My Daughter Has BPD: What Can I Do?

Helping daughter with BPDAs they stand, parent-daughter relationships provide their own unique set of challenges. So it is no surprise that this relationship can prove even more difficult when you’re contending with a psychiatric disorder such as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). 

If your daughter has Borderline Personality Disorder, it is important to keep certain guidelines in mind. Your daughter’s emotional vulnerability and difficulty with regulating her emotions can create feelings of helplessness in you. Don’t despair. There are steps you can take to help maintain a healthy relationship with your daughter. 

Educate Yourself about BPD 

The more you know about Borderline Personality Disorder, the better equipped you will be to face the challenges associated with living with this disorder. There is a wealth of resources available to you, including websites, books, and treatment centers for BPD

Learning more about BPD will ultimately allow you to better empathize as you learn to separate your daughter’s personality from symptoms associated with Borderline Personality Disorder. 

With that said, you will learn that it’s important that you also keep the following in mind: 

Don’t take your daughter’s behavior personally. Realize that your daughter’s disorder is no one’s fault and it is not about you. It isn’t possible to always have the “right” response to avoid your daughter lashing out at you. Your daughter’s emotional instability and your subsequent tumultuous relationship are hallmarks of Borderline Personality Disorder. Recognize that these challenges may further complicate an already complex dynamic.  

Don’t hesitate to seek therapy for yourself and other family members. Family or individual therapy can not only help educate you about Borderline Personality Disorder, but it can provide you with skill sets for coping with your daughter. 

A good therapist can teach you the importance of establishing healthy boundaries and how to best respond to your daughter’s erratic behavior and mood swings. Understand that recovery from BPD is possible, but it is a process. 

You are most likely dealing with your own anxieties, stress, and pain, and it’s important that you don’t lose your sense of self amidst your desire to help your daughter. Find balance and don’t neglect to take care of yourself and your own needs. Support groups can help to provide you with a sense of community and comfort, as well as remind you that you are not alone. 

Don’t attempt to treat your daughter’s BPD on your own. Your daughter will need to seek Borderline Personality Disorder treatment herself if she is to recover. However, she must also have the desire to change to truly experience long-lasting effects.  

Because your daughter may also be engaging in self-destructive behaviors — such as substance abuse, self-harm, or an eating disorder — she will also need to see a professional to help overcome these tendencies. Many treatment centers for Borderline Personality Disorder treat these co-occurring disorders along with BPD for a more comprehensive recovery. 

Find balance between supporting your daughter while establishing limits. It’s important to maintain a constant presence in your daughter’s life as she is receiving BPD treatment, especially since abandonment issues are common for people with BPD.  

However, you shouldn’t compromise your own needs in the process. Your love for your daughter and desire to be supportive do not mean you have to subject yourself to her unpredictable behavior and abuse. Instead, assure your daughter that you love her and won’t leave her, but explain that you must distance yourself when she behaves in a certain manner toward you. You don’t want to invalidate your daughter, but try to balance this with the need for change. 

There is no doubt that as the parent of a daughter with Borderline Personality Disorder, your life is fraught with troublesome circumstances that can often lead you to feel hopeless. However, with enough effective therapy, support, and adequate use of coping skills, you can not only empower yourself to live a balanced life, but you can also develop and sustain a meaningful and lasting relationship with your daughter.

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30 Responses to “My Daughter Has BPD: What Can I Do?”

  1. Siobhan 20. Apr, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    I am not certain that it can be this easy. I have lived with a borderline mother and now a borderline daughter. I suffer, myself, with social phobia, agoraphobia, and panic attacks. It has become nearly impossible for me to have dealings with either of these two important women in my life. I find that the peace I require comes only during those times when they are not in contact with me. Also, my psychiatrist has encouraged me to not be alone with them ever, but to have someone with me at all times. The advice here is very easy to give from the point of view of “normal” professionals, but in practice it lacks much.

