I'm Alicia - I'm a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist. I'm happy to help you with your question today.
I commend you for reaching out for help regarding some of these issues, and it already seems that, if you decide to do so, you'd be a very good candidate for therapy because you have a lot of insight. Because of the tumultuous environment in which you grew up, and with so much of it focused on verbal abuse and, at best, XXXXX XXXXX relationship with the significant women in your life, it makes sense, on a certain level, that you'd experience feelings of shyness and a lack of trust around women. You did not exactly have the greatest role models, when it comes to women, when you were growing up, so feeling this way would not be so strange.
As far as the other issues you mentioned, such as feeling depressed and anxious, from what you're saying, they do not seem to be affecting you on a severe level - in other words, I get the sense that you can function in everyday life (you're not feeling like staying in bed all day, no appetite changes, sleep problems, feeling low all the time, etc), but it does sound like you might have some moderate depressive and anxiety symptoms. While I cannot provide a diagnosis here without meeting you in person, it does sound like you would benefit from therapy. I don't think medication is necessary, if that is what you were asking based on your comment about exercise being as effective as certain medications (this is true - exercise promotes the production of certain neurotransmitters and chemicals, like endorphins, serotonin and dopamine - that have an antidepressant effect). I would suggest that you do stay active, engage in moderate intensity exercise, practice stress
management techniques (such as yoga, meditation
, walking in nature, talking to friends - what's effective is different for everyone so you have to find what works for you) and seeking counseling. You're right when you say that people grow through their interpersonal relationships, and that's an important way that therapy can help you - if you have the right therapist and are able to make a good connection, then you can probably work through most of the issues you mentioned.
As far as what type of therapy is best, XXXXX XXXXX a few suggestions I can provide you with here. One is psychodynamic
psychotherapy - so the type of therapy most people think of when they think of "therapy". You can read more about it here if you'd like some more information on the ins and outs of how it works:
Another type of therapy, known as interpersonal therapy, might also be beneficial to you, especially in light of the depressive symptoms and the issues you feel you have with women (as this type of treatment is mostly used on people with depression and for those who have interpersonal difficulties, as the name suggests.)
If you would like more in-depth information about this type of treatment to see if it appeals to you, you might want to read this article:
If you're interested in finding a therapist, you can also use this website to search based on your preferred treatment modality.
As far as whether your counselor should be male or female, it might not make such a difference, and it all depends on how comfortable you feel with the individual. You might think that, since a lot of the issues you mention, stem from women, then a woman therapist would be preferable. You should interview the therapist when you call to make an appointment, and see what your gut feeling is during your first intake appointment. A lot of men feel more comfortable talking to a woman therapist, so just listen to your gut and see what you prefer.
I wish you luck, and I hope this information has been helpful. Please let me know if you have any additional questions I can help you with.