From a 14 year old girl in the U.S.: All my life i’ve tried to be different people. any sort of charscter or musician or anything that i’ve gotten attatched to, i try to become. it’s a HUGE problem and seems to even affect my thought patterns. there was a character that i tried to become who had anorexia and, though i’ve been struggling with body image issues since i was 8, it seemed to act up and get remarkably bad. this seems to start to affect my reactions to things and the way i think.
it’s concerning me, and i just want to know what mental health issues this could be related to. i’ve sort of lost myself along the way, and it’s caused me a lot of distress. sometimes i’m just like who i want to be, sometimes i can’t seem to conform to how a certain person acts, and sometimes i lose all hope and realize that i’m really no one at all. i’m like a chameleon and it causes me to doubt myself and change my personality daily. i feel like there may be something seriously wrong with me, to be honest. maybe some sort of personality disorder. it causes me so much emotional distress.
i’m professionally diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and adhd by multiple doctors so it may be a side effect of one of those things, but it’s just been such a prominent issue for my entire life. i found a diary entry from when i was 9 and i was even trying to be someone else back then. weirdly enough, i always try to be men. i’m a girl, and i know i’m not trans, but it’s just strange to me. i’d be incredible if you could give me some sort of hint as to what i’m dealing with. thank you so much.
A: You wrote an unusually articulate and thoughtful letter for someone your age. That tells me you are smart and creative. Without talking to you personally, I really can’t tell if there is something “wrong” or if you are an especially imaginative teen who hasn’t yet found an outlet for that creativity.
The good news and bad news is so much information is available about mental illness. Yes, it does help people sort out what they are dealing with. But I often worry about what I see in our culture as a tendency to make normal developmental issues into mental illness. It is normal for someone in the preteen through the teen years to “try on” different ways of being until they find out who they are. It isn’t usual to take it so far as to adopt an eating disorder to fit a character image. however, you indicated you have other issues with body image so it may be that the struggle with eating was more a function of that than the chameleon problem.
Since you have been “professionally diagnosed”, my best suggestion to you is that you go back to whoever made those diagnoses to talk about your concerns. That person knows you and will have the opportunity to ask the kind of questions a trained interviewer can ask to help determine what is going on with you. It will give you peace of mind to have your questions answered.
Meanwhile, I also urge you to stop reading about disorders and instead put your considerable creativity to work. Explore creative writing. Get invovled with a theatre group. You have untapped talents that deserve your attention.
I wish you well.