  2. Maggie 10. Jun, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    I too am the generation between borderline mother and daughter. I am a successful mental health professional but cannot reach my daughter. I should have set firmer boundaries long ago. I absolutely can’t take her rude and disrepectful outbursts anymore. She is unapproachable because, like my mother, she is never wrong and disagreeing with her is not optional. My mother is now deceased. My daughter is 46 and acts like she is 15 much of the time. Endless melodrama to the point where she actually believes her outrageous distortion of the truth. I love her but I don’t like her or her behavior.

  3. Joyce Reed 10. Jun, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

    I, too have a borderline mother and an adult daughter who is borderline along with depression. My life can be a living hell. I am an only child, so I have to have some contact with my mother. My daughter is married with three boys. Her husband has been so patient, but is finally reaching his limit, because she is hurting her boys. I do my best to be the best grandmother I can be to her boys. They do not deserve this. She has not bathed or left the house for 6 months. She had an affair and was discovered. Her husband allowed her to return home which is when she “went to bed”. We have tried everything. Two hospitalizations, which she refused treatment. I wish there was some one who could help her. There are times when I feel so overwhelmed and would give up if not for the boys.

  4. Elaine 10. Dec, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

    My daughter has borderline/narcissist and it is a struggle. She creates so much conflict in our lives. She is already grown, is a therapist, and throws tantrums when anyone (including me) tries to tell her she acts in ways that are inappropriate. She thinks she is bound by no rules but everyone else has to follow rules. She hates my husband and causes stress in my marriage. Half the time I don’t know which is worse – the borderline or the narcissism. This has been a helpful support chain.

  5. johanne 09. Jan, 2015 at 4:13 pm #

    My daughter will be 20 this year…she is living with me since september 2014. She was putting herself in dangerous situations so, since I was stressing out so much, I decided to accept her living here once again…unfortunately, things are not going well….I am almost on the brink of a mental shutdown myself….help please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Angela 11. Apr, 2015 at 6:12 am #

    I, too, have a daughter of 25 diagnosed last year with BPD. Whilst it does explain the erratic and destructive behaviour for the last 10 years, and she is under the watch of the mental health team, her behaviour just gets more extreme. I feel I did the best I could to bring her up well but she veers from telling me I am amazing to making me feel like the worst mother ever. It is a comfort to read stories like mine.

  7. Dianne 21. Aug, 2015 at 2:44 pm #

    My daughter is 21 and has been saying she has BPD for a few years. Her moods are quite changeable, but she is mostly feeling down. When she is cheerful, it’s like having back the daughter that I sometimes feel has gone. ‘I can’t say anything right, and I don’t understand’ is what I’m always told. I am not equipped in dealing with BPD, although I have tried to get her support which is frustrating when she fails to turn up for appointments.

  8. Della 22. Sep, 2015 at 7:29 am #

    My daughter is 17 and has been diagnosed with ADHD since the age of 8. She took medication until she was 14. At age 14 she started having the aggressive outburst.
    She has been in several mental hospitals and they release her after three days. She refuses to take medication but has started running away from home and doing illegal drugs. When I find her on the streets I bring her back home where she is safe but my husband and I are miserable. We cannot function as a family when she is here, but we worry ourselves sick when she is not. I have tried to get her into a residential facility without any luck. I just feel hopeless!

  9. Terri 13. Oct, 2015 at 8:07 am #

    I have a daughter who I am fairly certain has BPD. She has not been diagnosed with this as far as I know but has been treated for depression since the age of 14 (she’s now 27). She has an ongoing eating disorder and substance abuse issues. She has had several suicide attempts/threats and been hospitalized twice. When she is in a good place she is pleasant and fun to be around, but unfortunately these times do not last long. She is usually angry and aggressive towards me as I can rarely say “the right thing”. It is causing me a lot of anxiety as I am constantly worrying about her and feeling as though I need to help her somehow. My other two children have pretty much written her off and have a hard time seeing that there is a mental disorder here – they believe she is selfish and spoiled. She does display a lot of selfish behaviors so I can understand how they are feeling. I am at a loss right now – I don’t know what to do anymore…I know I need to set better boundaries but it is so difficult…any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

  10. Shelley 23. Oct, 2015 at 5:32 pm #

    I am the Mother of a BPD daughter..Although I have a grasp of the illness, I don’t fully understand it…She was very loved and wanted..Her older sister is very stable and secure..I have been with her Father for twenty five years and we are very happy…No neglect or abuse…So it isn’t always the case……So it isn’t always a case of neglect and abuse?!!!!

