Inside: Wondering what to do when your doctor says nothing’s wrong? Here are 5 steps to take when your doctor says it’s “all in your head.”
Maybe you have an irritating knot on the side of your neck or a backache that just won’t go away? You’ve read about your symptoms online and anxiously waited months to see if the problem would resolve itself.
And now you’re starting to get worried.
If you’ve gone through the hassle of finding a doctor, scheduling an appointment and preparing questions to ask, then it can be discouraging to hear that your symptoms are “all in your head” So, what do you do when your doctor says nothing’s wrong?
You have a few options.
1. Be Assertive
It’s understandable to feel intimidated when discussing your health with a doctor. As patients, we’re expected to accept our diagnosis and believe that medical professionals always know best. Truth is – no one knows your body like you do.
If you’ve gone through a series of tests and everything has come back negative, but you still have a gut feeling that something’s wrong, don’t be afraid to speak up. You have to be your own advocate.
Due to the structure of our health care system, unfortunately, doctors don’t have a lot of time to spend with patients. If you need more time with your doctor, don’t hesitate to schedule a follow-up appointment where you can plan ahead and bring a list of questions.
During the appointment, calmly reiterate your symptoms and ask clarifying questions such as, “Does that mean my health is improving?”
It’s important that you advocate for yourself without attacking or blaming. As frustrating as it can be, it’s much more effective to let doctors know how you’re feeling emotionally, so they can be more empathetic. Instead of saying something like, “You never answer my questions,” try, “I feel disrespected when I cannot get my questions answered.”
2. Do your Research
To be honest, before my health problems, I had no idea how much research falls on the patient (especially, if you have a rare disease). If your doctor is saying that nothing is wrong but you believe otherwise, it’s time to take matters into your own hands.
You can start by visiting PubMed and entering your most prominent symptoms. From there, you’ll find short summaries of academic and medical research. After combing through research, you may begin to get an idea of what could potentially be wrong.
I would suggest to copy the information that seems most relevant and keep it in a medical binder. Take this, as well as alternative suggestions, with you to your next appointment and ask that your doctor listens to what you’ve found.
If you present your own research and still feel like your doctor is not listening, then it’s probably time to get a second opinion.
3. Get a Second Opinion
When I wasn’t getting a clear answer from my doctor, I made an appointment to get a second opinion at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Make sure to contact your insurance company and check the protocol for getting a second opinion. Otherwise, you may get stuck with surprise medical bills. In some cases, your primary doctor may need to send a referral.
While it may be slightly uncomfortable, it’s okay to tell your doctor that you want to get a second opinion. You may need their help in gathering medical documents to be sent to the new doctor.
It’s also important to know that you also don’t have to disclose a second opinion to your current doctor. It’s all up to you.
What do you do when your doctor says nothing’s wrong, and you’ve tried steps 1-3?
4. Find a Patient Advocate
If you’ve gone through all of the steps above and you’re still not getting anywhere, it may be time to get a patient advocate.
What is a patient advocate?
A patient advocate is an experienced professional who can guide you through the challenges of today’s health care system. Whether you’re scared of a new diagnosis or concerned about medical coverage, having a patient advocate is essential to getting the help you need.
According to Greater National Advocates, patient advocates can help with the following:
- Better Understand Medical Conditions and Treatment Options
- Demand and Receive Proper Medical Care
- Effectively Communicate With Doctors and Hospitals
- Analyze and Consolidate Financial Liabilities Related to Health Care
- Receive Appropriate Counseling for Patients and Family Members
- Identify the Right Facilities & Plan of Action for Elderly or Infirmed
For a more detailed look at what they can help with, check out the direct right here.
If you’ve gone through a series of tests and everything has come back negative, but you still have a gut feeling that something’s wrong, don’t be afraid to speak up. You have to be your own advocate.Disability Dame
When I was stuck with a $12,000 surprise medical bill, I contacted the Patient Advocate Foundation for support. I was quickly matched with an advocate who helped me successfully appeal the insurance decision.
5. Get a Psychological Evaluation
If it feels like you’ve tried everything and you’re still not getting answers, ask your doctor for a psychological evaluation. The first thing that this will do is call your doctor’s bluff if they deny you a referral.
Secondly, If you pass a psychological evaluation, it will be just another way of proving that your symptoms are not “all in your head.” From there, you can decide whether to move forward with your current doctor or seek another opinion.
Lastly, you may find out that you have an underlying mental health issue. Hearing input from a professional that’s been trained to objectively evaluate a patient’s thoughts and opinions may provide alternative pathways to a diagnosis. ( Although, that’s not to say that their decision would be 100% accurate, either. It may just give you another way for that you haven’t previously considered.)
Final Thoughts on What to Do When Your Doctor Says Nothing’s Wrong?
If you’ve been left wondering what to do when your doctor says nothing’s wrong, know that you have options. You have a choice to stay with your current doctor or find a new one. It’s important that you feel listened to and heard.
No one else can accurately tell you how you feel. If a doctor has told you that nothing’s wrong, but you still have a sinking feeling in your stomach, keep pushing. You deserve to have that peace of mind.
Have you ever been told that your symptoms are all in your head? What advice would you give? Tell me in the comments below!
For more help on finding a diagnosis or understanding your patient rights, visit the disability hub.
Allie Schmidt is a rare disease advocate and disabled mom living with motor neuron disease. She founded Disability Dame in 2020 to provide tips to other moms living with disabilities and chronic illnesses.
In her spare time, you can find her traveling with her husband (she's been to 38 states and 16 countries!), watching reruns of Survivor, or tending to her near-constant sunburn from spending too much time outside. You can follow her adventures here.