How Mothers "Spread" Borderline Personality Disorder to Children/ Show Me a Patient with BPD and I Will Show You a Patient Whose Mother Had BPD

Borderline Personality Disorder is a Serious Mental Disorder and It Is Spread From Mother to Child

Multigenerational Transmission of BPD from Mothers to their Children

Since women in clinical settings with diagnosis of BPD comprise an estimated 75% of patient population, it is roughly estimated that over 6 million women in the United States are diagnosed with the disorder (Friedel, 2004). Stepp and others (2012) have recently begun to focus on mothers with BPD in order to better understand the impact of generationally transmitted components within the etiology of the disorder. Additionally, only sparse research has been undertaken and therefore few manualized efforts exist to guide the efforts of clinical professionals in developing targeted interventions for the high-risk population of children being raised by mothers with BPD (Skodol & Bender, 2003; Stepp et al., 2012).

In the theoretical model, a child who is genetically vulnerable to the disorder and its related psychopathology is at increased risk from the invalidating experiences transacted within the child-parent relationship (Bandelow et al., 2005). This is especially true when the child is highly emotionally reactive (Krause, Mendelson, & Lynch, 2003). Conversely, children who have a lower level of emotionally reactivity may not have as difficult a time soliciting a positive response from caregivers, which in turn moderates their internalizing and externalizing symptoms with less emotional dysregulation (Bandelow et al., 2005). Thus, acceptance and warmth from caregivers can mitigate accumulative damage to children from neglect, abuse, and conflict otherwise present in the social environment (Stepp et al., 2012).

Since nothing can be done to change the particular genetic vulnerabilities of children who are born to mothers with BPD, future researchers would be prudent to concentrate on the modification of parenting practices in order to intervene environmentally (Herr, Hammen, & Brennan, 2008). Hobson and colleagues (2009), researching the particular challenges of parents with BPD, find a dysfunctional display in the inter-relatedness of these patients with psychotherapists. The moment-to-moment interactions between patient and therapist may be compared to patients with dysthymia, due to intense and often heated exchanges coupled with idealizing and devaluing “flip-flopping” (Conroy et al., 2009). The ramifications of similar patterns of interacting carrying over into the patient’s exchanges with offspring may have far-reaching and negative, social-emotional consequences developmentally (Stepp et al., 2012).

Unresolved trauma from the mother’s childhood tends to lead to a disorganized and unresolved attachment style that causes her parenting style to fluctuate unsteadily between hostile and passive (Paulson & Lejuez, 2006). Bio-social theorists (Linehan, 1993) are finding evidence that when the patient oscillates between hostile control and passive devaluation it has a deleterious effect on the infants’ ability to self regulate (Stepp et al., 2012). Furthermore, these mothers with BPD tend to model the very strategies their own parents used, thereby replicating the same invalidating environments for their children (Stepp et al., 2012). This is indicative of a generational “handing-down” of a dysfunctional parenting template that perpetuates the disorder trans-generationally (Stepp et al., 2012).

Recent studies by Fonagy & Luyten (2012) and Schacht, Hammond, Marks, Wood, & Conroy (2012) have attempted to address epidemiological concerns about the heritability of BPD by examining comorbid features of maternal psychopathology and resultant psychosocial outcomes on their offspring. According to Stepp, Whalen, Pilkonios, Hipwell, & Levine (2012), the attentiveness of mothers with BPD was observed during free-play interactions with their infants, and compared with the results of the same interactions between healthy control mothers and their infants. The data collected suggested that infants of the mothers with BPD were less attentive and less interested in interacting with their mothers during the free play than were the infants of the healthy control mothers.

One emerging theory from the research is that this dynamic leads to avoidant interaction patterns between mothers with BPD and their offspring. Further research suggests that gaze aversion, “dazed looks” (Hobson et al., 2005; Stepp et al., 2012), and less overall responsiveness occurs in infants whose mothers have BPD, compared with infants of mothers with no evidence of psychopathology (Johnson et al, 2006). Over time the infants of the mothers with psychiatric disorders showed increasing negative affect, more emotional dysregulation, and less satisfaction when reengaged with their mothers (Whalen, Dahl, & Silk, 2009). By the time these same infants were 12 months old, 80% of them (Hobson et al., 2005) had patterned behavior consistent with disorganized attachment style, as well as poor mood toward strangers (Stepp et al., 2012).

