5 Steps: What to Do When Your Doctor Says Nothing’s Wrong?

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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.

It didn’t. 

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. 

5 Steps: What to Do When Your Doctor Says Nothing's Wrong?

1. Be Assertive

Your Doctor Says Nothing’s Wrong

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.) 

5 Steps: What to Do When Your Doctor Says Nothing's Wrong?

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
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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.

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8 thoughts on “5 Steps: What to Do When Your Doctor Says Nothing’s Wrong?”

  1. I’d love some input. 15yrs ago I had a stroke, chronic issues since recently both feet have gone numb. According to every specialist (neuro, cardio, pain mgmt) nothing is wrong. What’s worse is my 15yr old grandson is having issues with insulinemia(opposite of diabetes) his body produces too much insulin when eating, when fasting his sugar rises. Problem is he’s having more issues, too many days off school, dizzy, stomach issues, low appetite poor sleep abnormal ketone, and urinalysis YET doctors say nothing wrong. I understand his anxiety and depression but he doesn’t. How do I help him

  2. Thank you for developing this website – and the easy to use accessibility features :). I have been on a 17 year ‘rare disease’ journey since contracting encephalitis in 2006. Encephalitis is an infection of the brain, in my case from pneumonia which also caused 2 strokes. It has very little research or studies focused on it and many many doctors will never see a case . I have memory, speech, vision, hearing, balance deficits – basically my ‘hard drive’ got fried. Initially I had 2 years of tests that sent me form specialist to specialist . I was told I had MS, Early Alzheimer’s, a brain tumor – it became obvious that no doctor was willing to take on my case.

    Probably the the most ‘kosher’ way a doctor referred to the multitude of central nervous system deficits I was experiencing was to call it “phenomena”. And the worst remark by a medical specialist was ” well maybe you can find space-alien doctors to help you” – yes pretty amazing a doctor could be so clue-less and rude.

    ALLIE -I absolutely agree with you – that creating a life that is filled with joy and meaning is the very best ‘treatment’.

  3. I haven’t been feeling well for a year with chronic stomach issues and a prolapse that is horribly uncomfortable. This condition keeps me home and I physically can not do anything that I use to enjoy doing such as walking or swim aerobics. I have had all the usual stomach procedures done and all tests show nothing abnormal. I don’t know what to do. I feel like these doctors and specialists are missing something. I can’t keep living this way and I don’t know where or who to turn to. Any suggestions? Thanks

    • Hi Marie, I’m going through the same thing. I have chronic pain in my right side that hurts so bad I cry I am doing nothing but laying in my bed 24/7. Doctors tell me there’s nothing wrong and I don’t know what, who,where to go.

  4. Hi! My mother is going through alot of medical issues and this is her 3rd doctor saying that there’s nothing wrong, and that its all in her head. She woke up not being able to walk, completely numb from her breast down. Her legs are now like balloons and they werent when this first started 6 months ago. She is completely in a wheelchair and yet her doctor says nothing is wrong with you. She cant use the bathroom on her own and she screams in pain all day everyday. She is a prisoner in her home. But, this is all in her head. I am scared she might have blood cots or something more worse is going to happen and we dont know what to do. I am extremely upset at these doctors. Noone should go through pain like this daily or live thinking they will never be able to walk or work again because Doctors wont give her the time of day to see her or help her. Any suggestions anyone!!

    • Reading your comment broke my heart for you and your mom. I’m still trying to find answers to my own medical concerns and continue to find minimal to no help. The closest I have come to anything was visiting the mayo clinic. That and of course, lots of prayers. I hope your mom is able to get some help and some answers.


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