Understanding the Borderline Mother

BPD motherThe relationship between mother and child is one universally recognized as one of the single most influential factors in a person’s physical, psychological, and emotional well-being. When a mother has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), her influence over her child can be extremely damaging on many levels.

There are several different types of Borderline Personality Disorder mothers, as explained by Christine Anne Lawson, Ph.D., in her book “Understanding the Borderline Mother.”

It is understood that those suffering with Borderline Personality Disorder generally fall into two categories: low functioning and high functioning. Low-functioning people with BPD tend to demonstrate more helpless and depressive symptoms that can result in them seeking help.

Those who are high functioning generally do not reveal their symptoms to those outside of the immediate family and are less likely to seek any help at a Borderline Personality Disorder treatment center.

Lawson further breaks down these categories into four types when describing BPD mothers:

High-Functioning BPD Mothers

  • The Witch: This type of mother with Borderline Personality Disorder seeks power and control over others, and reacts with rage that is unpredictable. Children and other family members live in fear of triggering her, and find that trying to behave as she wishes is pointless since it is not their behavior that precipitates the rages, but the mother’s own fear of abandonment. It is not likely that the Witch will ever seek BPD treatment or recognize her damaging behaviors. It is not uncommon for their children to develop depression, shame, and insecurity. They may even suffer with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) further along in life.
  • The Queen: Queens need to be the center of attention and view others as a means to serve that craving. Children are mere reflections of the mother and must validate and agree with her in order to assure her that she has their respect. Queens can be manipulative and vindictive. They cross boundaries without recognition or regret. Children of Queens are not permitted to have their own needs or opinions, and are not encouraged to become individuals in their own right. Later in life, these children may begin to show signs of BPD themselves. At the very least, they suffer severe self-esteem issues.

Low-Functioning BPD Mothers

  • The Waif: Waifs feel worthless and victimized. They can suffer from depression, anxiety, irrational fears, and feelings of vulnerability. Waifs feel helpless but reject attempts by family members to help them. In this way, they passively control others and are generally unable to nurture others. Children and family members may feel that they can help if only they do more, learn more, and give more. Unfortunately, this can lead to extreme frustration as the Waif continues to stay helpless as a means to control and avoid abandonment. Children may feel angry and alone, even as they are inextricably enmeshed with their mothers. They may develop codependency issues as adults.
  • The Hermit: Hermits feel constantly betrayed by others and take criticism as a condemnation of who they are. They are constantly criticizing others to mask their own inner shame. They may socially isolate to quell their own fears and paranoia. Perfectionism is a hallmark of the Hermit, and they can rage or criticize when others fail to meet expectations. Like the Queen and the Witch, Hermits conceal their BPD symptoms from others outside of the family. Children of Hermits can develop their own mistrust and fear of others, as well as deep-seated fears of failure that can prevent them from developing as autonomous individuals, as they fear new situations and people.

Understanding the Borderline Mother” is an excellent book that illuminates the intense and difficult dynamic between borderline mothers and their children. For adult children of BPD mothers, reading it is a means of further understanding what issues they face as a result of their upbringing, which can lead to important realizations and healing.

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9 Responses to “Understanding the Borderline Mother”

  1. Catherine 28. Aug, 2012 at 2:49 am #

    Hello. I am a Borderline Mother myself and I have read the book – in German because I live in Germany.
    My opinion – this book is nothing but a whole bunch of nonsense! It may be true, that what she describes fits on many – but this ist absolutely not standard.

    I myself must say that my children are very healthy kids and I am very proud to say that i even am a single mom. And whenever this *Borderline-Monster* comes out and tries to *take over* – I do absolutely everything I can to shelter my children from it – yes it took me a long way to figure out when it starts and when it’s over, but I have been always aware to do that before I harm my children with my issues – because those are MINE – not theirs.

    I am always working on it.
    My opinion is: If you are aware that you have these issues and you have children – GET HELP!!! Because YOU know what it is like being a person with Borderline Personality Disorder.

    Those mothers are not always BPD, I have seen so many which treat their kids like sh** and they don’t have anything psychological going on – everyone can get help! For the abuse of children are NO excuses – BPD sure isn’t one!

    Just my 2 cents…..

    Have a nice Day, Catherine

  2. angela 06. Aug, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    Well done catherine

  3. dante 09. Oct, 2015 at 6:14 am #

    The article author is naive and doesnt understand BPD. I would suggest
    BPD is genetic. In some sense everyone is a little BPD. Those with strong
    BPD behavior would pass it on as well as low BPD behavior. We need to
    STOP judging BPD individuals by the worst 5 percent mental health
    professionals and the other 95 percent which live in the world unnoticed.

    Bad science produces bad results and incorrect assumptions.

  4. Madelne 10. Jan, 2016 at 12:07 pm #

    I am far from what this article stated. Well done Catherine I agree 100% with you. Awareness is key n this is far from the true.
    BPD mother of two

  5. Kim 28. Jan, 2016 at 10:47 am #

    I think my mom might suffer from BPD she is a chronic liar. She gets extremely jealous of my relationships, with friends and aunts. She constantly talks bad about my dad, who’s been dead 16 years and she was divorced over 30 years from. She was cruel to him and accuses him of beating her, which I never saw. She steals things from me. Example she like a pair of shoes I am wearing she claims they are hers. I wear a size and a half smaller then her. She is extremely mean to my sister, sees her as all bad, she gives it back to her. An example she didn’t go to her son’s graduation. She took off work to go to my ex-boyfriend’s brother’s grad party that caused grief for me. She gossips constantly. I get depressed dealing with her. When I try to explain it to my therapist, it’s like they can’t understand and treat me like I am overreacting. I feel irritated with her most of the time, even when she isn’t acting out demanding attention. Help on how to deal with her would be great.

  6. Vicky taylor 28. Jun, 2016 at 12:52 pm #

    My mother tried to convince me that my father never wanted me. She lived with my family and I the last 20 years and made all of us miserable. She died over a year ago and I did not mourn like a normal daughter should. I don’t miss her, which is sad.

  7. John 22. Jan, 2017 at 3:39 am #

    Once a borderline views you as bad. Cause there is no middle ground.. high abuse comes.. your not even aware what borderline means.. it’s borderline psychosis

  8. Kathy 18. May, 2017 at 11:27 am #

    My therapist who specializes in BPD just told me about this book and I cannot wait to buy it. My mom is absolutely the Queen “type” described above.
    I cannot tell you the heartache me and my siblings have gone through with our mom.. How to describe it….the whole behaviour is so confusing, alarming and makes me feel so depressed and scared about my own life, even when everything is going OK in my life.

    It is a , “dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t” situation. Case in point. Usually leading up to mothers day, mom tests all of us, threatens she won’t be around, says we all don’t care about her etc. So this year, I texted her to ask if she was taking calls because she swore up and down we would not see her etc. I was trying to be respectful but also to protect myself from her.

    Then she went nuts on me on said I was selfish etc… you just can’t win.
    This was the first year only one of us kids contacted her on mother’s day. It is sad but we have all reached our breaking point and it has deeply affected our own mental health and happiness. I am thankful I have a very close relationship with my siblings – it has taken us banding together to protect ourselves from her. It is super sad. I just want to have a right to be happy and not always feel guilty for living my life at 45.


  1. Treatment of Parents with Borderline Personality Disorder: How to Get Help | Borderline Personality Treatment - 31. Jul, 2012

    […] Understanding the Borderline Mother […]

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