It's taken me literally years to find a doctor that I'm comfortable with. I have a list of mis-communications that matches yours, starting at the age of sixteen with the doctor who referred my whole family group therapy because I had chronic fatigue syndrome that he decided was 'all in my head'; via the GP who I had to insist referred me to a gynaecologist because he didn't believe that the pains I was experiencing were gynae related and was so rough during an internal that he left me weeping; to the emergency room doctor who somehow didn't think it necessary to explain that one sometimes gets parathesia with migraine.

I think this is a feminist issue - these doctors were all male and all middle aged; I look a lot younger than I am and found it really difficult to be assertive when I was in so much discomfort. Partly my fault for NOT being more assertive ... but surely most people who visit doctors are not at their best and doctors should be more sensitive?

Having said all that, I've come across a large number of doctors who communicate really well and were prepared to give me the space to communicate. And my present GP is great.

Sorry this is so long - you've struck a nerve. You often do :).

The Happy Feminist

Yeah-- I am trying to be all fair and balanced, but in reality, I just don't like doctors too much in general. Especially the older, male ones. I think the older generation of doctors somehow absorbed or were taught the idea that they shouldn't take their female patients seriously. Maybe that's not a fair generalization but it's definitely the impression I have.


"I think the older generation of doctors somehow absorbed or were taught the idea that they shouldn't take their female patients seriously. Maybe that's not a fair generalization but it's definitely the impression I have."

I do not think that is an unfair generalization. Patient care was different for those who were taught long ago. Patient input is still a relatively recent thing, sad as that is.

I do not think that men had a lot of input into their treatment either, but certainly female patients were treated in a much more paternalistic fashion.

With the vast resources of the internet and with the rise in the concept of informed consent (thank your lawyers for that one), patients have far greater rights now than we ever had. (Except for the fact that we are all screwed by HMO's.)

The Happy Feminist

Yay lawyers!


Living in Japan for most of my adult life made me appreciate Western doctors... and Western lawyers, too.

For anyone who wants to read further on this -- http://www.pacificbridgemedical.com/publications/html/JapanMarch98.htm


My sophomore year of college my boyfriend-at-the-time and I were wrestling and tickling and all that silly stuff, and as a joke he started trying to give me a hickey on my face, thinking it wouldn't actually work, but of course I did end up with a huge purple hickey on my cheekbone -- the day before my annual pap/pelvic. The female NP refused to believe that I hadn't been beaten. I told her the whole story, and she STILL told me over and over that I was being abused and that I should get help, and sent me out the door with a whole stack of abuse pamphlets. The boyfriend almost died of embarrassment when I told him.

And thanks for the heads-up on the "fallen woman disease," btw. I just got the fearmongering Abnormal Pap Letter last week, and while I'm not particularly concerned, there was no information at all in it, and certainly no indication that I shouldn't go around telling my parents about it. Not that I was going to, but still.

t. comfyshoes

I've had some fairly bad times communicating with doctors too. Both male and female ones. But in all cases, I think the problem was what you touched on, HF, not taking the patient seriously.

- When I was having trouble with my knees, all my doctor would do is give me different pain medicines to try. It took some serious argument on my part to get the ball rolling to even have any kind of diagnostic imaging done. I still wonder what could have happened if we had pursued aggressive treatment when it first started bothering me, instead of letting it get so bad it eventually required surgery.

- I have a history of depression, and when (a few months after the surgery) I presented with such extreme fatigue that I couldn't make it up a flight of stairs without getting short of breath and my vision blacking out around the edges, they could only see that I was crying (why wouldn't I, this was scary!) and tried to send me away with a prescription for antidepressants. I had to really, really fight to get them to do any tests at all. And then it turned out that I was severely anemic and all it took to straighten things out was a few months of iron supplements. I still wonder what would have happened if I'd been a good little patient and just taken the prozac.

After that, I quit seeing that doctor. But the new doc wasn't very good either. http://womanincomfyshoes.blogspot.com/2006/02/good-doc-bad-doc.html

The good experiences I've had with medical professionals of all kinds, on the other hand, have always been the ones where I feel like I've been taken seriously, listened to, and treated like a unique human being (albeit one with a very common problem). There's been no correlation there with age, race, or gender, so I just find myself wondering where and how the good ones learned it.


I went to see a doctor for allergies that I had recently developed during my last year of college. He started out by essentially trying to convince me that it was all stress (in his defense, I'm sure stress had something to do with it, but not all, and yet the stress also made me irritable and defensive). At one point during the exam he had me hold what he told me where sealed bottles of the "essence" of things that tended to cause allergies and proceeded to test my grip in order to determine what I was allergic to. It all sounded like BS to me so I quizzed him on it so he got defensive and patronizing which pissed me off even more, and eventually promted to me cut him off and tell him I was a physics major and so quite capable of understanding the basics of simple medical procedures and would he please explain exactly what he was doing. He never really did and I was left with the instructions to not eat soy, eggs, chicken, and something else. In other words - forget about processed foods even though I was still living in college dorms. Ha.

The only useful thing was that he explained that some people are sensitive to pressure and rubbing on their skin - when I would have reactions they would often be on the soles of my feet so that part actually made sense.


I am in same boat as many others here with another additional factors, I have suffered from depression (after an 8 year relationship with a closeted homosexual who wouldn't be depressed!) and have been peri-menopausal for a few years now and have always been obese. These additional factors have made it incredibly impossible to converse with physicians because before depression everything was attributed to my weight and after depression absolutely everything is NOW first attributed to the depression (including the hormone imbalances AND weight) and they don't want to address any concerns I may ask them to consider. Best examples are following:
1.) I went to the gynecologists office with an RX from my old GP for a hormone balance evaluation and the nurse there ignored it and point blank told me, "You don't have a hormone problem, you have a mental health problem and a weight problem, you need to get those under control first". IT TOOK ANOTHER YEAR BEFORE I GOT THE ACTUAL DOCTOR TO SEE ME AND I AM NOW THANKFULLY HORMONE BALANCED!
2.) My sister is potentially suffering from MS and has had numerous "episodes" but no definitive diagnosis because it can take years of tests before it becomes clearly evident. When I found that many things I had taken for granted in my life as being “just me” were indicators of a neurological problem, I asked my new GP for a referral to a neurologist myself. My issues include frequent clumsiness, mumbled speech, difficulty swallowing and memory issues, just to name a few of my concerns. I might also add my brother has epilepsy of unknown origin and this made me further concerned. So, I didn't think it was out of the question to visit a neurologist and ask for an evaluation, just to make sure everything is as it should be...I was told by my new PCP that I should seek the services of a neuropsychiatrist instead. WELL, I HAVE HAD THREE (3) FALLS AND NEARLY CHOKED TO DEATH AT LEAST TEN (10) TIMES SINCE THEN. NOW THAT MY NEW INSURANCE NO LONGER REQUIRES A REFERRAL I PLAN TO SEEK THE ADVICE OF A NEUROLOGIST ON MY OWN AND I INTEND TO CHANGE GENERAL PRACTITIONERS AS WELL!
3.) I see a rehab specialist now for the back pain I have been suffering from an old injury (from one of the many falls from my clumsiness!) which is now aggravated by my weight. After both the first and second visits she was referring me to psychologists and I could only shake my head the first time in exasperation, but after second visit I had an all out blow out on her, telling her that, “This year I have made more positive steps forward in my life than I have in the past ten years and you want me in psychotherapy? WHY?” Let’s just say that she and I aren’t best of friends, but I am still going because she and her partner are last stop for this kind of injury!


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