You dread family get-togethers. A phone call from Mom is usually an emotional minefield, and you consciously opt against having children of your own because parenthood sure sucked for her. If you find any of these statements relatable, read on. You may have a toxic mother. It's not your fault that she is treating you this way. You can learn what's causing it to happen, signs she may have a disorder or is a borderline mother, and how to move forward in a productive and healthy way.
First, it's important to note that is not your fault that you have a toxic mother. Many people struggle with complex family dynamics. We'll list some characteristics of toxic mothers below. It is also important to remember here that most parents are guilty of a few, and even all, of the following traits, at least some of the time. This is normal, and most often not harmful. A toxic mother, however, will constantly or regularly display two or more of the following characteristics. And if you still have a relationship with her today, understand that you're not making her behave in an abusive manner towards you. She is making choices to act in a particular way.
• Constant criticism
• Controlling behavior
• Guilt-tripping and manipulation
• Invalidation of your emotions
• Passive aggression
• Disrespectful of personal boundaries
• One-sided relationship
We'll explore these traits in more detail later in the article.
What can you do? You can't change your mother, but you can work on your relationship with yourself. One of the ways to do this is to set boundaries with people who make you feel bad. If you find that interacting with your mother makes you feel worse about yourself, then it may be time to set some serious boundaries with her. If this seems too difficult, one way to get help setting these boundaries is to see an individual therapist, who will help you grow the sense of strength and independence needed. Whether you work with an online counselor or a therapist in your local area, you deserve to be able to process your complex relationship with a professional who has relevant experience.
Does, "Nothing is ever good enough for Mum" ring true for you? This often goes not only for you but most people and things in her life. She is perpetually disapproving and a perfectionist, as things seem to meet her exacting standards seldom. Your inner critic probably sounds just like her!
As a child, you are likely to have been criticized often and severely. More subtle forms of criticism would include the apparently loving teasing or labeling, such as: "This is our lazy child," "She's clever but an underachiever," or "He's a stubborn/naughty bugger." This toxic mother is also likely to spot the speck in an otherwise perfect offering, and her perfectionism will cause you to feel never quite good enough, no matter what you do.
Controlling tendencies sometimes accompany the Constantly Critical mum's behavior. She often has a strong, even overpowering personality with leadership qualities. However, she probably still issues you with instructions on how to behave, what to wear, and what to do, even when it's completely age-inappropriate. She also opines on many aspects of your life and considers herself an expert on these, despite well-evidenced protestations. Her tone of voice is often all it takes to either paralyze you or galvanize you into automatic action whenever you visit! This toxic mother is probably used to getting her way with people so that she could display toxic controlling behavior in most relationships.
All these behavioral traits are inherently manipulative, but some toxic mothers display alarming skills in the dark art of negative manipulation. Your mother actively works to make you feel guilty or responsible for her bad behavior, often when she cannot have her way. She is likely to be an expert at honing in on your emotional weak spots or 'buttons' like a heat-seeking missile and can play masterfully with your emotions. After all, she knows you very well.
Do you, for instance, find that despite your best intentions to the contrary, you sometimes just react in response to something she says or does? That's very probably the Manipulator pulling your strings. She can also, indirectly or directly, blame you for her problems, or hold you accountable for her failures in life.
This can be subtle or quite brutally direct. This toxic mother will regularly make negative comments or jokes about you in front of family and your friends, without regard for how her words may affect you. If you confront her, then the toxic mother's reaction is usually to admonish you for being over-sensitive or unable to take a joke/criticism, etc.
This trait is related to those above when you are being belittled or criticized for expressing unhappiness with the way you are being treated, or for expressing any negative emotion towards her. In particular, expressing anger towards her is not allowed, or punished with severe passive aggression. You may even be criticized for feeling bad, irrespective of the reason. All of this is likely to result in making you feel that you had better not share any negative feelings with her.
Passive aggression can be defined as, "non-verbal aggression that manifests in negative behavior." This toxic mother will not outwardly express her anger or resentment towards you, but might, for instance, deliberately delay an event, pitch up late for an important appointment, or act morose and sullen towards you for no apparent reason. The toxic mother doesn't respond well to confrontation and tends to avoid emotional intimacy at all costs. She is often also a “control freak.”
You're visiting at your mother's house. You're showering when your toxic mother walks into the bathroom and offers to wash your back. This may sound innocent, yet it is not if you happen to be, for instance, an able-bodied adult. In this case, her behavior is highly inappropriate. Other manifestations of this trait could include her opening and read your private mail without permission, hacking your computer or phone to read your texts, contacting your friends or boss to discuss you inappropriately, or showing up at your house anytime and unannounced. A toxic mother such as this, who ignores your requests for boundaries or privacy, is a toxic mother with attachment problems and a lack of respect.