  11. Liz 08. Nov, 2015 at 9:11 am #

    In my family, BPD is inherited. I can look back three generations and find the women who had it. My mother was an undiagnosed BPD, so was her mom. My sister has it, as well as two of my female cousins. It seems only appear in the women in the family.

    There also seems to be some involvement with allergies. Girls with bad allergies when young seem predisposed to BPD.

    I think there is some genetic trigger for some people. It can show up in “normal” families as well as abusive ones.

  12. Teri 27. Nov, 2015 at 2:07 pm #

    I have a 29 year old daughter with BPD and although she’s getting excellent treatment she can’t follow through with good decisions. She puts herself and her son in abusive situations with men who are scum. Her behavior has caused me serious health issues and she does everything to try to destroy me. I’m only in her life because of my grandson and don’t know if I can do it anymore. At what point do I put my happiness and sanity first?

  13. Teri 27. Nov, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

    Terri, read the book “How to Stop Walking on Eggshells.”

  14. Sian 04. Dec, 2015 at 5:49 am #

    My daughter has (undiagnosed) BPD. She refuses treatment. I love her so much but she is so emotionally unstable and self centred that I fear for her future. Once again just today she has exploded at me and I am the worst mother in the world. She is breaking my heart. I just don’t know what to do.

  15. Charlotte 06. Jan, 2016 at 6:37 pm #

    Shelley,
    A few months ago my 21 year old daughter was diagnosed with BPD. I can guarantee you, that there has been no harm whatsoever done to my daughter at any time. We lover her and have cried many tears for her not being happy in her life.
    Just like you, I am in a longtime good marriage with my husband. We also have an 18-year old son who is living the happy life of a healthy teenager. I too have felt disturbed when sources claim that parents, families, and mothers are to blame for BPD. But you know what? That’s what they used to say about Schizophrenia (“It takes a few generations of dysfunctional family members”) and about Autism (The mothers were claimed to be “cold” or “distant”).
    I think that when a mental illness is hard to cure and a physical source cannot be found, blaming it on the parents is temptingly easy …..
    Good luck to you and your daughter

  16. Anne 12. Jan, 2016 at 4:00 pm #

    I am also in between a BPD mother, who is a hoarder, and a 20 year old BPD daughter. My daughter came from a solid, secure family home and has had a loving relationship with us her entire life.We were a very close, very loving family, with no alcoholism, no drug use, no abuse.We did everything for and with our girls.(I have 2 daughters) We always knew there was something different about my older daughter, however she radiated such a sweetness and joy on her good days we didn’t know what was “off”. Then we learned about her lies. She is brilliant, and had a complex web of stories and lies built around herself that we had believed for many months. She stayed so close to me so that she could build her stories and monitor what I was doing -to better hide what she was doing. After over 5 months of deceit about her schooling (she was failing ) and boyfriend (he was a secret) she became manic.She was was hospitalized for 5 days for mania and was loosely diagnosed with manic depression.She was put on medication but checked herself out with her abusive boyfriend,(now fiance) and refuses treatment or follow up. She never even gave therapy a chance. She has since dropped out of college and was fired from her job (for tardiness) At this point she is destroying her credit and has lost most of her friends. She continues to lie to us. Whenever she visits she is demanding, manipulative and abusive.Her joy is gone. I finally reached my limit and asked her to take a recess. It was not an easy decision and I miss her (the person she was) every day. It is heartbreaking to lose a child. It is worse to lose yourself. The distance has been a good thing for us here. My other daughter, age16, is beginning to relax again, We are trying to stay educated about this disorder, and are still searching for answers. My theory is that there is a physical attribute to these disorders,such as a faulty thyroid, although I have found very little information to support that theory.

