Surviving a Borderline Parent
Being a teenager in our world is hard enough. It is even harder if you live with a parent who gives you mixed messages, or whose mood veers from euphoria to despair in a matter of hours.
If you keep wondering why you are not "good enough," or if you feel crazy, it might be time to get some help. While you cannot heal your parent, you can change how you cope with your parent.
As many as 4 million to 6 million people in the United States suffer with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Some of them are parents. Therapists often overlook and misdiagnose BPD, and those who suffer from it often deny having a problem.
The symptoms of BPD include:
- A shaky sense of identity
- Sudden violent outbursts
- Fear of rejection
Borderline parents cannot separate their needs from the needs of others. Sometimes they want their children to fill those needs and they can be explosive, cold, and mean when children cannot.
Children living with parents suffering from BPD may get told they are wonderful people one day, and terrible people the next. Children in these families may be teased, confided in, have their feelings discounted or criticized, not be allowed to express emotions, be denied physical and emotional affection, be held to extremely high standards, and have their privacy violated.
Being raised by someone with BPD may leave teens with a low self-esteem, a lack of trust, a tendency toward perfectionism, and hypersensitivity.
Fear not – there is hope. The books listed below will help you find consistent people in your life, and heal the wounds you are carrying. The most important thing to know is that you can learn to trust yourself, set boundaries, be firm, and trust yourself and others. It will just take time. Start by finding an adult you trust to help you find a counselor.
The counselor will help you sort out what may not be "real" about the things you are told, by either parent. There are also communication skills that you can learn that can avoid conflict and protect you from the angry outbursts.
The diagnosis does not matter as much as you learning that you are a worthy person and that it is natural to expect and hope that a parent will treat you will love and respect.
Books that might be helpful for older teens:
- Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds & Build Trust, Boundaries, and Self-Esteem, by Roth & Friedman
- Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder, by Mason & Kreger
- Understanding the Borderline Mother, by Christine Lawson
Disclaimer: This content is the opinion of the author(s) and not necessarily that of your health care provider, the Palo Alto Medical Clinic, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, or Sutter Health.
This information is provided for your general information and education only, and should not be relied upon for personal diagnosis or treatment.
If you feel like you have an illness or need emotional support for a problem, please contact your personal physician NOW.
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Written & Reviewed By:
PAMF Senior Research Associate
Nancy Brown, Ph.D., M.A., Ed.S.
Last Reviewed: October 2013