This is not always a characteristic of the toxic mother, as close and good relationships between parents and children do exist. However, if she also displays controlling, manipulative and passive-aggressive traits, then being her best friend can be a huge burden on you. Some toxic mothers don't encourage reciprocity and insist that you focus on her feelings exclusively. This is a narcissistic trait. Alternatively, when you share emotional intimacies as she does, the toxic mother doesn't hesitate to betray your confidence or manipulate you when she cannot otherwise control you.
It goes without saying that the relationship between you and a toxic mother is unlikely to be healthy or nurturing. Dysfunction in this primary connection affects all aspects of a person's psyche and life, and awareness of this, especially in women, seems to be on the rise.
Bethany Webster, a trained psychologist and Life Coach, has coined the phrase "Mother Wound," defining it as "…the pain of being a woman passed down through generations of women in patriarchal cultures." Essentially, she argues that those above, and other traits of a toxic mother, are the result of 'dysfunctional coping mechanisms' in patriarchal cultures. This is a sober reminder that the toxic mother is herself a product, not only of her dysfunctional upbringing but a largely male-dominated society. That said, men are not exempt from these issues. Elaborating on the definition, the Mother Wound can well be applied to explain many men's life experiences too.
An unaddressed Mother Wound gives rise to feelings of (adapted from Womb of Light.com):
These feelings and an inner sense of disempowerment and worthlessness are ultimately what will shape all relationships in a person's life. It takes no stretch of the imagination to see that this influence is not positive and urgently needs to be addressed. Webster describes the following relationship fallouts:
Realizing that you need help to deal with an issue is most often the first, important step in any healing journey. If reading this article is triggering, it may be an indication that there's something active in your psyche that needs your attention. However, it would not be advisable to tackle this one alone.
You might not know if the relationship with your mother is abusive or toxic. You don't have to use a label if you're not sure. The goal of working with an online counselor is to take some time to understand your feelings, process them, and find ways to cope. Family dynamics are challenging and complicated. When you have a toxic mother, you may be afraid to admit that you have complex emotions toward her. These are things that you can work through with an online counselor, an unbiased listener who cares about your well-being. By processing your relationship, you can learn healthy ways to cope and move forward. It may come as no surprise to you that children of toxic parents tend to experience more mental health issues (compared to children of healthy parents). However, there is hope. Research shows that online therapy can be a powerful tool in reducing parent-child conflict, thus reducing the mental health issues that children of toxic parents experience.
Many clients at BetterHelp have worked through family problems with their online therapists. People talk through their emotional challenges with their families, so that they can heal and have fulfilling relationships with other people in their lives. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.
"I have had three encounters of counselors in my life, including in-person sessions, and I can confidently recommend Dr Hahn as an excellent counselor. He listens to you, understands your concerns, and doesn't downplay them. You are taken seriously. I didn't think online therapy can be as in depth as in-person counseling, but with his encounters I learned it's the counselor who makes the experience, not the form of encounter. I will continue to work with Dr Hahn, and I believe in his approaches and interventions."
"Erin has been incredibly helpful to me as I navigate a tough situation with my family. She's understanding and compassionate and non judgmental."
It is almost a given that you will have significant blind spots regarding your mother's behavior towards you, even when you consciously identify her as a serious saboteur in your life. She is your mum, after all, and at least a part of you loves her; critically thinking about her could feel like a betrayal, and make you feel unsafe and upset. These feelings could impede and even halt any self-healing effort. Only a trained therapist will know how to navigate these difficult waters.
Another important point to keep in mind is that you may have internalized your mother's toxic behavior, meaning that you have unconsciously accepted at least some aspects of it as 'normal.' You had to, for emotional survival. Most often, it will take a skilled, astute therapist or counselor to gently point out what is and isn't good mothering and guide you through processes to address how this affects you.
Any parent is going to have some disagreements with how you lead your life, even if the two of you are quite the same. However, there is a limit, and many critical, and potentially toxic, parents cross it. If you're wondering to yourself, "How can I deal with the relationship with my toxic mother when she's so critical?" here are a few answers.
An overbearing mother is a mother who is extremely critical of everything you do. She will always watch you from behind the shadows, only to pop up when you've done something wrong. Overbearing mothers can hover over you at all times and are sometimes called helicopter parents. This is another example of toxic parenting, and those who have overbearing mothers can face a lot of problems due their toxic behavior.