Negative psychosocial consequential outcomes may include the children of mothers with BPD exhibiting poorer emotional regulation (Steinberg & Morris, 2001), increased fear of abandonment (Bandelow et al., 2005), and more negative parent-child relational expectations. These outcomes, in turn, may engender a shameful and incongruent sense of self, leading to disturbances in identity formation (Conroy et al., 2009; Newman et al., 2007). Children with a shameful and incongruent sense of self are more likely to engage in self injurious behavior and have dissociative symptoms, both of which are correlates of BPD (Hobson et al., 2005). Similarly, childhood internalizing and externalizing disorders have been shown to occur in patients with early deficits in their ability to self regulate (Eisenberg et al., 2001; Ogawa et al., 1997; Stepp et al., 2012; Suveg, Hoffman, Zeman, & Thomassin, 2009; Yates, 2004).

Compared with children from healthy control mothers, school aged-adolescent children of mothers with BPD are at an increased risk of disruptive behavioral disorders and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These particular children are 6.8 times more likely than controls from healthy mothers to have depressive symptoms (Ghassabian, Herba, Roza, Govaert, Schenk, Jaddoe, & Tiemeier, 2012). Moreover, among this group are higher reported incidences of (Stepp et al., 2012) (1) cognitive and interpersonal vulnerability, (2) negative attributional style, (3) dysfunctional attitudinal behavior, (4) ruminative responsive style, (5) self-critical attitude, (6) insecure style of attachment, and (7) increased reassurance seeking behavior. Further, increased rates of psychiatric disorders are seen in children whose mothers have been diagnosed with BPD when compared with children of control mothers (Stepp et al., 2012). Global ratings of impairment are higher for the children from mothers with BPD. Even when adjusted for contributing factors such as childhood trauma, data found by Hobson and colleagues (2005) shows that maternal BPD continued to be a compelling factor correlating to poor outcomes in offspring. Within this same group of offspring of mothers with BPD, higher rates of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem were observed than in children from healthy controls (Hobson et al., 2005). Finally, studying the effects of maternal BPD on 15-year old adolescents, Stepp and others (2012) observed lower social self-perception, increased fearful attachment styles, more chronic stress, and maternal hostility within the mother-adolescent dyad.

Bandelow et al (2005) and Bornovalova et al (2006) theorize that parental criticism and invalidation of their children’s emotions causes the transmission and development of BPD. An invalidating home environment is associated with early-childhood social and emotional difficulties, as well as psychological distress later in adulthood (Bandelow et al., 2005; Bornovalova, et al., 2006). It may be that the mother invalidates the child due to her own inaccurate perception of her child’s emotional state. A BPD-afflicted mother who struggles to properly understand and manage her own feelings and emotions, and who herself has a history of parental invalidation from her early childhood, may lack the tools to model strategies for emotional socialization (Bandelow et al., 2005; Bornovalova, et al., 2006). Rather, such a mother would model ineffective ways of coping and managing stressful emotions, possibly even leading to neglect and abuse (Bandelow et al., 2005; Bornovalova, et al., 2006). When caregivers invalidate children’s emotional responses during early childhood, often the child learns to deny his own natural responses, disrupting the development of emotional regulatory and processing systems (Bandelow et al., 2005; Bornovalova, et al., 2006).  Consequently, children of mothers with BPD -- who repeat the invalidating atmosphere of their own early childhoods -- grow up emotionally compromised systemically, and are likely to repeat the transgenerational pattern themselves (Bandelow et al., 2005; Bornovalova, et al., 2006). Treatment for children negatively impacted by maternal BPD may thwart the mechanisms of early-childhood transmission of the disorder, as well as the transgenerational repetition (Krause, et al., 2003; Stepp et al., 2012).

The following are commonalities in parenting behaviors that typify mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder: (1) they use insensitive forms of communication; (2) are critical and intrusive; (3) use frightening comments and behavioral displays (Hobson et al., 2009); (3) demonstrate role confusion with offspring (Feldman et al., 1995); (4) inappropriately encourage offspring to adopt the parental role (Feldman et al., 1995); (5) put offspring in the role of “friend” or “confidant” (Feldman et al., 1995); (6) report high levels of distress as parents; (Macfie, Fitzpatrick, Rivas, & Cox, 2008); and (7) may turn abusive out of frustration and become despondent (Hobson et al., 2009; Stepp et al., 2012).

