For those of us who grew up with mothers who suffered from borderline personality disorder (BPD), our childhoods were often painful and anguished. We found ourselves living in a world that was contradictory and confusing ; it is likely that we suffered chronic anxiety as we did not know how our mother would react or behave from one moment to the next.
Due to our mother’s instability, it is likely that we started off life with an insecure emotional attachment to her, and, throughout our childhood, it is likely that the mother with borderline personality disorder was inconsistent, unpredictable (expressing affection one minute but rage the next), inappropriately intense and emotionally controlling.
She may, too, have been deeply verbally hostile, expressing hatred and issuing threats. We may have often been told we were not wanted and that she might well abandon us. It may well have felt like living in an emotional prison.
The effects of such a childhood can be devastating ; we can grow up feeling fragmented, confused and, later, develop symptoms of psychological ill-health ourselves, such as impulsiveness, being full of rage and hostility, being sometimes prone to violence, depression and deep anxiety.
We may become in danger of tipping over into psychosis under stress ( particularly in response to rejection and abandonment). We may, too, develop addictions as short term coping mechanisms to deal with our psychological pain. In short, we become at risk of developing borderline personality disorder ourselves.
Borderline personality disorder is diagnosed in women twice as frequently as in men. It has been hypothesized that this could be due to the fact that men with BPD are much more likely to be mis-diagnosed as having anti-social personality disorder and end up in the prison syste (which is often clearly likely to make their condition even worse). It is estimated that, in the USA, there are about 6 million people suffering from BPD, which, in turn, must mean that there are also millions of children living with mothers who have BPD.
Below are some of the most frequent things people who have been brought up with mothers with BPD say about them :
– she is completely unpredictable
– she denies what has happened
– she sees everything in extreme terms (also called ‘black and white’ or ‘all or nothing’ thinking)
– I sometimes find myself hating her
– I am not able to trust her
– she’s always exploding into rage
– she imposes her negative view of the world onto me
– she drives me insane
– she makes me feel terrible about myself
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).