Surviving a Borderline Parent | Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Surviving a Borderline Parent

Being a teenager in our world is hard enough, but if you live with a parent who gives you mixed messages or the silent treatment, or whose mood swings from euphoria to despair in a matter of hours, it can be even harder. If as a teen you keep wondering why you are not "good enough," or if your crazy, it might be time to get some help! You will not be able to heal your parent - but you can change how you cope with your parent!

It is estimated that 4-6 million people in the United States suffer with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and some of them are parents. Borderline personality disorder is often overlooked & misdiagnosed by therapists and denied by those who suffer from it. The symptoms of BPD include a shaky sense of identity, sudden violent outbursts, possessiveness, jealousy, fear of rejection, and the drug abuse, eating disorders, and turbulent love affairs that come from being impulsive. Those symptoms might materialize as constant finicky and "mean" statements, or a teen being put in the role of the emotional caretaker for a parent, usually a mother. Christine Lawson, author of Understanding the Borderline Mother, has a taxonomy of the troubled parent: "The Queen is controlling, the Witch is sadistic, the Hermit is fearful, and the Waif is helpless," she says, and a parent can move through those different roles quickly.

Borderline parents cannot separate their needs from the needs of others, and sometimes want children to fill those needs and can be explosive, withhold affection, and mean, when children cannot. Children living with parents suffering from BPD may get told they are a wonderful person one day, and a terrible person the next. Children in these families may be teased, confided in, have their feelings discounted or criticized, not be allowed to express emotions, denied physical and emotional affection, 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, but fear not - there is hope. The books 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.

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

Photo credit: unbathed

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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.