find one that will listen to them.

5. Ask for a referral to a psychologist or a psychiatrist 

Although you may feel your doctor’s diagnosis is wrong, the best way to know is by meeting with a psychologist or psychiatrist. From there, they will either deem you mentally stable, which will tell you that your doctor was wrong, or that you have a mental problem that will need addressing. If the therapist also tells you that the problem is in your head, you can also get a second psychological opinion to confirm, but be sure that you are meeting with someone who is unaffiliated from the other doctors. 

6. Work with a Healthcare Advisor 

A Healthcare Advisor will work with you to review all the information you have received. They will be able to point out options that you may not have tried and be there with you every step toward finding a solution.