March 29, 2022
Good morning, MindSite News readers. In this issue, we talk about “medical gaslighting,” along with a podcast on therapists who help patients explore racial trauma, music as an inspired mental health intervention, a conversation about the long-term impact of childhood trauma, and more.
Seeking: A Therapist for Racial Trauma
Since the start of the pandemic, millions more Americans have sought out talk therapy to work through a myriad of challenges, including anxiety, depression, grief and loss, and for some, long-held feelings of marginalization due to racism. This recent episode of NPR’s Code Switch podcast explores the ways in which some therapists help their patients work through racial trauma.
Going mad from “medical gaslighting?” You’re not alone
Gaslighting is a type of manipulation in which people are made to question the validity of their own thoughts and feelings. Notably, gaslighting isn’t always an intentional or malicious act. In the case of medical gaslighting, as reported in the New York Times and NBC Today, it occurs when a doctor essentially dismisses a patient’s account of what is happening inside their body, which can lead to undiagnosed or misdiagnosed medical conditions. It’s an experience that many patients report as maddening, and unfortunately, it disproportionately involves women and people of color.
A recent segment on medical gaslighting on NBC’s Today show highlighted this problem. Patient Maria Robles Garcia told NBC she had complained of increasingly severe back and stomach pain to her doctor for four years, along with hair loss and vomiting. Her plea for a CAT scan was dismissed, however, and she was told to live with the pain. Garcia said she began to think perhaps she was crazy. But when she finally went to a Cedars Sinai emergency room, doctors found a 25-pound cancerous ovarian tumor.
“We know that women, and especially women of color, are often diagnosed and treated differently by doctors than men are, even when they have the same health conditions,” researcher Karen Lutfey Spencer of the University of Colorado, Denver told the Times. Black patients are more frequently reported as difficult or non-compliant, which can undermine the quality of their medical treatment. Women and people of color are less likely to be offered pain medications, and women aren’t diagnosed with cancer or heart disease as quickly as men, according to recent studies.
Since 1993, women and non-whites have been required to be included in any medical research funded by the National Institutes of Health, but that still leaves some serious gaps in the science. To reduce the likelihood of medical gaslighting as knowledge grows, doctors suggest several action steps to elevate patient care. These include reducing the number of patients assigned to each doctor, encouraging women and people of color to bring a close friend or family member to help advocate for them, and if they feel dismissed, to see another doctor.
Gender-affirming care gets further support in new research
In a discussion of two recent studies, Trent University psychologist Karen Blair wrote that researchers found higher rates of disordered eating among trans and nonbinary communities than in cisgender communities (people who identify with the gender they were born with).
In an article examining these discoveries in Psychology Today, she says while “ideal” societal beauty pressures are placed on everyone – regardless of their gender identity – trans and nonbinary individuals are more deeply affected. Men are often expected to have well-defined muscles, broad shoulders, strong jawlines and the ability to sport facial hair, she says, while women are celebrated for slender yet still curvy frames, long full heads of hair, and the near absence of hair elsewhere. But though such Barbie-and-Ken beauty standards are difficult for even cisgender people to achieve (should they want to), trans and nonbinary people are pressured to meet the same ideals – something that can set the stage for restrictive and disordered eating.
On a high note, however, trans and nonbinary individuals who received gender-affirming medical care, particularly those who received both hormone treatment and surgeries, displayed fewer eating disorder syptoms and were less likely to report concerns about their body weight or shape.
Need a mood boost? Put on some music
Exercise is a scientifically proven way to alleviate depression and anxiety. But what if you just can’t hit the pavement for a run or find the time to head to the gym? A growing body of research suggests you can turn to your radio (or playlist). According to Science Alert, JAMA Network Open recently published a systematic review and meta-analysis of 26 studies of music interventions that demonstrated music promoted well-being and a health-related quality of life.
What’s more, music is easy to incorporate as part of a therapeutic regimen. Reporting for Science Alert, David Neld wrote, “For many of us, listening to music or singing are pleasurable activities and perhaps wouldn’t feel as challenging as getting out for exercise or sticking to a diet – further reasons why they could be helpful as forms of therapy.” Although the authors write that targeted study is needed “to clarify optimal music interventions and doses,” they stress that the current findings are promising.
In other news:
After an alarming Instagram post that hinted at her possible suicide, Grammy Award-nominated musician Chika has posted that she is safe after receiving medical care. According to Alabama.com, after posting what appeared to be a suicide note just days earlier, the Montgomery, AL native posted the following message on Sunday: “Leaving the hospital. Not that I should care about updating anyone besides family. I just wanna be left alone, if that’s okay. I appreciate the prayers and stuff. Thanks.”
This week, in The Conversation, there’s a discussion about the ways healthcare professionals can help mitigate the long-term impact of adverse childhood experiences. The two biggest takeaways to building resilience in children: trauma-informed care and helping caregivers and other adults within a child’s extended network create the necessary support at home, school, and in the community that a child needs to tap into to heal.
Some cases of acne are linked to PTSD. Find out more in this first-person article from Stylist magazine, in which the author interviews dermatologists about the links between post-traumatic stress disorder and skin health.
If you or anyone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. And if you’re a veteran, press 1.
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