How to advocate for yourself at the doctor’s office

Nov 14, 2020 | Disability, Mental Illness

Apparently trying to get pain treatment is too hot for Reddit. You learn something new every day..

Physical Health

  • When the HCP (health care professional) isn’t taking your pain seriously:

The pain I’m experiencing is impacting my life in X way. I cannot tolerate it. You need to review what you’re doing to help me.

This pain is not normal. My daily life is being interrupted by this pain. Your treatment is not adequate.

Telling me to bear the pain is not helpful. What options are you not telling me? What could this pain mean that you have ruled out? Why did you rule X out?

You are not handling my pain management effectively. If you think I’m exaggerating, you need to remove your personal thoughts from this. I am not going to leave without a new pain management plan.

  • When the HCP says it’s “normal”

What evidence do you have that this is normal? What have you done to rule out other possibilities?

This might be normal for other people, it is not normal to me. I need you to rule out X before you tell me it’s normal.

Wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry? Please explain what this could mean and why it wouldn’t apply to me?

If this is normal why is it impacting me in X way? Do not ignore my symptoms because it’s easier to. This is like when HCPs ignore endometriosis, are you one of those HCPs?

My family history includes X. How have you taken that into account?

  • When the HCP says that the solution is losing weight

If I was at the weight you want me to be, and I had the same symptoms, what would the treatment plan be?

Why is there no other component to the treatment plan? What will losing weight do?

Are you aware of the HAES movement in the medical community? Do you support it? (If answer is no) I need you to employ their principle of including other options in the treatment plan. This is non-negotiable.

If I was skinny, what would you do? Why is that not part of your plan now?

Why is the first solution weight related? You need to include more to this plan.

Weight loss is not attainable for me. What else can I do? What are you not mentioning? Have you done everything else?

My condition X prevents me from losing weight. Why are you not considering that in my treatment plan?

  • When the HCP says “it’s all in your head”

I know my body. I am experiencing X and it is not normal. You need to tell me what you ruled out and why.

How did you end up at that conclusion? Why would it be in my head?

If I was a man presenting with these symptoms, what would you do?

No, it is not. My pain is real. You need to come up with a treatment plan and explain what you’re doing to help me.

X is not in my head. Stop dismissing me. Explain why you’re saying this. I need a thorough response!

Mental Health

  • When the HCP says that you should “just think good thoughts”

Show me evidence that this a valid treatment for the symptom X I’m experiencing.

Why are you saying that? What source tells you to talk to patients this way?

Good thoughts are not something my mind produces anymore because of X. Stop ignoring my concerns and give me concrete solutions.

Good thoughts are not a valid treatment for X. How did you end up there?

  • When the HCP says “you’re too functioning/good/social/energetic/happy to have X”

Just because I learned to work around X doesn’t mean I don’t have it. Why are you ignoring my concerns?

My attitude and personality should not be factors in your evaluation of X. Why are you basing your conclusion off of outdated stereotypes?

That isn’t a factor in X. You are purposely using my coping mechanisms to dismiss me. Stop. Please review the DSM-5 manual and show me how X doesn’t apply to me.

You are a professional. You should recognize that X affects people differently. Just because I have created ways to work around it doesn’t mean you should pretend I’m okay. I have been experiencing Y symptoms. Why are you ignoring them?

X presents differently in women. Why are you using outdated information to deny me a diagnosis?

  • When the HCP starts talking about themselves

I appreciate that you feel comfortable talking about yourself. Unfortunately, I don’t have the emotional capacity to carry another person’s load. Please focus on me.

This is my session. The current discussion is unhelpful.

I am not understanding how this is relevant to my treatment. Can we circle back to my issue?

Your current content is not helping me. Can we do X instead?

When you talk about yourself, you make me feel worse. The treatment plan includes X, can we do that instead?

I hope this helps y’all!


I have read a lot of your comments, and while I am quite sure some of them come from a fatphobic standpoint, let’s put that aside to understand why this comes across as adversarial and “rude.”

Women and minorities have experienced less quality of care in medicine for years. This has been extensively covered in the following (the John Oliver thing leads you to several sources)

John Oliver covering it in an LWT episode

This Harvard article outlines strategies they have employed to combat bias in medicine

Another Harvard article discussing racial bias in medicine

This Yale med school article discusses studies in this area

From personal experience, doctors are less likely to ignore your symptoms if you are firm and somewhat “adversarial.” I have seen these phrases and sentences work in real life. I have seen doctors change their minds and explore other options only to find out they were wrong originally.

Thank you to everyone who gave awards. I appreciate you. Thank you to the comments sharing your bias in medicine stories. You are brave and you are right to advocate for yourself. Please keep sharing your stories, we need this to be taken more seriously.


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