    Ironically I can now better understand my mother and why she chooses the life she has. She also was in an abusive relationship, also tells incredible lies, and is also always the victim. She has built a wall of garbage and junk around herself to hide from her (self inflicted) neglect and emotional pain. Both women are stubborn. both are strong willed. Both are brilliant.Both are impulsive. Both are manipulative. I see one as a beginning and the other as the end – untreated- result. In truth, I have tried to help my mother for years. I am trying to stay positive and set positive boundaries. It isn’t that there is a lack of love for the women in my life that have shaped my world, however, there has to be a place for self care and self love. I have realized that if I do not step back and set some limits, I will not be able to hold myself together for the rest of my family and loved ones. I am trusting in the belief that we all need some boundaries in order to find peace. And in that moment of peace, we can still have hope for those that we love.

  17. Todd 26. Jan, 2016 at 8:01 pm #

    No, it is definitely not always the case that the child was neglected or abused. It may be one of many similar mood disorders. Labels can be helpful but also misleading. One size doesn’t fit all.

  18. Vickie 06. Feb, 2016 at 7:42 pm #

    My daughter is 26 and I believe she has BPD. She has been diagnosed with depression, ODD, and an anxiety disorder. She has problems with substance abuse and with the legal system. I signed commitment papers on her this week. She had been released from jail on house arrest and came to my house. I believe she was psychotic. She is extremely angry with me because I have her two children. So when she came to my house she would stare me down and follow me with her eyes (every move I made). When I would tell her to stop she would get angry. I had visions of her standing over me with a knife. She was only here for 3 days but that was enough to make me feel as if I was going crazy. Thankfully, the local mental health agency and the legal system have been very supportive and seem concerned for her well-being. We will have court in four days to determine if she will be hospitalized. I hope that she can get some help this time. My biggest fear is that she will go back on the streets. I can’t let her live with me because she causes disruption with the kids and her behavior towards me can be quite threatening. Both of her children, ages 5 and 7, have been diagnosed with an adjustment disorder.

    Shelley, I agree, it is not always due to abuse or neglect. I did everything I could for my daughter. I do think, in my case, her problems are a combination of genetics and substance abuse. Her father is an addict (we have been divorced for 20 years) and is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Thank you all for sharing your stories – they sound so familiar.

  19. Trish 11. Feb, 2016 at 12:10 pm #

    I am the mother of a 22 year old daughter who was diagnosed a few years ago with BPD.
    I am so frustrated with her lies, money problems, venting etc. It’s very exhausting on us and we are helping her with her school and apartment financially but she doesn’t seem to appreciate anything . We have always been there for her. She has tried to commit suicide twice in the last 2 years and I am always scared of it happening again.. It was very traumatic finding her the 2nd time overdosed in her bedroom. I thought she was gone… and I live with that image every day…
    I help her as much as I can but I am feeling so drained with all her ups and downs.
    I just wonder if I should give her tough love? (Which I don’t think is in me to do… :( )
    I am at the point I don’t know what to do anymore…

  20. Michelle 12. Feb, 2016 at 2:19 am #

    What “cuts” me is the labelling of the mother as the major factor in the development of BPD. The psychiatric staff and researchers have Maximum 8 hours work with a borderliner child or adult. The families are full-time living and coping with someone they love. This stigmatisation of someone who worked hard to give both her daughter and other children a loving, non-judgemental, encouraging (and yes, with structure!) home environment wears me out.