Setting boundaries is the most important thing to do here. If you're an adult, you don't need to have constant contact with your toxic mother. It's important to remember that you are separate from her and that you don't need to report to your mum. The most important thing to do is to take care of yourself and work on setting boundaries, establishing your sense of self, and learning to use self-compassion in counseling. Sometimes, when your parents are toxic, you're left with a lot of overwhelming feelings. These emotions are difficult to cope with, and therapy or counseling can be beneficial for those in this situation.
A toxic mother daughter relationship is a relationship that involves unhealthy balance in the roles between a mother and daughter. The dysfunction that occurs in these potentially toxic relationships tends to have a negative impact on many other aspects of their lives.
Sometimes, toxic mother-daughter relationships can go undetected if both parties are not aware and a toxic mother-daughter relationship takes both the mother and daughter to be aware to be able to heal the relationship. A toxic mother-daughter relationship is actually more common than one may think, and it usually forms from the relationship patterns and behaviors. It’s important to remind yourself that it’s no one's fault. No one intends to create a toxic relationship and there may be deeper underlying reasons for the toxic relationship having formed. Being aware of the toxic relationship is the first step, but you don’t have to wait for your mother to be aware of the toxic relationship to start the healing for yourself.
If you’re unsure how to navigate your toxic mother-daughter relationship and need some guidance, reaching out to a licensed family therapist could be a great place to start. They are experts in all sorts of relationships and can help you feel supported on your journey to healing.
The most common sign of a toxic relationship between any people is the presence of controlling behaviors. Toxic mothers tend to want to micromanage every aspect of their children's lives. Children may end up feeling emotionally immature or dependent upon their toxic mothers, which can lead to feelings of insecurity as they age and have children of their own.
Having a toxic mother can have a negative impact on a child, especially in the early years of child development. While not every toxic mother will be willing to reach out for help, there are sources of help. Talking to a counselor or therapist or joining a support group are great ways to open communication and begin to learn to develop healthy mother/child relationships.
Lack of good maternal roles or healthy relationships with their own mothers can cause some women to become toxic mothers. A woman who has childish tendencies may exhibit toxic behaviors such as being possessive or controlling.
If you are noticing signs that your mother is toxic or if you are exhibiting symptoms of being a toxic mother, seek help. For many, learning how to effectively communicate and to set healthy boundaries can have a positive impact on your relationship with your mother or daughter and can help improve the way you communicate in other relationships, as well.
The relationship between mothers and daughters is often a complicated one. Arguments and a battle of wills is a normal part of daughters growing up and mothers learning to let them. The cause of clashes in mother and daughter relationships can range from different personal opinions about rules within the home or who a daughter should be friends with to a mother feeling unappreciated or undervalued. Mothers and daughters both experience emotional highs and lows. As daughters grow into teenagers and begin experiencing hormonal changes, emotions can make them feel like they are on an emotional roller coaster that never stops moving.
Understanding that differences of opinion and changes in the way a mother and daughter feel about personal matters is important. While mothers and daughters don’t have to agree on everything, finding some middle ground for compromise and learning to effectively communicate can help you build healthy relationships. When you feel like the differences are too big to overcome alone, seeking the help of a counselor or therapist may be helpful.
It is not uncommon for people to raise their voice or yell from time to time. Your mum may feel like you aren’t paying attention to what she is saying or that you are purposefully ignoring her. In this case, it’s important for you to acknowledge what she is saying. Even if you don’t have time to do something right away, you can respond and tell her that you are listening to her. However, when anger and yelling go hand in hand or occur often, there may be some deeper issues going on. People who have difficulty dealing with anger issues may be more likely to raise their voice or yell when trying to communicate. Although this is not usually conducive to healthy communication, it happens, nonetheless.
Additionally, some mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder cause individuals to behave in angry or irrational ways, often yelling. If you are concerned that your mother has a mental health condition, it may be a good idea to talk to your primary care provider or a mental health professional for information and advice on what steps to follow.
Yes, unfortunately, a mother can be jealous of her daughter. There are many reasons why a mother may experience feelings of jealousy toward a daughter, and while they each can make both mother and daughter feel uncomfortable, it doesn’t mean that a healthy relationship can’t be established. The first step is understanding the reason behind why a mother is experiencing jealousy toward her daughter.
