Gender-biased Diagnosing, the Consequences of Psychosomatic Misdiagnosis and 'Doing Credibility'
Smith, Eda Clare
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This research was aimed at exploring patient perspectives on the gender-politics of doctor-patient relationship , finding the number of men and women who had experienced psychosomatic diagnosis or misdiagnosis, and assessing the detrimental health consequences of psychosomatic misdiagnosis by investigating patient experiences. Thirty-nine respondents (13 men and 26 women) of ages ranging 18 to 71 completed open-ended questionnaires designed to gauge their relevant feelings and experiences. Hypothesis was that findings would be indicative of gender-biased diagnosing; that women would have significantly more reports of psychosomatic diagnosis and misdiagnosis, more negative experiences with doctors, and more experiences in which they physically suffered as a result of psychosomatic misdiagnosis. This research found strong evidence of gender-biased diagnosing. It also found that 1) many women reported experiencing sex discrimination in a doctor-patient relationship, and over half of women had discontinued seeing a doctor for this reason, 2) a small phenomenon of "doing credibility" was found in that patients, mostly female, reported downplaying severity of symptoms in dialog with their doctor in fear of complaining or appearing "irrational," and 3) women were found to suffer traumatic and health-crippling experiences, sometimes ending up in the emergency room needing surgery or suffering for years with debilitating undiagnosed medical conditions, as a direct consequence of their symptoms being mislabeled as psychosomatic.