The role-reversal becomes most apparent during the toddler period for children whose mothers have the disorder (Macfie, Fitzpatrick, Rivas, & Cox, 2008). Hobson et al (2009) theorize that the mother with BPD discourages the development of autonomy in her toddler in order to have her own needs met through an enmeshed closeness. Because such mothers fear abandonment, they are reluctant for the toddler to achieve independence (Stepp et al., 2012). Thus, the mother encourages the toddler to be more adult-like, grooming him in the role of confidant, peer, or even parent. In turn, this leads to disorganized attachment within the mother-child dyad (Stepp et al., 2012).

Stepp et al (2012) compared psychiatrically healthy mother-child dyads with dyads of mothers with BPD and their infants, and found differences in parenting. For example, patients reported feeling less satisfied, less competent, and more distressed with their abilities to parent properly than the controls did (Stepp et al., 2012). Also, the mothers with BPD displayed less sensitivity and used fewer opportunities to structure their interactions with their infants than the controls demonstrated (Johnson et al., 2006). Eisenberg et al (1996) and Lunkenheimer, Shields & Cortina (2007) believe that the neglect and emotional under-involvement in the parent-child dyad displayed by caregivers with BPD may lead to feelings of emotional invalidation in their children, thereby increasing the risk to those children of developing BPD, themselves. Moreover, even after controlling for contributing factors such as infant irritability, Feldman et al (1995) found that personality disordered caregivers reserve less time for recommended infant care practices during at-home assessments. Further, data from research by Feldman and colleagues (1995) indicates that children aged 4 -18 are oftentimes exposed to frequent and sudden environmental instabilities such as maternal suicidal ideation, geographic changes to housing and school, and even removal by agencies from the family home (Feldman et al., 1995; Stepp et al., 2012).

One complex issue researchers face when creating controlled trials to observe the parenting practices of mothers with BPD is that this group must be carefully disentangled from mothers with other forms of psychopathology instead of, or in addition to BPD (Bezirganian et al., 1993). In solving this issue, researchers selected mothers by the common discordant BPD parenting strategies characterized by “over-involved/intrusive” behaviors and “hostile control/coldness” (Whalen, Dahl, & Silk, 2009).  In this way, researchers are able to use select criteria for mothers with BPD, versus mothers with BPD and confounding variables in which data becomes difficult to extrapolate and validate (Johnson et al., 2006; Stepp et al., 2012).

When parents are psychiatrically healthy their “emotion related parenting practices” enable children to “emotionally socialize” through proper “emotional modeling” (Bezirganian et al., 1993). By contrast, mothers with a diagnosis of BPD are thought to administer a punishing disciplinary response when their children display strong emotions (Bezirganian et al., 1993). Also, these mothers use negative parenting behaviors that include the following: (1) criticizing (Eisenberg et al., 1996), (2) mocking (Eisenberg et al., 1996), and (3) punishing emotional expression of the child based on inaccurate perceptions about the child’s emotional state (Hobson et al., 2005; Stepp et al., 2012). Children may in turn extinguish, suppress, or conceal their emotions through “aggressive emotion regulation strategies” (Ogawa et al., 1997; Yates, 2004). Such children are left without the ability to effectively manage their own emotions through appropriate models of adaptive strategies (Steinberg & Morris, 2001). Further, they will likely emulate poor parenting strategies later in life with their own children (Stepp et al., 2012).

Mothers with BPD are less likely to monitor or supervise their children (Clark, Kirisci, Mezzich, & Chung, 2008; Hoeve et al., 2007), which increases the likelihood of childhood injuries and delinquent behavior persisting into young adulthood (Petrass, Blitvich, & Finch, 2009). Moreover, these mothers frequently vacillate from harshly punishing their children to being overly permissive and failing to set limits or provide proper guidance (Hobson et al., 2005). Interventions aimed at teaching mothers with BPD to promote self-efficacy in their children by maintaining schedules and providing routines with structure have been shown to effectively decrease distress in their children (Lunkenheimer, Sheilds, & Cortina, 2007). Furthermore, mothers who learn to decrease their withdrawing and ignoring behaviors while developing a nurturing and stable environment for their offspring may decrease children’s risk of developing BPD or other psychiatric symptoms (Murphy, et al., 2009; Stepp et al., 2012).

