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Old 11-22-2017, 12:06 AM   #1
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Default When your doctor mislabels you as an "anxious patient"

I'm really getting fed up with the sexism in doctors' offices, the way male doctors attribute "anxiety" as a catch-all diagnosis for women's symptoms that have literally nothing to do with anxiety.

It's known as "diagnostic bias." And male doctors are notorious for doing it to women patients whom they don't take seriously.

Heart disease runs in my family. And, I have a heart murmur and am in poor physical health.

Last Friday, I was over-worked by my supervisor at my 2nd (former) retail job (I quit it this weekend). I normally only can handle working between 8 to 11 hours a day. But, last Friday, I worked 14 hours and suffered the consequences immediately for it, that drove me the e.r.

My symptoms mimicked a heart attack;

cold sweat
indegestion
exercise induced asthma
nausea and dry heaving
chills
pain in my left arm and left side of my chest
light headed feeling and dizzy
anxiety through the roof (the urgent care nurse I called told me I was having a heart attack and to go to the e.r. so I found a ride to an e.r. I live minutes away from; I couldn't call an ambulance b/c my state medical assistance doesn't cover the $900 cost to ride in one).

I got to the e.r. walked in, collapsed, they put me in a wheel chair, did an e.k.g., drew blood to look for proteins related to heart attacks, took a chest x-ray, gave me I.V. fluids, gave me oxygen and 2 hours later told me that I had a heart murmur, but did not have a heart attack despite my symptoms. Instead, the male e.r. doctor patronized me, and told me that I had a severe panic attack instead. Um, no, I didn't. I was physically unable to work the 14 hours that I stupidly did, and suffered for it.

Obviously, I'm glad I didn't have a heart attack. But I worry that what if I had a mild heart attack and that was ignored? I can't see a cardiologist without a referral so that my state medical insurance will cover the cost of the visit, but I have an appointment with my doctor next week and plan to ask him for a referral.

My concern is that my male doctor will refuse to refer me, because he'll read the e.r. doctor's notes about "anxiety" and chalk what happened to me up to anxiety, and very wrongly so. Anyone would FEEL anxious in my situation based on the symptoms I listed above.

Can anyone relate to being mislabeled by their doctor as anxious, when in fact, you had legitimate symptoms completely unrelated to anxiety?

I'm also vitamin deficient, and have a non-functional thyroid, which creates depression as a side effect. I'm just so frustrated with not being taken seriously. Like, I'm the woman who cried "heart attack" but didn't have one, and won't be believed if I actually do have one with the same symptoms. I'm terrified to take a second job now, as much as I need the money. Because, I don't want to put myself in jeopardy again, being over worked by a horrible retail supervisor. I should never had agreed to stay. I don't know what I was thinking Friday night.

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Old 11-24-2017, 06:49 PM   #2
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Default Re: When your doctor mislabels you as an "anxious patient"

That doctor was unkind to you. Grrrrr. I found myself in that position a while ago now and it is horrid and I felt so embarrassed. Trouble was that I was in a part of a hospital when it happened as an outpatient I wanted them to let me go home but they said they had a duty of care to keep me in. When they had determined that I was having a panic attack the cardiologist yelled at the staff and myself. I cried. If they had just let me go home at the start.???

Sound like a you were having severe anxiety panic that mimics a heart attack but they are not to be sneered at. You were right to do what you did in case it was the real thing.

Your own male doctor should not be dismissive of you. You do have a heart murmur and you do have physical health issues. Might be a good idea to check back in with him to see what you can do to help you before it gets to that stage.

If you feel like your own doctor does not hear you and try to help then please get a second opinion from another doctor until you find a doctor that is helpful and not dismissive of you. They are out there.
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Old 11-24-2017, 07:10 PM   #3
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Default Re: When your doctor mislabels you as an "anxious patient"

Thank you possum for your response to my post. I'm sorry that your doctors ignored you as well and that you were yelled at by your cardiologist.

I agree that the E.R. doctor was unkind to me. In fact, he even mocked me, when he said, "well, at least you know you can work a 14 hour shift now without dying." If I hadn't had an IV in my arm, I would have slapped him across the face for being so inappropriate.

What IS IT with men who treat women like they don't matter. Because that is how he made me feel.

Women can have mild heart attacks aka "silent heart attacks," or mild strokes. If I didn't have a heart murmur and family history of heart disease, I would have tried to wait out my symptoms.

I did email my primary care physician and explained to him my concerns of being mislabeled as an anxious patient because of my gender, etc. and he assured me that he would take my health concerns seriously and refer me to a cardiologist for more testing after he sees me at my appointment with him. I hope he keeps his word.