For example, when a middle-aged woman goes through menopause, it is not uncommon to have altered mood and behavior because of hormonal changes. They may feel unattractive or unimportant. These feelings can lead to jealous emotions. In fact, Dr. Charles Sophy, says that some women experience what he refers to as “perceived transfer of sexuality (PTS)”. He explains that PTS is the result of a mother feeling threatened as her daughter’s sexuality peaks and hers declines.
If a mother felt like she was forced to give up her hopes or dreams for a career or travel, she may feel jealousy toward her daughter for being able to pursue those dreams. Additionally, mothers who are not emotionally attached to their daughters may experience feelings of jealousy toward their daughters when their daughters begin to develop healthy emotional attachments with others.
It’s important to understand that toxic mothers can learn how to develop healthy relationships with their daughters. Learning to establish habits of personal growth can impact the relationship between mothers and daughters in powerful ways.
Usually, it's the child who is stereotyped as being difficult, but the truth is that parents can be just as bad. When there is a difference of opinion or life path, parents may be difficult in accepting it. Obviously, you don't have to change each other's mind, but the goal is to agree to disagree and love each other all the same.
This is another case where a therapist may be your best option. When someone is being difficult, it's hard to be civil, especially if they aren’t. A therapist can help your parents understand your point, while teaching you better ways to communicate.
The term "toxic" has been used a lot recently, and it's one of those terms that's a little subjective. Toxic people and toxic relationships come in all shapes and sizes, and what is toxic for one person may not be for another. With that said, there are some signs that most would agree with being toxic. Here are a few of them.
There are many other signs that the person is toxic, but this is a good starting point.
A toxic environment and toxic relationships are bad, but the biggest challenge many will face is the toxic parent. A friend who is toxic you can easily cut off, in most cases, but there is a bigger stigma towards a toxic parent, especially if you have to live with them. Here are some signs of a toxic parent.
Selfishness can be hard to deal with. Some people only care about themselves, and don't consider your own feelings. With parents, selfishness can arise.
Usually, it's the child who is stereotyped as selfish, but parents can definitely be selfish as well. We all know parents who has guilt-tripped their child because their child didn't make all the decisions they wanted them to.
In order to deal with a selfish parent, it's complicated, but not impossible. Here are a few steps:
Make your point perfectly clear and set up some boundaries. If your parent crosses them, remind them of the boundaries.
Try to have an honest conversation about why your parent is being selfish. By trying to understand each other's perspective, perhaps the two of you can reach common ground.
Remember, you have to do what's right for you. Sometimes, it's okay to be a little selfish, especially as a response to your parents. Caring for yourself is good, but it crosses the line when you don't have any consideration or empathy for others.
Critical parenting is when parents are overly critical towards their children. Offering constructive criticism is one thing, but a critical parent is one who is never satisfied with what their kid does. A critical parent may ignore their child when the child does succeed in doing something, but then go off with one little misstep.
Children of critical parents may end up having a hard time recognizing emotions, and they may live a life where they're worried they have to walk on eggshells. As a parent, it's important that you aren’t overly critical to your child.
The term "toxic" is a bit subjective. Someone's behavior can be up to debate as to whether or not it's toxic. With that said, there are some traits a toxic parent has that most people can agree are bad. Here are a few common toxic parent traits.
There are other traits that define a toxic parent or toxic parents, and these are just a few of them.
Dealing and coping with a toxic parent or toxic parents is never fun but learning to take control of your life is incredibly important, and worth doing for your own mental health and wellness.
If you know someone who is an adult, is making money, and lives with their toxic parents, you may wonder why they're doing it. There are many reasons for this, and here are a few reasons why adult children continue to live with their parents.
If you or someone you know is in a relationship like this, it's important for them to seek help. While they may love their parents, their mental health is much more important.
Yes, a toxic family member may cause their child to have eating disorders. Some parents can be bullies, telling their children they're overweight or need to lose some pounds. This can lead to poor self-esteem, and with time, the child may develop an eating disorder. It's important to seek help for this whenever possible.
You may love your parent or parent’s, but you know that they are toxic. If that's the case, it's important you set boundaries and stick to them.
If the toxic relationship is due to your beliefs, your career, or something else your parent doesn't approve of, make it perfectly clear that you don't want to discuss it. When setting a boundary like this, your parent or parent’s may try to push it. They may make backhanded comments about it, for example. Don't let these comments slide. Put your foot down or leave the conversation should these boundaries be crossed. In this moments, it’s important to be clear with your boundaries, and firm. It may take a few attempts, but it may end up working out for you.
