Mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder: Common Symptoms and Treatment

By Nadia Khan

Updated December 14, 2018

Reviewer Sonya Bruner


Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) significantly affects an individual and causes problems with managing everyday life. People with Borderline Personality Disorder have difficulty maintaining friendships as well as romantic relationships. The nature of relationships tends to be unstable and extremely intense.

When you have BPD, your self-image is skewed, which causes you to have intense emotions and behave impulsively. If you have a mother who has Borderline Personality Disorder, it's important to understand that this illness is not her fault.


I Don't Want to Be Alone

People with Borderline Personality Disorder have severe abandonment issues. They are deeply afraid of being abandoned, usually due to childhood trauma. If your mother has Borderline Personality Disorder, she may have a hard time being by herself. Being alone is hard because people with BPD are dependent on other people to soothe their intense emotions. They often express their volatile nature when others are around, and lash out at them, especially those that they are close to. They may lash out and express what looks like inappropriate anger. They have frequent mood swings and tend to push people away, even though they want to have close relationships with others.

When Does Borderline Personality Disorder Usually Develop?

Borderline personality disorder cannot be diagnosed until adulthood, but the traits may begin to manifest in the late teen years. BPD seems to peak during this time in a person's life, but symptoms can improve as they get older, especially with the right treatment. The treatment for BPD that has been proven most effective is called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). A person with Borderline Personality Disorder will have difficulty tolerating high levels of distress, managing challenging emotions, and having stable interpersonal relationships. Therefore, DBT teaches skills for emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness..


The symptoms of Borderline personality disorder manifest in extreme emotions as well as an inaccurate sense of self. If a parent exhibits these traits, they will need support and therapy to improve their own functioning so they can be effective parents. Here are the most common symptoms of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder:


  • Fear of abandonment and the perception that others are rejecting or separating from them, whether this is real or imagined.
  • Having volatile and unstable relationships. The person on the other end of the relationship is either idealized or perceived as malicious, cruel and uncaring.
  • A distorted perception of self, commonly manifested as feeling flawed or invisible.
  • Paranoia, which can last from a few hours to a few days. Typically high levels of stress cause these paranoid feelings.
  • Risky behavior such as unsafe sex, compulsive spending sprees, and substance abuse.
  • Expression of suicidal threats or engaging in self-harming behavior. These behaviors are linked mostly to fear of rejection or being separated from loved ones.
  • Mood swings, which can last for a few days or shift in a matter of hours. A person with BPD may experience euphoric happiness, anger, guilt, anxiety or panic all within a few hours.
  • Feelings of numbness or emptiness.
  • Intense feelings of anger or rage. Loss of temper, which can be accompanied by verbal or physical aggression.



If you have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, it's extremely important to get treatment for your mental illness. As a mother, you want to be able to be present for your children and to be mentally and emotionally healthy. Here are some common treatments for Borderline personality disorder:

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). DBT focuses on teaching individuals skills for emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness, as well as the practice of mindfulness. Traditional DBT includes group skill-building sessions, as well as individual therapy. There are also therapists who treat patients with BPD through individualized DBT sessions, but it is most effective when combined with the group component.


Schema-focused therapy. Schema-focused therapy is another form of therapy that can be conducted individually or in group sessions. It can help the mother with Borderline Personality Disorder figure out what her needs are that have not been met in her life previously. The neglect that she experienced earlier in life has caused her to engage in unhealthy behavioral patterns, which need to stop. At some point, these patterns served a purpose for her. They helped her cope even though these coping mechanisms were maladaptive and self-destructive. She used these unhealthy coping skills to survive, but when she enters schema therapy, she can relearn how to take care of herself.

Mentalization-based therapy (MBT). MBT is considered talk therapy, and it focuses on helping the individual with Borderline Personality Disorder identify her own thoughts and feelings at any given time. She is then challenged to change and reframe her negative thought patterns. She learns to think, pause, and then react after analyzing the situation. This form of therapy is effective for treating the impulsivity associated with BPD.



Having Borderline Personality Disorder and being a mother can be challenging, but it is possible to live a fulfilling, healthy life with your kids. Children are incredibly observant and pick up on subtle shifts in their parent's behaviors. If you are a mother with Borderline Personality Disorder, it's important that you are in therapy and working on managing your intense emotions.

If you are a mother who has a Borderline personality disorder you can talk about what you're going through with a skilled therapist. Professionals who are trained to treat Borderline Personality Disorder know the best techniques to help you live the healthiest life. Your mental health is important, and if you are feeling well, you can be present for your children who need you the most.

If you have a Borderline Personality Disorder, don't lose hope. People with this disorder can get better over time with treatment and can learn to live healthy, full lives.

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