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Tamara
Tamara, Counselor & Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1072
Experience:  20+ yrs Private Practice; Cert. Master Therapist; National Board Certified; APA Board Certified
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I am 18 and female and I am afraid of looking like a women

Customer Question

I am 18 and female and I am afraid of looking like a women and gaining weight.
Eating makes me feel really depressed and guilty and what I ate and how much I ate consumes me for the rest of the day.
I have had phobias of food ever since I was a six and I got lectured by my parents about starving Africa children and threatened to be put in foster care if I didn't eat.
Sometimes I ate my food then I vomited it up or spat it out in the garden when no one was watching since I was very young. I was terrified that I would have allergic reaction to food and die.
Now i am still slightly afraid of that but now I am terrified of contamination and obesity and having woman's body shape.
The other night I couldn't stop crying and panicking because there was blood in the steak and I was at college and I had to be removed from the dining room by college master.
I feel now that I can't eat anything except vegetables all day tomorrow because of my fear looking like a woman. I wear baggy clothes all the time because I don't like showing off my body to people. I don't want a body that is desirable or sexy and I want to lose so much weight that people will be repulsed by my body and not be jealous or find it attractive.
If I walk down the street and someone so much as makes a comment or stares at me i will get really hurt.
I am 5'7 and I wish I was shorter so that I don't stand out so much.
I cut myself (not the wrists) because I don't want people to see that I have this problem. I have self harmed since I was 12 and been depressed since I was about eleven or maybe even younger. I couldn't tell any one in my family they wouldn't want to hear it/don't care and so I have to pretend I am happy.
I eat alone because I am afraid that someone will notice my eating rituals of cutting up food and I feel I need to focus completely on what I am doing with my food so I can't be distracted by other people talking to me while i eat. I am aware that eating alone draws attention to me which I hate.
Ever since I was 13 I have had this fear of being fat and looking like a women. I don't want to be a women and have a women's body shape.
If I eat lots or gain weight I start getting really anxious and depressed and view myself as heavier than everybody around me .
Everyone around me looks thinner then me so I start starving myself because I think I am over weight but I realize it must be all in my mind because my weight remains about the same.
I am trying so hard to over come this obsession/fear of fat and food. I promised I wouldn't starve myself any more but I feel I can't control the urge to starve myself to lose weight.
I feel I will always be really depressed because I hate myself and my body so much. I am consumed by the thought that I would be happier at a certain weight and I believe the reason I am unhappy is because I am not a low enough weight to not have to worry about looking like a women.
I sometimes wish I could die because I hate myself so much.
I realize this obsession is not right and I think I might have a problem that is ruining my life.
How do I overcome this problem?
I am afraid the fears and obsessions with food will wreck my life forever and I can't tell my family. They would be so disappointed in me and don't take me seriously.
I can't go and see a doctor about this because I can't speak about it to anyone without becoming emotional and crying and I am ashamed of this problem so much.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Tamara replied 4 years ago.
Hi. Welcome to JustAnswer. I'm pleased to try to help you today.

I'm so sorry to hear that you are having these problems with your eating and your self-esteem. But I'm really glad that you are taking a step in the direction of getting help. I know you feel horribly embarrassed and ashamed at this point, in so many ways, but you are going to HAVE to see someone for help. It doesn't matter if you cry and get upset - you are in a lot of pain and any mental health professional is going to understand that.

You have an eating disorder, combined with some anxiety and obsessive-compulsive issues. This is not something to blame yourself for, but it also isn't something that you can afford to ignore. Aside from the obvious health problems that you are causing yourself - you are in a tremendous amount of mental pain, and it doesn't have to be that way. Being 18 is so hard. Trust me, I remember. It can be painful, lonely, depressing, etc. - and you are trying to cope with everything the best way you know how. Unfortunately, you just don't have a lot of skills yet at this point in your life. So you are trying to handle everything with what resources you have - but it is just making things worse. If I could tell you just one thing, it would be that this time in your life will pass, and you will feel better. I promise. But you have got to reach out to some healthy resources so you can begin to feel better about yourself and not have to hide in order to feel safe.

Go to the mental health center at your college and get some help. They can refer you to further resources, as well as provide some counseling. I know you don't want to tell your family, and I will respect that, but please reach out to other people and get some help. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Find a good therapist who will work with you based on your resources, and start to work on all this. You can do it. You deserve it.

