13 ‘Comebacks’ to Use When a Doctor Isn’t Taking You Seriously

When you have an illness that is invisible, complex and/or difficult to treat, that sometimes translates into challenging experiences with doctors. While there are many kind, compassionate doctors out there who are willing to put in the time to figure out your health issues, unfortunately many in our community can name a time when a doctor didn’t take them seriously. Perhaps you were told your symptoms are “all in your head,” or were advised to take medications or see specialists you’ve already tried. It’s incredibly frustrating when a doctor lets you down instead of helping, not to mention dangerous for your health.

While you may be able to find a new doctor, sometimes that isn’t possible. And even if you don’t want (or aren’t able) to stop seeing a doctor who hasn’t been listening to you, you might find yourself wishing you had a good response to any dismissive comments you may receive, to help them understand that they aren’t providing a satisfactory level of care. So we asked our Facebook community to share some suggestions for comebacks and responses to use with doctors who aren’t listening. Perhaps you’ll see one or two here you can file away and have ready to go (especially because it can be tough coming up with a great response in the moment).

Here’s what our community shared with us:

  1. “‘I guess I don’t need all these meds then!’ Gets em’ every time.” — Jessica E.“‘Really?! So you can see my pain?’” — Jamie S. “‘Please don’t dismiss me. I am highly aware of my symptoms because I live with them 24/7. Being aware of your symptoms and condition to a high level of detail is not only necessary but helpful, because if we work together — you with your knowledge of medicine and me with my knowledge of myself — we can get somewhere.’” — Sophie C.
  2. “When they aren’t taking my joint issues seriously I’ll dislocate my shoulder or hip and look them in the eye [and say] ‘Oh this is just fine then.’” — Lizz R.
  3. “‘You’re wrong. [I] think I know my own pain after 11 years.’” — Abi S. “This was not in my five-year plan. Or 20, for that matter. This isn’t just pain. It is agony with no real quality of life to speak of. Please spend a full week in my home. Then decide.’” — Liz G.
  4. “I usually lay out the alarming facts that aren’t getting taken care of, and reiterate that I am young and shouldn’t be living my life this way.” — Alane P.
  5. I have told a provider once if she doesn’t take me seriously I’ll be making appointments every month until she listens to me. That worked.” — Tiffany T. “After asking her if this is ever going to get any better and not progressively worse, she recommended yoga. Yoga! Yeah, that’s great for your neck. I asked her when she’d like to go with me because once down on the floor, somebody has to help me up. She just laughed.” — Kathie T.
  6. “‘Why would I make this up? I can’t do anything I loved anymore.’” — Megan M. “‘Unfortunately for you, if it wasn’t for all the sick people out there having to come to you for help, you wouldn’t have a job! Therefore I suggest you show us some respect… or find someone that knows what he or she is doing. FYI, it’s people like us that pay your bills…’” — Katie R.
  7. “Just get up and leave. If a doctor treats me like garbage I’ll find another. I know not everyone has that luxury, but I’ve known doctors to intentionally prescribe the wrong medications, or try to cause pain during a physical exam to prove me wrong and I’m not taking that chance anymore.” — Jackie S.
  8. “‘I didn’t know my pain cared about my age because it surely doesn’t seem like it.’” — Jessica H. “‘It’s real, it’s painful and just because you refuse to acknowledge it exists does not make it any less valid.’” — Elsa B.
  9. “I ordered a T-shirt that says, ‘It’s not in my head, it’s in my collagen.’” — Hollyn D.
  10. “‘Just because it’s not happening right this second as you’re moving that limb, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Watch me walk down the hallway when I leave, then tell me it’s all fine.’” — Zoe H.
  11. “‘I live in this body and experience it every day. You’re only seeing it in passing and on paper. Tell me, doctor, do you know my name without looking at that sheet much less my history or pain?’ Too many times I’ve nodded and agreed with ignorant doctors who assumed I knew nothing. So I educated myself and went to experts, read medical papers, watched online conferences caught up on medical research and when I’m dismissed now I can recite facts and figures. I’m not another number. I am a person and they forget that.”
  12. I said to my doctor, ‘Don’t dismiss me. That’s rude. I know you are the doctor which is why I am here, but if you don’t actually listen to me then we aren’t going to figure anything out.’” — Mugsy S.
  13. “‘You’re not hearing what I’m saying.’” — Martha G. “My rheumatologist was adamant that my hips were not dislocating and that it was just a tendon snapping… so I recorded a video of me relocating it (you see my leg shift) and showed it to him. He believes me now.” — Toni K.

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