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Fifi Calderón June 12, 2013 at 05:54 PM
Interesting article. I have a question. I think my ex-husband was BPD un-diagnosticated, and we had a daughter who has a child. How can I know how affected she could be because I don't want to pass this to my grandson. She is unstable in her relations, and her father protagonized anger scenes with and in front of her. I think it harm her. I left him after 25 years, and didn't imagine that he had a disorder. The day by day with him was very difficult. I had to walk on eggshells all time.
scout2020 June 23, 2013 at 11:08 AM
Thank you for this article. I would say one of the most therapeutic moments in my life was my first therapist, who told me that I wasn't crazy. Growing up with a mother who I believe was BPD, despite her erratic hostile and angry behavior mixed in with a beautiful happy saint, I grew up being and treated like i was "crazy" I punished myself and felt horrible for things that I had "done." Now as an adult, I have difficult being treated as an adult, because she treats me still as a child. Either like shit, or super sweetly. I have developed character traits such as "little girl syndrome " in which i act submissive and have great difficulty asserting myself. Now as an adult, I find the gaslighting to be exhausting. My husband (who has secure attachment totally) and I are constantly wrong and she is somehow always right. She loves to control me and knows she can with her hostile threats. I don't want to let her go because then she says sweetly "I only have your best intetions". It's almost comedic how she changes from phone call to phone call. An angry witch in one call and a sweet woman saying she "misses me." I wish more than anything I had a mom who was stable. This has made my life difficult and I will be in therapy for years and years to come. Just wanted to share. I don't know if i will ever be able to articulate how difficult it is to have a parent who is so wildly unpredictable and also controlling (going through all my stuff) it is draining. One day i will have to say enough is enough, but it is difficult when my whole life i have been submissive.
scout2020 June 23, 2013 at 11:12 AM
Surprisingly I think I don't have BPD. I have great insight and am very therapeutically minded. I wonder if it was because of my kind (underlying submissive) personality that as a child I was invited to many childrens homes and had many friends to be my secure bases. Obviously my personality style is not working to my advantage as an adult, but I had many positive camp, friends, teacher experiences as a child. My father was always behind on his computer and I understand now that i have read more about bpd why that is
Dr. Desiree Jabin June 30, 2013 at 06:24 PM
Dear Scout, I posted a reply to you on the boards at Patch a few days ago. Please take the time to find it-- the new format of the paper has made blogging from my laptop tricky. Best of luck and thanks for writing in! Sincerely, Dr Jabin.
Dr. Desiree Jabin June 30, 2013 at 06:28 PM
Dear Fifi, blogging has become difficult for me now that Patch changed its format. I did reply to you on the boards a few days ago because I was unable to reply to you here. Please look for my response there and thank you for taking the time to write in to me. Sincerely, Dr. Jabin.
Brian Victor July 02, 2013 at 05:58 PM
Hello. I just wanted to sincerely thank you for not only the article, but also for the thoughtful responses to all of the comments here. I am a father of two (ages 5 and 7) currently divorcing (and in a custody battle with) a woman who exhibits many BPD traits (although not formally diagnosed). If you could provide what you believe to be the most important things I can do to limit the damage to my children from their exposure to their mother's disorder, it would be much appreciated. Both children attend play therapy, and my 5-year old daughter seems to be working through issues more successfully than my son, in that she no longer seems 'afraid' of her feelings, and is making great strides as far as emotional regulation. My son, though, I fear has borne the brunt of her disorder, and has been subjected to expectations that he validate her superiority as a mother. Aside from being the most stable, loving, and consistent father I can be, I have been trying to provide avenues for my son to establish his own identity, and sense of self worth outside of the 'blog' his mother keeps of his activities (heart cards and crafts 300 days a year, etc). I believe that encouraging, and supporting an independent social and athletic life outside of his role of 'mother glorification' is very important. Thoughts on this? Are there other fundamental goals I should have to maximize his chances of escaping inheriting pathology? Thanks
Kim Goodchild July 05, 2013 at 02:48 AM
HI. I have BPD. my youngest has emotional, behavioural and social problems. He has a full statement at school here in england for this. I have messed him up havnt I?
Brian Victor July 05, 2013 at 01:27 PM
