Health

This Actress Struggled for Years Because Male Doctors Wouldn't Believe Her — and She's Not Alone

Actress Zosia Mamet (best known for "Girls") spoke at the 2017 AOL MAKERS conference about how she suffered in pain for six years because none of the male physicians she went to took her symptoms seriously.

zosia-mamet

"For six years, it felt like I had the worst UTI of my life," she said, according to Glamour. Her symptoms were "insane urinary frequency" (her words) and pain during sexual intercourse ("a hot poker up my vag"). 

When she explained her maladies to various doctors, some misdiagnosed her by giving her an unnecessary antibiotic for an STD, others ran tests with inconclusive results, and still others told her it was simply all in her head.

"They told me I was crazy," Mamet recalled.

One doctor, Mamet said, explained her pain away by saying his patient was "an uppity type," while another suggested all Mamet really needed was "to learn to self-soothe."

It wasn't until Mamet saw a (female) physician that she was properly diagnosed with pelvic floor dysfunction. "I had seriously started to believe all those dicks with plaques were right," she said.

Mamet's story isn't unusual.

ATTN: reported in February 2016 on women who were misdiagnosed — or flat-out not believed — because of gender bias. One writer, Olivia Goldhill of Quartz, wrote about her struggle to be properly diagnosed with endometriosis:

"Before I had my MRI scans, I told my primary care doctor that the pain seemed to be triggered by my period. He didn’t think this was relevant and ignored the comment. Later, when scans showed my discs were in place, the specialist said my pain was likely due to nerve inflammation—just one of those painful things that someone with my history would likely suffer from time to time. Once again, his eyes flicked to the side and he waved his hands dismissively when I asked if it could be connected to my menstrual cycle."

In 2015, The Guardian asked women to talk about their experiences with doctors, finding that when most sought treatment, the most common response was: "the doctors thought it was all in my head."

doctor with tablet

Unfortunately, this problem presents itself with many vagina-related health issues. Blogger Keeks of La Matadora wrote about her saga trying to get answers about why she experienced pain during sex. "It took me three tries to get diagnosed with vaginismus," she wrote. Like Mamet, she kept searching for a diagnosis because she knew her pain was real.

Women and Pain

Two female professors at University of Maryland, Diane E. Hoffmann and Anita J. Tarzian, wrote about the problems women face at doctor's office in their paper, "The Girl Who Cried Pain: A Bias Against Women in the Treatment of Pain." 

In an interview with Mother Nature Network (MNN) in 2015, they discussed their research and their finding that, while women have lower thresholds for pain than men — and feel pain more intensely than men — men were still more likely to receive treatment for pain from their doctors compared to women.

As Hoffmann told MNN, "the bottom line is the real mismatch. You would expect women to be treated better and more aggressively."

[H/T Glamour]