BPD Mother: 7 Negative Ways She Can Affect Her Daughter And Why

( The effect of being raised by a BPD mother – awareness is power- get yours.)

For most children, a Mom is a safe home base.

effects of a BPD mother

effects of a BPD mother

( If you would rather listen- go to the end of this post for the audio version)

She is the lap you come home to… and the lap you push off from. In the developmental dance from dependence to independence, a daughter needs Mom as a solid base of support- a mature version of what you hope to become.

Ideally, Mom is the one who can make it all better when the world gets too scary.

But what if your BPD Mother is the scary one?

What if instead of being a port in the storm… Mom is the storm.

BPD mother

What if mom is raging, out of control, self-destructive… and unpredictable?

Where do you go? What do you do?

In those moments when you were a child, scared, hurting, and alone…  you turned to Mom, and your BPD Mother couldn’t help you.

 She couldn’t even help herself.

Caught in a raging sea of emotion, she pulled far away from you, into a world of her own.

Back then, your BPD Mom was an emotional child in a grownup body; She didn’t have the bandwidth to help you with your struggles when she had so many of her own.

So you were left out in the cold all on your own.

child of a BPD mother

OR… sensing you wanted closeness, your BPD Mom drew you in close, too close.

While this might have felt good at first, you soon realized the closeness was for her benefit, not yours. There was a demanding, clinging nature to it.

You couldn’t break away from a Mom who just can’t let go without bringing on her upset.

And like a drowning person, she clung to you as if her emotional life depended on it –

…her psychological death grip threatened to pull you under with her.

the effects of a BPD mother on her daughter


You worried that you would go under with her.

At other times you are left to witness Mom’s churning, frantic attempts to fill her unbearable emptiness with men or booze, drugs or drama. Either you were collateral damage to the drama or the focus of her drama.


Either way, living in the emotionally upside-down world as a child with a BPD mother, you are left with emotional wounds that don’t go away just because you’ve gotten older.

The relationship template from childhood stays with you for a lifetime unless without intervention.

An untreated BPD Mother, otherwise known as a mother with Borderline Personality Disorder, has trouble adequately meeting the demands of parenting. Her disorder will render her devoid of the stability, resilience, and maturity to be the central support every child needs.

And daughters, especially the attuned, sensitive daughter, will take on the role of the good daughter.

Let’s turn to the characteristics of an (untreated) BPD mother that impact her child

Caveat- ( Some mothers with BPD do get treatment and are able to parent effectively)

However, in general,  the BPD Mother has primitive defenses or psychological coping mechanisms.


children, by definition, have primitive psychological defenses. Thus being dependent on someone older and having the power over you but not the maturity can be terrifying for a child who has yet to develop those skills.   Children frequently repress their needs for the sake of the needy parent-clearly, to the detriment of the child.

Here are some traits of the BPD mother that have a substantial impact  on her daughter


  • fear of abandonment– because she didn’t have reliable, consistent caregivers at pivotal times in her development, she can be stuck on hyper-alert for signs a person close to them will leave them.
  •  Instability and volatility– a combination of sensitivity and vulnerability, the BPD mother never develops a stable sense of self.
  • Chronic sense of emptiness- lacking a reliable sense of core self, a BPD mother can turn to self-destructive impulsive activities to fill the void.
  •  Tendency to idealize and vilify others– through a process called splitting, Mom sees people and circumstances as all good or all bad. Thus here, relationships are frequently in turmoil.

7  Ways Your BPD Mother Impacted You

1. When you have a Borderline mom –you walk on eggshells.

” I never know when Mom is going to lose it and… over what. I end up walking on eggshells around her.”

Never knowing when her BPD Mother will get triggered and freak out (often without warning), her daughter learns to tiptoe around Mom, suppressing her own needs to avoid upsetting Mom.

walking on egg shells BPD mother

2. When you have a Borderline Mom – you can’t trust your judgment.

“When it comes to making decisions I’m always second-guessing myself. I can’t trust I’ll make the right decisions when it comes to relationships.”

In early life, we look to our mothers to mirror our effect on them.

From there, we extrapolate this primary relationship template to others.

This dynamic happens at an automatic and mainly unconscious level.   When Mom experiences you as her heroine one minute and the villain the next,  you don’t know who you are in relation to others- how could you?

You can’t trust your judgment when you have a BPD mother.


3. When you have a Borderline Mom- you keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.

” I can’t let down my guard and relax. I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop…..because in my experience, it usually does.”