Kim, I'm in IT, so you should probably take my advice with the same skepticism that you'd take advice about network configuration from a psychologist. That said, your saying "I have really messed him up" seems scary to me because it sounds like you're blaming yourself and responding to the situation in a way that probably doesn't have much of a chance of making things better for anyone. First off, nobody is saying that someone with BPD isn't doing the best that they can do. The consensus, as far as I can tell, is that their internal struggles are very real, and lead to sub-optimal responses and processing in their day-to-day lives. By recognizing when the unhealthy responses are taking hold, though, a BPD sufferer can learn to mitigate them. I have read that treatment techniques have progressed such that people willing to seek treatment have an excellent chance of no longer exhibiting BPD symptoms after not too much time. I would say, without knowing anything else, that you should do whatever it takes to get both you and your son into competent psychological treatment on a regular basis, and that the situation is not as hopeless as you are probably thinking.
Dr. Desiree Jabin July 05, 2013 at 02:32 PM
Dear Kim, You are obviously a concerned and loving mother. This is great news! Children are resilient and it is not too likely that you "messed your son up." In fact , I would guess it is just the opposite. Most cases of BPD are diagnosed in females and not males. One very strong indicator of the disorder seems to be early childhood trauma---usually sexual abuse that is chronic and where the parents don't intervene or support the child. Thanks for writing in from England, and let me know if you have any more questions I may be able to answer. Sincerely, Dr. Jabin.
Kim Goodchild July 05, 2013 at 03:18 PM
thankyou for replying... i was quite bad at one point and my daughter looked after my son, i do think i have effected him a bit, but having this kind of thinking is making me sure i get better. kim
Dr. Desiree Jabin July 05, 2013 at 07:43 PM
Dear Brian ,I appreciate you reading my blog and writing in, thank you. If your soon to be ex does not have a formal diagnosis for BPD we must assume she doesn't have the disorder. Instead, we can acknowledge some of the traits she appears to share in common with sufferers. Without an official diagnosis we can only hypothesize about the genetic or biological transmission of such severe mental illness to your children. The facts we do have are as follows: (1) children of divorce are likely to suffer, and (2) environmental stressors may be working on your children. I am pleased to learn that you are a caring and present father ---this alone bodes very well for them, indeed. As long as your ex does not harm or threaten to harm the children, there is little you can do to minimize her "efforts." Consider this, you have the ability to reframe what she does to them in a way that encourages their compassion towards her. The stress divorce causes may exasperate any instability she already may have. At the end of the day kids just want to know they are loved and they are safe. When your kids are adults and you ask them to describe when they felt safe as kids they will hopefully be able to give you a lot of examples---if so, good job dad. Sincerely, Dr. Jabin.
Eric Casalini August 02, 2013 at 11:22 AM
Thank you this post. Very illuminating. I believe my wife was raised by an undiagnosed BPD mother and I am looking for information regarding the relationship patterns of a child of BPD mothers in adulthood. Can you steer me in the right direction?
Brian Victor August 02, 2013 at 11:38 AM
Eric, I thought the book "Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship" by Christine Lawson was good.
Dr. Desiree Jabin August 02, 2013 at 05:35 PM
Dear Eric, I agree with Brian's recommendation. Dr. Lawson is a wonderful colleague of mine, and accomplished author to boot. Thank you both for writing in. Sincerely, Dr. Jabin.
Rory Rafter August 06, 2013 at 11:08 PM
I am a son with a bpd mother I accidentally discovered her disorder from a law and order episode. Even now at my age of 43 she dismisses anything I say And mocks everything and Everyone. Her attitude towards me is always accusatory and Belittling, even in front of others. I've grown tired of her presence And avoid her. She believes she Was a great mother but has left My brother and I emotionally Damaged individuals. I have raised the issue of her mental State with my father but he's a Passive enabler to her and can't See her crazy behavior. My wife and I have no children yet ,she's Younger than me, I just don't want her to be an influence to Another generation.i feel really Cheated that I had a robot like Person for a mother who was Loveless and emotionally Unavailable. It's an unspoken topic in the family( mental illness) Her brother is bipolar . My mothers mother was probably bpd But in undiagnosed
Dr. Desiree Jabin August 07, 2013 at 06:16 PM