  21. Leigh 27. Mar, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

    My adult daughter was diagnosed with ODD as a child and she is 30 yrs old now and it appears she has BPD. I have her children because she doesn’t have the financial or emotional ability to take care of them. She is very charming, manipulative, an expert liar, and has drained us financially. She has never held a steady job. She never says thank-you and doesn’t appreciate anything you do for her. She cycles through friends because she only needs them when they can do something for her. I could go on and on. My husband and I have finally had enough because it is wearing us down. She grew up in a stable and loving environment. There is no environmental cause for her illness. I urge anyone who is dealing with a loved one with this illness to seek professional assistance to help guide them through the turbulent relationship that comes from this illness.

  22. Diana 07. May, 2016 at 1:30 pm #

    I too have a daughter with extreme personality disorder and narcissistic issues. She was blessed with a great childhood and family. Always had everything. After turning 25, she went full bore hatred of me and her younger sister because I divorced her dad.

    She is brilliant and highly successful but changes jobs due to her lack of empathy and seeks vengeance for any little perception of someone doing her wrong. We have been shunned for a year now which is peaceful, but she just had a baby who is blind and deaf. My heart aches for them because I would think she would need a lot of support and help, but, nope, she still wants no contact.

    I fear for the future of her baby and for her due to the stress that no doubt will come from such life challenges. Her husband is just as bad as she is. I have such sorrow and grief that it’s unbearable right now. All I can do is hope God will show them the way forward and that I can let go with love.

  23. Ericka 25. May, 2016 at 9:51 pm #

    My daughter is 19 and I believe she has BPD, though she has not been diagnosed. We’ve had her to see several therapists but she refuses to continue with treatment as soon as they establish a relationship with her. She has refused any and all medication that therapists or doctors have recommended or prescribed. She has been using drugs for the better part of 3 years, essentially self-medicating. It has affected her behaviour as well ~ her mood swings, outbursts and generally unpredictable behaviour are incredibly draining on our family.

    As many have already said, when she’s having a good day (or days) it’s almost like having my daughter back again – but most of the time, I don’t recognize who she has become. I have spent many sleepless nights wondering what to do and how to help her (and the rest of us). She seems to blame me for everything and lashes out at me in particular. No matter what I do, it’s wrong and I can never do “enough” or “the right thing,” whatever it happens to be. I have reached out for help but she somehow seems to fall between the cracks of mental health & addiction and we’re repeatedly told “you can’t help her unless/ until she wants to help herself.” It’s killing us.

    This site has been very helpful – at least I don’t feel so alone

  24. Borderline Personality Treatment 27. May, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

    Hi Ericka. I’m glad the site has been helpful, despite what you’re going through. You may want to check with NEABPD Family Connections to see if they have any resources near you: http://www.borderlinepersonalitydisorder.com/family-connections/.

  25. Katerina 01. Jun, 2016 at 6:29 am #

    I have been looking for support for a while, just to know that others know how I feel. My daughter is 26 and has BPD. She causes me so much worry and anxiety. I used to worry about her bad choices and constant health issues or accidents, job problems, relationship problems, but lately I am the victim of her verbal abuse and I now get panicky if I see she has called, wondering what’s next?

    I block her on my phone for a while to get some peace. I don’t know how else to stop the feelings of anxiety and I now have high blood pressure. I have spent 10 years worrying about her and now I worry for myself. I want to be around for my lovely sons and husband as much as anything. I have tried to support her in every way, but it is never enough and soon forgotten by her. She was loved and cherished as a child. It is heartbreaking.

  26. Catherina Emery 12. Jun, 2016 at 9:44 am #

    My daughter is now 18 and was diagnosed with Borderline Emotional and Personality Disorder about 6 months ago, despite having mental health issues for years. All I can say is my daughter is loved and cherished by me and her family, but nothing we ever did was appreciated. I’ve put up with the verbal abuse, lies, manipulative behaviour to the point that it has broken me as a person. I just hope one day that a professional out there relieves the massive pressure that families are dealing with daily. The stories on here make me sad that so many are living with this stress, but the stories also show how each case is similar. I wish there was more support for individuals suffering from BPD, and also more support for families out there.