I've never had a positive male role model in my life, so I think that when men belittle me or shame me, like this E.R. doctor did, it triggers me. My overall feeling is that men just don't respect women -- esp. when women are intelligent, strong-willed, and won't accept being mistreated.
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Old 11-26-2017, 01:34 AM   #4
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Default Re: When your doctor mislabels you as an "anxious patient"

Pleased to hear that you primary care physician responded to your email and that he would take you seriously. Always good to follow up on things to do with the heart. Even it is to rule it out or in.

Will your doctor address your anxiety issues?

Some men don't respect women no matter what line of work they have. Other men can be kind and caring. Women can be the same too. I am sorry you were triggered. Fingers crossed that specialist you get sent to is a kind soul who knows their job.
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Old 12-05-2017, 09:38 PM   #5
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Default Re: When your doctor mislabels you as an "anxious patient"

There was a period of time where I would randomly become tachycardic if I stood for a few minutes. At first it was awful, every time I stood I'd get this enormous, pounding pressure in my head and felt faint. Then slowly the pressure began to go away, but the periods of feeling faint and tachycardia did not. My doctor referred me to a cardiologist, who had me wear a Holter monitor for a few days, and had an ultrasound done on my heart. There weren't any abnormalities other than the fact that my heart rate wound randomly go from 80 bpm to over 170 if I stood up for more than 5 minutes. What did he end up saying to me? "Well, you see, sometimes drinking caffeine can make your heart beat faster. Also, if you feel anxious, that can cause the tachycardia as well."

Gee, thanks, Doc.

Eventually my government insurance expired, and it would be months before I could get it through my employer, so I couldn't go to the doctor anymore. The episodes ended up getting less and less frequent and I've only had 1 within the past six months. Funnily enough, haven't stopped drinking caffeine, haven't had a less stressful environment, and I haven't lost weight (which was the cardiologist's other solution to all of my problems). Still have no idea what that was or if it'll ever come back.

It really is frustrating when it feels like nobody will take you seriously. And you can always tell, too, that it's because you're a woman. I always see this look on their face, like they're trying to humor me, or like my husband's made me come to them to cure my female hysteria. It makes me want to call them out on it, say something like, "If a man came in here and was in my position, what would you say to them?" but I know I'd just get another patronizing response. I really, really hope your doctor took your concerns seriously and I hope you've felt better in the past few weeks.
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Old 12-06-2017, 05:34 AM   #6
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Default Re: When your doctor mislabels you as an "anxious patient"

That is crazy! Maybe you can go to a cardiologist anyway. Where I am you don't need a referral, not sure about your area.
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Old 12-06-2017, 05:37 PM   #7
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Default Re: When your doctor mislabels you as an "anxious patient"

Grrr! My primary care doc REFUSES to refer me to a cardiology clinic that has a stellar reputation, because...he doesn't know any of the cardiologists there. Pffft! He wants me to pick a cardiologist that HE KNOWS but I refuse to do that. Screw it. I'm going to call the membership line of my clinic to find out if I can self refer to the cardiology clinic where I want to be seen, because my grandfather was seen at this clinic and they detected his congestive heart failure and put in a pace maker when he was in his late 40s and he lived to be 100. Not that I want to get a pace maker to live to be 100. But, I want to choose where I want to be seen, and not have some doctor tell me "no" because he doesn't know anyone at the clinic.

I went to see my primary care doc earlier this week. He showed me a low statistic he got, when he graphed out my past cardiology clinic visits and ER visits over the past ten years to claim that there is a low chance I have heart disease, will have heart disease or die of a heart attack. While I appreciated his professionalism, no test can predetermine if someone has a heart attack or not. Then he had me do an EKG at his office, but he wouldn't tell me the results. (I don't think he knew how to interpret it, otherwise, why not tell me my EKG results?) So frustrating.
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Old 12-07-2017, 12:49 AM   #8
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Default Re: When your doctor mislabels you as an "anxious patient"

Time to get another primary care doctor?
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Old 12-07-2017, 04:40 PM   #9
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Default Re: When your doctor mislabels you as an "anxious patient"

Quote:
Originally Posted by possum220 View Post
Time to get another primary care doctor?
Yes, I think so. I think so.
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Old 12-10-2017, 05:45 AM   #10
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Default Re: When your doctor mislabels you as an "anxious patient"

Quote:
Originally Posted by possum220 View Post
Time to get another primary care doctor?
Agreed...
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