Dear Rory, I am so sorry to hear how unhappy your childhood was and how the wreckage from it bleeds into your adulthood. Sometimes parents teach children how not to turn out by role modeling less than stellar "ways of being." Some blessings come in disguises. In other words, I hope you chose your wife well and that you can experience the love you should have been shown as a child through the birth and raising of your own children. Thank you so much for sharing a piece of yourself with me and other readers and I wish you the very best life has to offer. Also, good job of cutting toxic people out of your life and creating the life you want to have. Sincerely, Dr. Jabin
Anonymous Dad August 23, 2013 at 09:49 PM
I believe very strongly that my son's mother suffers from bpd, as does her mother. I understand that people with these emotional dysregulation issues need a certain kind of validating communication. My problem is that she regularly takes me into court on highly egregious and trumped up charges. She constantly seeks more custody, in a way that i believe is her acting out of a need to get a reaction from me. To complicate things further our son is mildly autistic. I am the sole provider of his treatment and therapy and the only parent actively addressing his reality. On another grey note, our son shares a genetic deletion that has been detected in his mom. I wonder if his autism is related to her bpd?? Also, i wonder how I can protect our son, as well as my rights with someone who truly works endlessly to blur our boundaries?? I hate to sound that way, as i understand the condition should be met with compassion. Im just truly out of ideas, and its been seven years of this!
Dr. Desiree Jabin August 25, 2013 at 11:38 PM
Dear Anonymous Dad, I am so sorry that you are going through such drama and agony. I can tell you that I totally can relate 100 percent. I experinced it as a stepmother, when I worked as a family law advocate and presently in my private practice. You must get a good lawyer. It is priority number one! Autism is still so enigmatic that I can only speculate with you, but I don't have the research data to back it up---mostly because even if the research exists I have never looked into it. The definition of BPD is changing as is the definition of Autism with the DSM-5. I think the most important thing is to document her antics and be ready to really go on the offensive in court to shut her down. As I am writing this I am very unhappy with several of my clients who behave like your ex as well as other clients of mine who are victimized--like you. Your post really resonates with me right now on so many levels. Forget trying to deal rationally with her-- lawyer up and protect your son. Sincerely, Dr. Jabin
Desert Sand September 27, 2013 at 08:53 AM
Dear Dr. Jabin, Thank you so much for this article. I am 46 and have had rollercoaster emotions for several years. My mother has a masters degree in clinical social work and I grew up with her invalidating my feelings. I believed her when she would tell me I was "crazy" or otherwise mocked me. She was an educated woman so she must be right, was what I told myself. It wasn't until I stumbled across as article last night which labled her actions as "invalidating." I then discovered that what I have "may be" BPD although no one has ever diagnosed me. I've been counceled by two cognitive therapists but didn't feel that I got much help. After reading your article, it seems as if my mother has BPD. So much of what you wrote about fits her. Anyway, I have a wonderful husband and 4 great children. I am so very worried now that I may be inadvertently not treating them as I should. Although I am in NO way treating them as my mother treated me, I do often have to disconnect from everyone emotionally. I have a lot of stress in my life and I don't think that I handle it as well as others so I have to pull away from everyone emotionally just to recharge. I have a tendency to absorb everyone else's emotions. I can't really articulate it as well as I want to, it's hard to explain. But, sometimes my kids and husband tell me that I'm "Not present." I love all of them but I feel like I have nothing left for me. Does that sound selfish? My kids even sleep with me so they are with me all the time. Anyway, I'm ranting. I really don't want to be the mother that I have to my children. I feel cheated that I don't have an Elder all-knowing woman in my life to run to for advice or comfort. And I don't want my children to be on emotional rollercoasters. I feel "damaged."
Dr. Desiree Jabin September 28, 2013 at 09:57 AM
Dear Desert Sand, Thank you for writing and for venting. You are not selfish--you are the opposite, actually. You are a traumatized woman who wants the best for her children. I am proud of your ability to reach out and seek help. You are a loving and good mother. Please remember this: you don't have to be the best mother--seek only to be "a good enough mother." That is the proper place for the bar--please don't try raising it. All good parents and people are aware of their faults--the better people, like you try to improve and grow.Your life experiences have left you unable to have a "good enough" role model. You are more sensitive than those around you--that is why you shut off emotionally. Emotions are too hard to process, interpret. You are not damaged but your brain is rewired neurologically by trauma---Seek out a DBT trained thetapist. Your life will become more manageable. Sincerely, Dr. Jabin