A lifetime of her BPD mother’s unpredictable moods trains her daughter to be on constant high alert. In her experience, things go south, and they go south at the drop of a hat. You figure it’s better to expect it than to be taken by surprise. If you anticipate everything going sour, you won’t be taken by surprise when it does.

Waiting for the other shoe to drop if you have a BPD mother

4. When you have a Borderline Mom –you constantly feel guilty.

“I always feel like everything is my fault even when I know it isn’t. I’m terrified to dissapoint anyone for any reason.”

Daughters of BPD mothers frequently internalize the belief that they are soley responsible for their Mother’s happiness. Living with a BPD Mother trains her daughter to atttend to everyone else’s needs rather than her own. Thus she feels guilty when she attends to her own life.

the effects of a BPD mother on her daughter

Feeling guilty when you have a BPD mother.

5. With the BPD Mom- you can’t say, “No.”

You would think I’ve committed a federal crime by the way Mom reacts… if I tell her, ” No.”  I can’t even consider it.”

Because the BPD mother can smell (or thinks she can) rejections a country mile away, she is triggered and very upset. Thus, her daughter is afraid to refuse her mother anything.


Sayin No when you have a BPD mother


6. With the BPD Mom- you have trouble setting and sticking to boundaries.

” Setting a boundary makes me feel like I’ve broken a rule I didn’t know was there. Mom gets so upset, it’s just not worth it.”

Since boundaries are the antidote to enmeshment, even a normal one sets off Mom’s alarm bells. No wonder the daughter of the BPD mother feels like she’s doing something wrong to set a boundary and is likely to cave at the first sign of pushback.

boundaries for the BPD mother

7. With the BPD Mom- you wonder if you’re the crazy one.

” I’m not sure what is normal anymore. Life has been such a chaotic roller coaster I think I have permanent vertigo. I just want peace and normal life. ”

Wondering if you are the crazy one when you have a BPD mother

Here’s the truth about you and your BPD mother-

You’re not bad, and you’re not crazy. You were having an absolutely normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Most likely, you’ve done the work of two people to survive. In fact, you’ve been doing a high wire act your entire life- balancing your BPD mother’s ever-changing needs with your own.

You don’t know that you can come down and take a seat. You don’t have to work so hard. It really isn’t up to you to keep another person afloat.

Understanding the impact of a BPD mother’s parenting on you is the first step toward recovery. But, of course, you can’t deal effectively with something you don’t understand in the first place- who could? And besides, this personality disorder is one of the trickiest disorders to deal with.

However, you can empower yourself with knowledge and the right plan to deal with it. And the plan involves bringing the center of attention back to yourself. It isn’t easy, but it is doable.

( If you’d rather listen-here is the audio version)

First, find out if you are caught in the good daughter trap here.

For one on one help -go here.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Daughters of BPD mothers have trouble trusting themselves and others, frequently have low self-esteem and struggle with feelings of guilt and anxiety.

Their primary wound is abandonment.

Because of their mother’s fear of abandonment and volatile mood swings, their daughters feel responsible for their mother’s unhappiness.

Her borderline mother’s extreme mood swings and tendency to vilify people who disappoint her make her daughter afraid of setting her mother off.

Do you relate?
If so, here are some ways I can help on your journey from Good Daughter to Empowered Woman:

Do you have The Good Daughter Syndrome? Take the Quiz (It’s Free)

Read the first two chapters of The 4 Good Daughter Traps- Break Free of Your Difficult Mother and Take control of Your Life …for Free- Go here! 

Watch & Learn Video Course Practical Strategies for Dealing with a Narcissistic, Borderline, or Difficult Mother That Work Tips honed from working with daughters of difficult mothers for 30 years, as a psychotherapist.

What Kind of Good Daughter Are You? Conflicted? Independent? Obedient? Take this (Free) Quiz

Consult with Katherine- Private Coaching – When it’s time to tell your story.

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  1. Pat Jensen

    Explains a lot

    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Thanks, Jen- I hope it was helpful. I see a lot of women in my psychotherapy practice.. and the effects of being raised by a borderline mother can be troubling to devastating. I’m doing what I can to bring them to light.
      Take care,

  2. Jen

    I set a boundary finally with my undiagnosed mother last year after years of her drama, drug use and Muchhausen’s. It was after she disowned my brother for not giving her money (bad child) and then she wanted back in only my life (good daughter). She knew I was pregnant and I told her the only way we could begin communication is if she even attempted therapy. Therapy has been integral to me even just coping. She refused and I never talked to her again. She died yesterday and I’m drowning in sadness. I think I repressed all the good and happy memories we had so I could bear the pain of our relationship that has been on a nose dive the last 15 years since my parents split. Now they’re all coming flooding back. She never met my baby daughter and now never will. I am so broken. I tried my whole life to make her life better and nothing worked. The end of her life was so sad and she died alone and unhappy. I just can’t bear it.

