Community Shares: Feeling Judged By Your Doctor
Last updated: April 2023
Living with a chronic illness like heart failure can mean lots of doctor's appointments, both before and after diagnosis. Sometimes, it feels that the more doctors you see, the more challenging it becomes to be taken seriously and have your concerns addressed. One barrier to care can be feeling judged by your doctor or other providers.
To learn more about this challenge, we asked our community members to share their experiences. We asked followers of our Facebook page to tell us: “Have you ever felt judged by a healthcare provider (doctor/nurse/tech)? What do you think they were judging you about?”
Around 50 community shared their feelings of being judged while at their doctor’s office. Here's what they had to say.
Not seeing beyond weight
By far the most common source of judgment is weight. Community members who identify as being overweight find doctors often do not see beyond the number on the scale. Any problem starts and ends with weight loss, and people suffer as a result.
“They see an overweight person and think you’re a slob, that you do nothing but eat. They don’t realize you can’t exercise because your body won’t let you.”
“I feel if you are overweight, they blame everything on that. They don’t look for any other reason.”
“After going to my family doctor each month for 3 months and being told each time that I was out of breath and experiencing heart and arm pain because I was overweight, I couldn’t stand the pain anymore. I went to the emergency room, where I was told I was probably having a heart attack. Turns out I had a 95 percent blockage. A stent was placed in my artery that saved my life. I could have died.”
“My weight has been blamed for so many health problems, including colds/flu, infections, and migraine headaches.”
“Yes, my weight, like I’m somehow less of a person. Or that I’m making things up.”
The challenge of an invisible illness
Heart failure is one of many chronic conditions that is often referred to as an invisible illness. This means that symptoms manifest on the inside but often do not affect outward appearance. The invisible aspects of heart disease can cause providers to disregard how seriously it is affecting someone who otherwise “looks fine.”
“When you look healthy and fine on the outside but inside, you are suffering. It’s scary to constantly worry about your heart."
“Providers do not seem to care about the mental health aspects of heart disease. I have PTSD, and they did not diagnose it. It took professionals on the outside to provide me with this diagnosis.”
“When people (including doctors) can’t actually see something wrong on the outside, then you are just another chart to some of them!”
Judgment comes from other corners, as well. Many people shared that their concerns were dismissed or ignored because of things like their age, gender, lifestyle choices, and education level. As with weight and the invisibility of heart disease, these factors have very real consequences for diagnosis and treatment.
“I was too YOUNG to have cardiomyopathy. Of course, I had it. Ugh.”
“Smoking with a bad heart.”
“Weight, age, gender.”
“Judging whether or not I know my own doggone body.”
“He told me multiple times in 1 sentence that my first mistake was in thinking I knew what I needed. I had changed my eye vitamins to one that didn’t have fish oil in it because I am allergic to fish oil.”
Lest we assume the worst and paint all healthcare providers with the same brush, a few of you shared about the helpful, compassionate doctors overseeing your care.
“I’m lucky and got a doctor with the rare heart. He’s been fantastic and helped me for over 20 years! I appreciate his doing everything he could for me!”
“I have yet to have this issue with any of my physicians. I count my blessings.”
Have you ever felt judged by your health care providers (doctor/nurse/tech)?
We appreciate everyone who took the time to share stories with us. It is helpful for the entire community to know that experiencing judgment from members of your healthcare team is something held in common.
Have you ever avoided going to the doctor out of fear?