  27. Elise 16. Jun, 2016 at 7:11 am #

    I am very distraught over my daughter’s behavior and while she hasn’t been fully diagnosed as BPD, her therapist did say she had the symptoms. This was actually a very helpful read in that it highlighted everything I am going through right now with my daughter. It also made me realize that I should seek therapy in order to learn how to deal with it. I do feel a sense of relief.

    Thank you.

    Elise

  28. Dianne 28. Jun, 2016 at 8:25 pm #

    I am so glad to have found this site. My daughter is 38 with two children of her own. They are now in a foster care because of her behavior. It’s heartbreaking and I didn’t know how to help as we were too old to take on the children. My daughter has now been diagnosed with BPD and it all fits perfectly with what I’ve read and stories I’ve seen. We are still in the middle of this crisis, but I don’t feel alone anymore. My husband has been so supportive for a stepfather, but it’s not fair at his age to put too much on him. My elder daughter with three children is fine. This site has given me comfort.

  29. Alisha 30. Jun, 2016 at 8:30 am #

    I know that a lot of parents of BPD children are as confused and scared as the suffers are. I’ve studied this disorder for years. Stop denying your children emotions! Invalidation of the sensitive child can allow borderline to flourish. Invalidation is not necessarily intended to be abusive, but it can be extremely intrusive to the individual.

    Yes, a lot of the problem is parental and environmental. I understand that no parent wants to admit that they may have had faults that caused their children distress. The key to recovery is admitting when you’re wrong and accepting responsibility – for both the BPD and parent alike.

    Communication is essential for the borderline’s ease of mind. Many of the symptoms play obviously on abandonment and emotions. The wide majority of these people have gone through trauma, but we tend to forget that trauma is not always abuse or extreme but can be subtle and done through good intentions. Trauma is what your mind perceives and it’s NOT a set group of circumstances.

    If you’ve ever told your child things like, “you shouldn’t feel sad,” or simply told your child to “smile” when they are upset, it is emotional invalidation, but it is presented in a way that is intended to be positive and helpful. Even well-intentioned parents can contribute to the causation of BPD and not even realize. There is very well reasons why professionals consider the parents’ influential to the disorder – because THEY ARE.

    Children of parents who invalidate them without intending harm have a better chance to regulate themselves and learn how to develop the same as other children in regards to emotional regulation. If one is constantly denied their emotions, told that their very reality of feeling is wrong or invalid – whether through words or physical abuse – it can confuse and wreak havoc on the development of the child, causing BPD or BPD symptoms later in life.

    BPD, as far as we know, comes from unresolved trauma, chronically invalidating environments, and genetic predisposition. ALTHOUGH parents themselves are not fully to blame, as the child will also experience much of their lives in school and interacting with other children, adults, and the world. We put focus onto the parents because the parental figures are the staple figures for the child and parents should be the caretakers to give their kids methods to cope with real life and emotions.

    Even if you have made mistakes as a parent that may have contributed to the disorder, stop. Forgive yourself, if you knew you did all that you could for your children and tried to the best of your ability to help your child, forgive yourself. Human beings make mistakes and no one is born with the knowledge of how to be a model parent. We all make mistakes but the way to make up for them is to identify the mistake and genuinely make attempts to correct it.

    Some of the biggest keys to helping soothe borderline or prevent a future offspring from developing the disorder is healthy communication and boundaries. Telling a borderline that their feelings are wrong to display or to deny them of their feelings is harmful. Instead, opt for better communication, such as, “I understand that this situation could make you upset.” We should never tell another to stop feeling the way they do. The best thing we can do is accept the emotions and THEN correct the behavior if the need exists. This does not mean blindly agreeing with the individual, but more of understanding where and why the emotion exists in the first place and how to deal with it and resolve it.

    But I firmly believe, borderline or not, that we should learn and adapt this simple way of communication, as validation is healthy for every person and can help tremendously in how we understand and treat those around us.

  30. Borderline Personality Treatment 13. Jul, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

    Hi. The National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder offers a lot of free resources for families. You can find them at http://www.borderlinepersonalitydisorder.com.

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