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What are Visible Traits of Parents with BPD?

Parenting can be an intricate and demanding role, yet when coupled with BPD, it introduces complexities that profoundly influence familial dynamics and childhood experiences. Their behaviors can fluctuate between excessive attachment and hostility towards their children, leading to a chaotic and unpredictable family environment. Despite these difficulties, they also bring valuable qualities such as empathy, creativity, resilience, and a commitment to personal growth.

Parents holding childs hand

This article explores the multifaceted experiences and behaviors of BPD parents, shedding light on their struggles, strengths, and the importance of understanding and support within family dynamics.


What to Expect From a BPD Parent?

Having one or more parents with borderline personality disorder can result in a chaotic, confusing, and even abusive childhood. Many children grow up having mixed feelings towards their parents, they often fear conflict, may try to pacify their family, and struggle with their sense of identity. Parents with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) might fluctuate between being excessively attached or involved with their children and then becoming hostile or dismissive towards them. Sometimes, they might present as extraordinarily loving and attentive. Other times, they may be harsh, neglecting, punitive, and abusive. This environment can also increase the risk of children developing BPD themselves later in life.


What are some Parenting Challenges Parents with BPD face?

The pervasive fear of abandonment in BPD can lead to overprotectiveness, hindering the development of independence and autonomy in children. BPD's unstable interpersonal relationships pose challenges in maintaining stable family dynamics, affecting children's emotional well-being. Impulsivity in BPD can result in hasty decisions and risky behaviors, impacting discipline, financial management, and overall parenting efficacy. Parents with BPD may struggle to establish consistent parenting styles due to identity disturbances, leading to confusion and inconsistency for their children. Children of parents with BPD may be inadvertently burdened with emotional support responsibilities, disrupting healthy parent-child boundaries. Managing BPD symptoms requires significant self-care, but parents may struggle to prioritize their well-being, impacting their capacity to care for their children effectively.


The Psychological Impact of Having a Parent with BPD

Even though they are highly turbulent, ironically, your parent with BPD may be terrified of conflicts. They tend to take everything personally. When there is even a small conflict between you, they may feel personally attacked and shamed and react either with passive-aggressiveness or a counterattack. Any emerging signs of disappointment hurt, and anger that their child feels are unbearable for them because, deep down, they assume it was their fault. Whenever you are distressed about something, even when it has nothing to do with them, they may immediately perceive it as a criticism of them and have to shut it therefore down.


To make matters worse, the parent with BPD might want to portray the "picture-perfect" family image to outsiders and push them to do the same. All other people saw was their charming, loving selves, and you are left feeling hopelessly lost in a world where nobody understands the angst of having a parent with BPD. Since you were never allowed to have, let alone express, any authentic feelings, you have also learned to disown them. Unfortunately, many children grow up believing they caused or aggravated their parents’ behavior. Even if they don’t blame themselves directly for BPD, they might assume that they were “bad” or “difficult” children who made things worse. This guilt or blame can reinforce codependent dynamics.


It’s important to note that a difficult upbringing does not define your current identity. Despite these common effects of being raised by parents with BPD, many children grow up to be compassionate, competent, and accomplished adults.


What are some common traits of Parents with BPD?


1. Constantly seeking approval from their children and other family members.

2. Displaying excessive mood swings or depression when things don’t go their way.

3. Making their children feel like they can never do "Good enough" for their parents and compete with other children their age.

4. Exhibiting outbursts of anger even without apparent reason.

5. Engaging in substance abuse, alcoholism, or other compulsive behaviors.

6. Self-harming and/or making repeated suicide threats/attempts.

7. Oscillating between extremes of "hating" and "loving" certain people.

8. Causing children to feel like they must "parent" their parents.

9. Experiencing ongoing fears of abandonment.

10. Displaying paranoia and distrust towards many other individuals.


While BPD can present significant challenges for individuals and their families, it's important to recognize that parents with BPD can also possess positive qualities and strengths.


Empathy and Sensitivity Many individuals with BPD are empathetic to the emotions of others. As parents, they may have a deep understanding of their children's feelings and needs, which can foster strong emotional connections and supportive relationships.


Creativity and Passion BPD is often associated with intense emotions and creativity. Parents with BPD may bring a unique perspective and passion to their parenting, encouraging their children's creativity, exploration, and self-expression.


Resilience and Determination Despite facing challenges related to their BPD symptoms, many parents with BPD demonstrate remarkable resilience and determination in their parenting. They may actively seek out resources, support, and therapy to improve their coping skills and provide a stable and nurturing environment for their children.


Self-awareness and Growth Managing BPD often involves developing self-awareness and insight into one's thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Parents with BPD may be more attuned to their struggles and actively work towards personal growth and self-improvement, setting a positive example for their children.


Dealing with BPD Parental Anger

When you live with a parent with BPD, you may find them to be imposing and controlling. They may treat you like a child even though you are a grown adult. On the other side, they may behave in ways that are so dependent and needy that you never felt you had a "parent" to depend on; instead, the roles are flipped, and you have to be the grown-up who takes care of them. With sudden rage and even violent outbursts, you may be constantly blamed for things you have not done. Minor incidents could trigger a reaction. When they are triggered, they lose their ability to empathize. At these moments, however unreasonable they are, they always think their rage is justified.


Here's how they may show it:

Verbal Outbursts: BPD parents may shout, scream, or use harsh language during episodes of rage. They might make hurtful comments or engage in verbal attacks.


Physical Aggression: In severe cases, they may become physically aggressive, such as throwing objects, slamming doors, or even resorting to violence.


Emotional Manipulation: Some may use emotional manipulation tactics like guilt-tripping, blaming, or threatening self-harm to control others.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Can BPD be inherited?

While there may be a genetic component to BPD, it is not solely determined by genetics. Environmental factors, such as childhood trauma, emotional invalidation, or adverse experiences, also play a significant role in the development of BPD. The interaction between genetic predispositions and environmental stressors can further exacerbate the risk of developing BPD. Traumatic experiences during critical developmental stages can disrupt healthy emotional and psychological development, increasing vulnerability to BPD symptoms later in life.


Is it safe for children to live with a parent who has BPD?

Safety concerns may arise if the parent with BPD exhibits behavior that puts the child at risk, such as emotional or physical abuse. In such cases, it may be necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of the child through appropriate interventions, such as therapy or, in extreme cases, child protective services. If you're concerned about a parent's behavior, whether related to BPD or otherwise, seeking support from mental health professionals or support groups can be beneficial for both the parent and the family as a whole.


What can parents with BPD do to be better parents?

Seeking therapy and participating in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) or other evidence-based treatments can help parents with BPD learn coping skills, emotional regulation techniques, and effective parenting strategies. Building a support network and practicing self-care are also crucial. Remember that parents with BPD can be good parents with the right support, therapy, and coping mechanisms.

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