However, in some cases, while a person may want and try to set boundaries with a toxic parent or toxic parent’s, it could be very difficult to maintain these boundaries due to their parent or parent’s violating these boundaries. For example, you feel as though when one or both of your parent’s barge into your room without knocking, this a violation of your privacy, disrespectful, and a sign of toxic behavior. Therefore, you try to set a boundary with your toxic parent or parent’s by telling them, “When you come into my room without knocking, it feels like a violation of privacy and is disrespectful.” However, the reaction you receive is dismissive, angry, or is completely ignored, even with repeated attempts to state your boundary. In these cases, even though you have tried to set very clear boundaries with your toxic parent or toxic parent’s, it can be difficult to maintain them. If this scenario relates to your own experience, it’s important to remind yourself that you are not at fault. Sometimes, the best you can do is to clearly and consistently state your boundaries with your parents but to be careful not to take responsibility for the way that one or both of your parent’s may react.
When you have toxic family members or parents, one solution is to find a therapist. A therapist can help in many different ways, including:
Helping you with any mental health problems you're facing due to the toxic people in your life. By improving your mental health, it can allow you to be firm on your communications.
Being the middle person to a family feud. It's important you find a therapist who can help everyone reach common ground and who can teach people who may have communication problems to talk in a way that's productive and not toxic.
It's also important you find a therapist who can work individually as well as together with your family. Sometimes, you may not feel comfortable with talking with your family about everything, and if you find a therapist who does both, it can be beneficial.
Licensed counselors and therapists are available at BetterHelp.com, an online platform where you can connect with someone who has been trained to help you deal with a toxic mother or any other mental health challenge you may be facing.
Adult children and their family members, be it toxic parents or other relatives, may become estranged throughout their lives for one reason or another. Sometimes this can happen as a result of a major life decision that either party did not agree with or perhaps the family member was exhibiting toxic behaviors and at the time, you felt it was in your best interest to cut contact with the toxic family member. Or perhaps the family member you want to reconnect with is either one or both of your parent’s and you’re not sure how to take the first step.
A licensed therapist can help you reach out or be the mediator between you and the family member, whether that be your parent’s or other relatives. While many therapists could help you start the conversation to reconnect with your parent’s or family members, therapists who specialize in relationships such as a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT) may be a great place to start looking.
If you’re interested in individual therapy to help you deal with your family issues with your parent’s or relatives or are interested in family therapy for you and your parent’s or family members, please reach out to email@example.com and to find out more about BetterHelp as a company, please find us on Instagram.
If you're having family issues, it's important you seek help from a therapist as soon as possible, but you also need to have a therapist who will help you. Here are a couple of therapist red flags.
Dealing with toxic parents is never fun but learning to take control of your life is incredibly important, and worth doing for your own mental health and wellness.
Narcissistic personality disorder is one of several personality disorders that is characterized by a person having an inflated sense of self-worth, self-centered behavior and a lack of regard for others. Narcissistic mother syndrome is a term used when a mother or maternal figure suffers from narcissism. It is characterized by an inability to recognize the feelings and needs of others, which is considered a quality of most mothers. Women with maternal narcissism require constant admiration and may be envious of any attention that is given to others unless it has a positive reflection on them personally. Their behaviors can have a significantly negative impact on their child’s life.
If you are wondering if your mother is narcissistic or if someone else is a narcissistic mother, the following signs could indicate a strong probability.
9 common traits of a narcissist include:
An exaggerated sense of self-importance
A sense of entitlement
Takes advantage of others for personal gain
Lacks empathy for others
Shows arrogant and haughty behaviors and attitude
Believes that he/she is unique and only people who are equally important can understand them.
Preoccupied with fantasies of power or success
Is envious of others or thinks others are envious of them
Requires excessive admiration
Narcissists do cry. The question that is often debated, however, is whether a narcissist genuinely feels emotions that are connected to crying. Many mental health professionals believe that narcissists “cry” when it benefits them. For example, they may cry if they believe showing emotions toward others or in support of others will cause them to get something they want. On the other hand, many believe that narcissists do experience emotional responses that cause them to cry, even if they are not on as deep an emotional level as others.
Therapy is a personal experience, and not everyone will go into it seeking the same things. But, keeping these nine things in mind can ensure that you will get the most out of online therapy, regardless of what your specific goals are.
If you’re still wondering if therapy is right for you, and how much therapy costs, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. BetterHelp specializes in online therapy to help address all types of mental health concerns. If you’re interested in individual therapy, please reach out to email@example.com and check out our Instagram. For more information about BetterHelp as a company, please find us on