BPD Mother: 7 Negative Ways She Affects Her Daughter And Why

( The effect of being raised by a BPD mother )

For most children, Mom is a safe home base.

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 the 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 Mom 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 Mom 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.

An emotional child in a grownup body, Mom, 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 on a BPD mother

OR… sensing you wanted closeness, she drew you in close, too close.

While at first, this might have felt good… soon you 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.


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 you were 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.

In fact, the relationship template stemming 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 meeting the demands of parenting adequately. 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 a BPD mother that impact her child

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 has the power over you but not the maturity can be terrifying for a child who has yet to develop those skills herself.   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 in an attempt 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. You walks 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 in an attempt to avoid upsetting Mom.

walking on egg shells BPD mother

2. 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 the effect we have 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?

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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) rejection a country mile away, she is triggered and becomes very upset. Thus, her daughter is afraid to refuse her mother anything.



6. 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. 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. ”


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 a BPD mother’s parenting has had on you is the first step towards recovery.

Find out if you are caught in the good daughter trap here.

For one on one help -go here.


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

Take the Free Quiz Do you have the Good Daughter Syndrome?

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.

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,


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