Afraid To Age

Sonja and Renee
Dr. Phil talks to women who are terrified of aging.

Sonja, 37, admits that she is obsessed with aging. She avoids discussing age so that she won't have to reveal her own, and won't let herself smile because she believes facial expressions cause wrinkles.

Her obsession has her family and friends concerned.

"How do you define success in life?" asks Dr. Phil.

"To achieve my goals," says Sonja. "To be a good person and a good mom."

"But you spend all of your time focused on how you look," says Dr. Phil. "How do you rationalize that? How are your goals a priority if you are obsessed with the way you look?"

"[My goals] have fallen to second [place]," says Sonja.

Dr. Phil shows Sonja and the studio audience side-by-side pictures of Sonja smiling and frowning and asks her which she prefers. To everyone's surprise, she says she prefers seeing herself in the frowning picture because "You can't see my wrinkles in it."

"You look 10 years older in that picture!" exclaims Dr. Phil.

"What are you teaching your daughter with your behavior?" asks Dr. Phil.

"That aging is bad," answers Sonja.

"You are sending her the message that you have to look young to be OK and you are sending a message to your family that says, 'You aren't enough for me to feel beautiful from the inside out.'"

"Do you think your family cares whether you look 27 or 37?" asks Dr. Phil. "Do you think your husband wants to trade you in for two 20s?"

"I hope not," says Sonja.

"I'm 52 and I don't want two 20s," says Dr. Phil. "I have enough trouble keeping up with my wife who's 48!"

Renee is only 36 but is already so terrified of turning 40 that she's started doing everything she can to seem younger " including wearing her 9-year-old daughter's clothes and taking college courses where she has made all of her new friends, who are 19 and 20.

Renee came to Dr. Phil to ask how she can begin to accept aging.

"You're asking me how you can accept this [aging]," says Dr. Phil. "But what choice do you have? Do you want to look the best you can for your age or do you want to be something you're not?"

"I want to be myself," explains Renee. "But I don't know what that is."

"We are touching upon the heart of the problem," says Dr. Phil. "We confuse body image with self-image."

Renee's family says they are embarrassed by her behavior.

"She's not developing friendships with people her own age," says Renee's sister Suzy.

"Renee is in denial about aging," adds Renee's mother, Rachel.

"I want to grow old with Renee," says Renee's husband Jim.

Dr. Phil turns to Renee and explains, "Your family is saying that body image and self-image are different. Are you saying that if something happened to you " if an accident or disease left you with a scar or disfigured " your self-worth would go down? Wouldn't you be the same person? The same loving, devoted wife?"

"Plastic surgery or a new hairstyle will not solve the problem," explains Dr. Phil. "If we made you look like a million bucks but you were a horrible mother, do you think people would say, 'Gee, she's a horrible person, but she sure is cute!'?"

You'll never get happy if you're treating the wrong thing. If you took the time that you spend grooming and spent it getting in touch with your true self, don't you think you'd be in a different place?"