Desert Sand September 28, 2013 at 12:43 PM
Dear Dr. Jabin, Thank you for your time. I've joined a DBT group on Facebook and am looking for a therapist who can speak with me via Skype as I live in the middle-east.
Dr. Desiree Jabin September 30, 2013 at 03:11 PM
Dear Desert Sand, Dear Desert Sand, DBT is the best choice. I am glad you are pursuing it. Skype is wonderful. I have many clients I "see" on Skype. Best of luck to you. Sincerely, Dr. Jabin.
Niam October 15, 2013 at 07:18 PM
Hi, My mom has this disorder and it's almost unbearable for me and my sister to continue to deal with her. We've dealt with her bizarre mood swings all our lives. We are both now young adults and my mom is 42 and still unstable. I almost feel she is going to end up destroying the relationships she has with her kids. What do you recommend, how can we deal with her more effectively?
Dr. Desiree Jabin October 15, 2013 at 08:58 PM
Hi Niam, Thanks for your comment. The good news is that we see many instances of people with the disorder who seem to get better on their own in their fourth decade. We don't know why this happens but there are many known cases where this happens. It sounds as if you and your sister have escaped the transmission of the disorder from mother to child, so this is even better news. You can very likely break the cycle of transmission altogether if you avoid having children with partners who have the disorder. Sadly, those with the disorder often do burn bridges with loved ones who finally have had enough and stop contact. If you have a parent who is mentally ill and refuses to seek competent treatment there really is little you can do. You can be kind and caring without having to be abused. This is best accomplished by putting healthy boundaries in place and limiting contact with the sufferer--in this case your mother. I wish you the best of luck and please let me know if you have any further questions I can help you with. Sincerely, Dr. Jabin.
Cheri November 28, 2013 at 02:43 PM
Hello Dr. Jabin, after reading this, I can totally relate, My mother passed away 3 years ago, and basically I moved out at 18, which probably saved my whole happy life,-I was the eldest -now 61-. I just went about my life, probably always trying to get her approval, I became very successful, but never can even remember my mother hugging or showing any affection. The problem now is my sister, who has tried to commit suicide at least 4x's that I am aware of, her own daughter did commit suicide at the age of 15 (she was on Zoloft) at the time of this I was not speaking with my sister, but obviously attended the funeral, and sent many spiritual things her way, did try again to have a relationship, but there is just no way it will ever work. She is prescribed more medication that would fill the front page of notebook paper. I do not drive in my present life on freeways, or if even at all now due to sensory overload, which will lead me into a panic attack(many car accidents which were not my fault during the 80's and almost blowing up in a car on the freeway did not help) anyway to make a long story short my sister e-mailed me and told me she considers me dead because I did not drive to her home the night of my niece's suicide...it was 10pm, my son had school the next day, he was not old enough to drive, and my husband has the same deal with freeway driving that I do. So I have come to the conclusion that this is not a healthy relationship AT ALL and have let go and just have to consider her mentally ill. I did respond by saying that "well I guess there will be no more gift exchange because dead people can not send presents"-probably should not have reacted, but that was rather hateful when I had been so giving. I have had no further contact, and this has been 2years now. I found an old letter the other day, and this was back in '05 believe me she was just the same back then. Her daughter did this 4 years ago. Her other daughter was a cutter, so I believe it has been very great that we moved from Newport to Temecula 12 years ago-and I stopped a lot more trauma looking back. It is just sad, I took care of her when she was a baby, she being 10 years younger of course does not remember those good times. She will have intermitant phases of being nice, but those are rare, and not worth even trying to keep anything going. My brother speaks with her, but it is entirely on eggshells-basically what I gather no one can get along with her. I feel I am doing the correct thing by having no contact at all. I will send her only daughter a Christmas card, with some cash (they have lots of money) but just in hoping (realistically probably won't happen) someday that she will grow up and have some sort of positive memory of me (She is my God child). Thanx for reading this I will bookmark this page as I do not know how the response works on this blog thing??? I look forward to hearing back, but I think you will agree I am doing the correct thing-again thank you-I am sure you have heard these type of stories many many times-Very Sincerely, Cheri
