Why don’t you get treatment for that?

Content note: Healthcare discrimination; involuntary treatment; general medical stuff.

The idea that someone is weak or irresponsible, or that they deserve to have medical or other related problems, because they decide not to get medical treatment is a great big bucket of nope.  Here’s a number of valid reasons for why people might not seek treatment, and why not to shame people over it:

Lack of money.  Because at least in the U.S., medical treatment is still not free for the most part.  It’s not even necessarily affordable for a lot of reasons, including the cost of insurance premiums, high deductibles that often come with more affordable health care plans, lack of coverage for certain forms of treatment, and specialists who refuse to take (a particular type of) insurance.

Circumstances that make taking the time or effort to get medical treatment unfeasible, which often comes down to a lack of money.  This includes having a job that doesn’t allow a person to take sick leave; not having access to childcare; and not having access to transportation that would get a person to a facility that provides the sort of treatment they need.

Medical anxiety, including phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder.  There may be some things that are not serious or urgent enough to be worth endangering a person’s mental health over if certain people, devices, procedures or environments are triggers for them.  This applies especially in cases where violations of someone’s boundaries or bodily autonomy in a medical context is the source of their anxiety.

Experiencing disrespectful treatment or discrimination in medical contexts.  Doctors and therapists can be and frequently are hostile to people who belong to certain groups, including but not limited to transgender people, fat people, asexual people, people with disabilities and women.  People may also have (repeatedly) experienced poor treatment in specific medical situations, such as having doctors refuse to alter a procedure to be less painful or anxiety-inducing because it’s inconvenient, or being dismissed as drug seeking when trying to get medication.

Having reason to believe that they will be subject to coercive treatment or otherwise lose control over their circumstances if they seek out care.  This especially applies to people with psychiatric disabilities, who risk being institutionalized if they seek out care during a mental health crisis.  Another example is how some states still have laws allowing parents to lose custody of their children if they have a (certain kind of) disability, which may be a deterrent to getting diagnosed or otherwise identified as having a certain condition.

Knowing through research or experience that the recommended, or only, treatments available are ineffective or unfeasible.  There’s a lot of reasons for why this could be, including having atypical reactions to medication or having another condition that makes a certain form of treatment dangerous or impossible.  Unfortunately, doctors aren’t always open to hearing this.  In some cases, there just aren’t any options (yet), or at least any that have a high likelihood of success.

Not experiencing the “problem” as a problem at all when it’s just something that’s unusual or stigmatized enough that it makes other people uncomfortable.  For instance, a person can have an unusual appearance but not want plastic surgery, or engage in unusual but harmless behavior such as tics or stimming* that they don’t want to take medication or undergo therapy for.

Having a low pain tolerance.  The necessity of a certain procedure or treatment regimen might or might not be worth it to a given person relative to the discomfort it might cause them, and they’re in the best position to do that cost-benefit analysis.  Which leads me to the last point, which is…

It’s a person’s own goddamned body and brain (and none of your business).  The only one who really knows what a person needs or can handle is that person themselves. In the end, they’ll be the one most affected by their decisions, for better or for worse.

I’m sure there’s reasons I’ve left out here.  There’s probably a similar list of reasons for seeking out medical care that other people don’t approve of or believe is necessary, which would include the last point on this list.  In either case, the overall point is the same: A person’s medical decisions are their own to make, and shame is not recognized as an effective form of treatment for any medical condition.

* Stimming comes from the term “self-stimulating behaviors,” which refers to things that autistic people do to seek or regulate sensory input.  This includes but is not limited to flapping one’s hands, rocking back and forth, making certain sounds and chewing on things.

6 thoughts on “Why don’t you get treatment for that?

  1. Also people of color, people who speak non- standard English, and people with limited English proficiency should be included in any list of marginalized groups that experience significant health disparities often caused by shitty oppressive behavior and policies.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Melissa Fields, Autist and commented:
    I posted an earlier article about this on my FB timeline. I am fearful of having to go to medical appointments, the ER, and the hospital, because i am Autistic, because of my lymphedema, and because i happen to be a large plus-size person. I have been scolded and fat-shamed, and treated as less-than. I don’t like the examination boxes they STILL have in so many doctor’s offices that are so narrow, and impossible for me to get up on. I don’t like the rude office workers in the front waiting room. I hate the clinic i have to go to. My own doctor has scolded me harshly in the past. And i have never been known to be able to take harsh blunt scoldings and harsh blunt criticisms!!


  3. there’s another really big one: tried to get help but flat out was refused

    I have a pretty rare condition, mitochondrial disease, even though I live in the state with the most doctors for it, there are only 2 hospitals and like 5 doctors that treat it. They are all full so I am treating the symptoms through non-specialized doctors, but even then I am hitting road blocks because a lot of those doctors will just say “you are too complicated” and refuse care.

    I don’t think people are even aware this is a thing that happens, but at least a third of the doctors I try turn me away at the door. Refuse to even try. Another good chunk last maybe 3 visits then give up. A lot of the remaining ones who will actually see me only partially treat me. I’ll go in for one symptom and they will just brush it off and come up with something else to focus on (which is often something like pain-free GERD or nail fungus, which is pretty annoying if you came in for dysautonomia making it so you can’t get out of bed).

    So currently, I spend probably at least 50% of my life reading about my illness, researching treatment options, looking for new doctors etc. But I am not actually being treated right now because the only one who is interested in doing the work is me. But it still falls back on me like it’s my fault for not trying hard enough even though I am mostly existing in a bunch of scrapped together home remedies I had to invent myself or over the counter stuff because I can’t run my own test, give myself treatments, or prescribe my own meds.

    I don’t WANT to rely on homeopathic bullshit but if my weed dealer is more accommodating in finding treatment that works for me then any of my actual doctors what are you supposed to do.


    1. Really good point, though I’m sorry that you experienced it enough to bring it up.

      It’s actually happened to me too — both because of having a rare condition a doctor was unfamiliar with and because a couple doctors didn’t know how to work with clients with sensory processing disorder and PTSD, so they refused to work with me at all.


  4. I know this is an old post, but there’s another possibility: the treatment you’re suggesting is evil con artist quackery.

    This is a *huge* issue with any medical condition more common in women than in men, or in children who (the assumption goes) are cared for by women. The medical profession for years has treated these conditions as fake, exaggerated, made up for attention, or simply “all in your little subhuman dim feeeemale head” until they’re forced to admit otherwise. (This has in the past included conditions ranging from ovarian cancer to multiple sclerosis to peanut allergy; now we’re on CFS/ME and IBS. Forty years ago a woman experiencing a heart attack was more likely to be referred to a psychologist than a cardiologist; twenty years ago five out of every six suspicions of Munchausen’s turned out to be false.)

    Quack medicine, that vast, never-ending cesspool of malicious, greedy, sociopathic con artists, will jump into that void left by misogynistic medical over-skepticism and will advertise “miraculous natural cures”, and friends and family members will nag and nag and nag and berate and cajole the sick into “just tryyyyyyyyying” this crap. Unfortunately these supposed “miraculous natural cures” are often a combination of snake oil, sawdust, and carcinogenic Chinese horse tranquilizers, and can do immense harm.


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