    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Dearest Jen,

      I hear and feel your pain.
      I’m glad you have a therapist to unpack all this with but permit me a few thoughts-

      Since I can’t know more than you have expressed here- take what fits and disregard the rest.

      Of course, there are many memories you may have needed to block to do the hard thing, both for you and your daughter. In time, I hope you can cherish those and hold those close. Particularly with Munchhausen’s and drug use in the picture, when you became pregnant, it was your job to protect your child from harm. It was her choice not to make an attempt at therapy. She must have been too far gone. That is tragic but it doesn’t make it your fault.

      I can only imagine the amount of pain her disorders have cost you over your lifetime. If you think about it- contact with her (and her untreated disorders) would most likely have resulted in even more pain.

      Here’s a parting thought -which again might be helpful to unpack in time- at the center of BPD is the inability to integrate all aspects of another person. Someone who has BPD splits people into good and bad.

      Over time, and with continued work, you now have that opportunity- to do what your mother could not- that is to see her as both good and bad- well and unwell-. You may come to see her as someone who loved you and at the same time was so hampered by her illnesses.

      I believe two things can be true at once- you can love your mother with all of your heart and also accept that you can’t change her. No daughter I know has been able to cure her mother of drug addiction or borderline personality disorder. You can, however, make your life a living hell by trying.

      May the peace of the God you worship be with you in your time of sorrow. I hope you will continue on your journey of health. Perhaps that is the best way to honor your mother’s legacy.

      Take care,

  3. Anonymous

    My stepdaughter’s mom is BPD and she is already showing these signs listed. We have her half the time and she is in Elementary school. What can her dad and I do to protect and counteract the damage being done?

    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Hi Stepmom – Good for you that you are on the lookout for your stepdaughter and would like to offer some counterbalance to what she is experiencing at home.

      I imagine it is going to be a long and frustrating road… to help this child because if she is like so many other children, she will cling tightly to the idea that nothing is wrong with her mother and even defend her to her ( the child’s) own detriment.

      Therefore most of what you can do that is the least likely to backfire is to sidestep commenting about her mother’s behavior and model a different type of relating.

      Steady, predictable, mature… and calm-the port in the storm, and of course, it goes without saying -not drafting her into adult affairs but providing shelter and shield against emotional material that she is too young to handle.

      I’m sure you know this already, but it bears repeating. The worst thing you can do is to point out how irresponsibly her mother is behaving lest you drive her to defend her mother. She is already been programmed to do that.

      You both can at least give her a place where she doesn’t feel the need to do that- as tempted as you may be.

      If you all have the resources- getting her (the daughter) into therapy so she can have another place to air her feelings without repercussions would be ideal.

      This will most likely be a long and hard road- one paved with more restraint than action. However, in the long run- she will benefit so very much from having an alternative from which to learn and grow.

      I wish you the best,

  4. Ben

    Hi Katherine,
    Thank you for putting this information together it has been so helpful and reassuring that there is real understanding about BPD mothers and there effects on a daughter.
    I have a daughter who has a diagnosed BPD mother. We separated a good while ago and things have been hard in the past but my partner and I have made a safe and balanced home for my daughter who is seeing her mother albeit for much less time than before but is stuck in a protecting roll and dealing with the ups and downs of her mothers behaviour.
    It is such a relief to read about issues me and my partner have been dealing with and that are so hard to convey to other people. It has made me feel much less crazy and has given me great strength. Thank you

    Are there any medical reports that you would suggest reading that support your research?

    Kindest regards


    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Thanks Ben,
      I’m glad the article struck a note and might be helpful. Kudos to you and your partner for providing a stable alternative for your daughter. I imagine it might feel like a thankless job at times and hard to convey to others that don’t have a front-row seat to the dynamic.

      No doubt your good care of your daughter will yield good results even if it takes a very long time.

      As a clinician, I primarily write from my experience with individual clients in psychotherapy. The effects of borderline mothers on their daughters are fairly common and agreed upon in the field. For further reading, I would point you to a couple of books that professionals and lay persons alike use for reference- one such is Understanding the Borderline Mother and Stop Walking on Eggshells. You can easily find both on Amazon.
      Best of luck,


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