Dr. Desiree Jabin December 10, 2013 at 03:32 PM
Dear Cheri, I am so glad you found this blog and pleased to know it fills in some previously unexplained historical events for you regarding your family of origin. It sounds like you know your limitations regarding driving and were able to place your boundaries clearly in the sand for others to be aware of. It sounds like your boundaries were neither appreciated or well tolerated by others. That happens to people who have non-negotiables and refuse to budge to please others. It can be painful, indeed. In high-coflict families discord and dysfunction are often unavoidable and easily triggered during catastrophic events like suicide. I am sorry that your family has had such hard times and is now fractured as a result. Only you know what is really best for you as it relates to talking or not talking to this person. I try to encourage clients to consider exausting all options to repair and heal ties before severing them. Sometimes it may not be possible, sadly. My Best, Dr. Jabin
Kylie Rixon January 16, 2014 at 10:25 PM
My mother has received various diagnoses - depression, generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, even ADHD, but I have long suspected that she in fact has BPD. However it is impossible to raise the topic without creating a drama that lasts for weeks - she has decided she like the ADHD diagnosis and has stuck with it. Your description supports my hypothesis, because you just described my (and my brothers') childhood, and the various issues we each face. My mothers original twist is that rather than flip-flopping on one individual, she flip-flopped between us for a few years, and then settled on 1 favourite in need of mothering and nurturing (1 of my brothers) 1 difficult child who was impossible to love (me) and 1 child who was mature and wise beyond his years (other brother). None of us meet the criteria for BPD, but all of us have features and some unfortunate behaviours. I have a child and am using DBT to make sure I don't pass it on. She is a nasty, hostile, bitter, and vicious woman, who does not understand why all her relationship fail.
Andrea February 04, 2014 at 10:37 PM
First of all thanks for the article, very interesting. I'm a mother with mild BPD, I have 2 kids (19 and 4 months). I'm doing my best to "protect" them and not spreading my issues. So far they seem fine, well, at least my older one, he's happy and good interacting with other kids. But I'm truly shocked when I can see my own mother in these lines, I didn't know she could have BPD as well, but I see her in every single description, and now a lot makes sense. I wish I could say something to her but it would be a complete disaster of blame, shame and anger.
Stephanie Richards April 12, 2014 at 11:45 AM
Came across this article after meeting a new counselor for my 13 year old step daughter. This article has explained her mother, brother , and her to a T and explains so much of what My husband and I have gone through over the course of 10.5 years of being married and what the mom has put us through and taught the kids to put us through. It is very very enlightening. My question is the Mom does not think she has any problems and blames the kids for all the problems She has had to choose her new husband over her kids and signed both kids over to us for Custody after a long battle and just pure hell. Is there any rescources on how we will be able to handle/deal with her for the next 5 years until my step daughter is 18 and we no longer have to communicate kids wise? the son will be 20 is is playing Vicitim in everything very very well he hates his sister and moved out of our house when he found out she would be coming to live with us and now wants nothing to do with us. Because of promises his mom made and never followed through with.. how do we handle all of this he is not even living with her but still playing victim living with his moms relatives 20 minutes away from us and the mom lives 4 hours away
Dr. Desiree Jabin April 13, 2014 at 04:35 PM
Dear Stefanie, I am glad to know you found my article helpful. BPD is a family problem, indeed. I can tell you have figured this out by now. Family therapy, is what is most likely needed to restore your serenity and give everyone good, orderly, direction. I have had a lot of success coaching entire families in your situation. These complex problems are increasingly common because stepfamilies are the new norm. You are not alone and your new counselor should be able to help you. If not, I urge you to seek out an experienced therapist or life coach who can. My Best, Dr. Desiree Jabin.


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