Best wishes, and please let me know if I can answer any further questions. Tamara
Tamara, Counselor & Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1072
Experience: 20+ yrs Private Practice; Cert. Master Therapist; National Board Certified; APA Board Certified
Tamara and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
How do I get rid of my eating and body image problems?
Expert:  Tamara replied 4 years ago.
Like I just spent a lot of time telling you - you have to get some professional help. You can't just do this by yourself. Get some professional help. Tamara
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Relist: another answer.
another answer
Expert:  Norman M. replied 4 years ago.
I've just read your question, and Tamara's answer, and I don't care if you don't like this - she is right. I respect her judgement and abiliities immensely.

Look - you say "everyone around me looks thinner" - really? Go outside now and look - bet you're wrong!

The botXXXXX XXXXXne is simple - you CANNOT handle it yourself. If you don't deal with it by seeing a professional, it will not get better. It will get worse. You may die. Nice present for your family! Is your fear of getting upset talking to your Doc worth putting them through that Hell?


What the heck is wrong with looking like a woman? Is it because you fear you may attract a man? What is great about THIN anyway - you know, you write like a really ntelligent young lady, who is quite an independent thinker, but pause for a moment.

You are being led by the nose by a society that says that a person's value - especially a woman's value - is determined only by her appearance. How shallow and stupid is that?

One of the most wonderful singers in the world, loved and adored by millions throughout the world, from your own country - I'm thinking of Kiri Te Kanawa - is not exactly a stick insect - but can millions and millions of people have got it so wrong?

Please - now please - realize that you are suffering needlessly, you can be and will be helped if you only reach out and take it. Tears and emotion during a consultation - we see it every day of our working lives, and all itmeans to us is that somebody needs help - so go and get that help. You are unique and valuable human being - allow youself to grow.

Edited by NormanM on 7/23/2010 at 4:12 PM EST
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Yes I do fear of attracting a man and I don't want to. That is the main reason I don't want to be a woman.

Expert:  Norman M. replied 4 years ago.
Now then - do you think we are getting somewhere? I hope so.

To hlp me to help me more, can you tell me why that is - do you fee you are lesbian, perhaps, or what is it?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I don't want to attract women either. I don't want to attract anyone.
Expert:  Norman M. replied 4 years ago.

Thnaks for the reply. What you have told me suggests that you are uncomfortable with the prospects of forming relationships in general, and sexual relationships in particular.

At your age - that is not entirely un common, but you seem to be so afraid that you are going to extreme (and dangerous) lengths to avoid what could be a most fulfilling part of your life.

Now, I,m not going to say that relationships of any kind are always safe and cosy - because they're not. The can be hard to handle and destructive too. However, good relationships - and good sexual relationships are one of the foundations on which a happy and fulfilling life are built. Think of the people you know who are happy, and those who are miserable - who has the best relationships with others?

If you can only get over this fear you life will completely turn around. Totally. A whole new dawn - and no more need to torture yourself. Genuine happiness.

For that reason,
I’m going to suggest that you would benefit greatly from a course of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It is a form of therapy that addresses problems in a direct and targeted way and is brief compared with most other therapies.

CBT is based on the fact that what we think in any given situation generates beliefs about, and reactions to that situation, and also cause the behaviour and feelings which flow from those beliefs and reactions.

These ‘automatic thoughts’ are so fast that generally, we are unaware that we have even had them. We call them ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) for short.

If the pattern of thinking we use, or our beliefs about our situation are even slightly distorted,

the resulting emotions and actions that flow from them can be extremely negative and unhelpful. The object of CBT is to identify these ‘automatic thoughts’ then to re-adjust our thoughts and beliefs so that they are entirely realistic and correspond to the realities of our lives, and that therefore, the resulting emotions, feelings and actions we have will be more useful and helpful.

Cognitive therapists do not usually interpret or seek for unconscious motivations but bring cognitions and beliefs into the current focus of attention and through guided discovery encourage clients to gently re-evaluate their thinking.

Therapy is not seen as something “done to” the client. CBT is not about trying to prove a client wrong and the therapist right, or getting into unhelpful debates. Through collaboration, questioning and re-evaluating their views, clients come to see for themselves that there are alternatives and that they can change.

Clients try things out in between therapy sessions, putting what has been learned into practice, learning how therapy translates into real life improvement.

Please visit this website for much more detailed information on CBT:

http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mentalhealthinfoforall/treatments/cbt.aspx

If you cannot afford to see a therapist, there are good free CBT based self-help resources here:

http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/cbtstep1.htm

IAlso, I’d ;like you to look at this website too:

http://www.something-fishy.org/

I’m sure it would help.

Best wishes, Norman.

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