The Arrested Development star opened up about her decision to come out in 2005 on The Conversation With Amanda De Cadenet, saying she considered it "strange" to be gay at the time, mostly because she didn't know of any other high profile, notable lesbians that were "out" at the time.
"I just didn't want to be a lesbian," de Rossi said. "I'd never met one for a start and I just thought they were strange and that they hated men and they were very serious and I had these ridiculous images in my head and there were no out celebrities or politicians or anybody that I could look to and go, 'Oh, I could be like that.' There was nobody that I could say, 'I could date her and I want to be like her.' I just kind of thought I don't want to live like this. I don't have to, I don't need to, I just shut down the emotional life.''
The 40-year-old actress said things got "really bad" for her while she was working on Ally McBeal and she "had to hide her sexuality."
"I felt very scrutinized for just being a woman and an actress playing this kind of sexy role, because I didn't really feel like that. It's not really my personality to want to be the sexiest girl in the room," de Rossi said.
"I didn't like people thinking of me as a sexual being, and I was just terrified that people would know that I was gay."
De Rossi said she didn't date at all at the time while she was hiding her sexuality, and had a plan to start dating once she had saved enough money to live a more private life.
The actress said her eating disorder at that time took the place of her dating life.
"The thing that kept me company was my eating disorder," she went on. "It was like a lover, it was like somebody who never ever left me. Like a thought that would always keep me excited, interested and focused. It's adrenaline."
De Rossi said she made the decision to take control over her life, and coming out helped her do just that.
"For me being honest about who I was, coming out, being gay, starting to day, that was a huge turning point for me, because I realized without changing my life, there was no point in changing the way that I ate."
DeGeneres and de Rossi tied the knot in 2008, after meeting backstage at an awards show in 2004.