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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Psychotherapy Blog: The Effect of Growing Up With a Parent Who Has Borderline Personality Disorder - Part 1

In a prior article,  Coping With a Spouse Who Has Borderline Personality Disorder, I discussed the challenges of living with a spouse who has borderline personality disorder.  It is one of the most popular articles on my blog site.  In this article, I'm focusing on the affect of growing up with a parent who has borderline personality disorder.

The Effect of Growing Up With a Parent Who Has Borderline Personality Disorder

Before we go further, let's define borderline personality disorder.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
Borderline personality disorder is characterized by a pervasive pattern of unstable interpersonal relationships, self image and emotions.

It is also characterized by impulsivity beginning by early adulthood with five or more of the following:
  • frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
  • a pattern of unstable and intense relationships, alternating between idealization and devaluation
  • an unstable self image or sense of self
  • impulsivity, including self harm, overspending, substance abuse, binge eating, etc.
  • recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures or threats or self mutilation
  • highly reactive and unpredictable mood 
As I mentioned above, for someone to be diagnosed with borderline personality, s/he doesn't have to have all of the above traits--they only need to have five or more.

The Effect of Growing Up With a Parent Who Has Borderline Personality Disorder

Even when someone doesn't meet the full criteria for borderline personality, a person can have significant borderline personality traits.

How Does Borderline Personality Disorder Affect Attachment Between the Primary Caregiver and a Child?
A loving bond between a primary caretaker (let's assume for this article that it's the mother) and an infant is crucial for the healthy physical and emotional development of the infant.

There's no such thing as a "perfect bond" between mothers and infants.

The bond between most infants and their mother tends to be "good enough" so that the infants develop a secure attachment (see my article:  Early Bonding Between Mother and Infant).

Secure Attachment Between Mother and Child

A secure attachment generally develops if the mother is receptive to the infant by engaging in caregiving responses like touching, holding and soothing as well as being emotionally in sync with the infant.

As part of healthy, secure attachment, there is a reciprocal relationship between the infant and the mother as they each respond to each other emotionally and physically.

However, infants who are raised with a mother who has borderline personality disorder tend to develop insecure attachment.

As opposed to secure attachments, mothers with borderline personality disorder tend to develop unresolved, preoccupied and fearful attachments with their children.

With insecure (unresolved, preoccupied and fearful) attachment, the person with borderline personality longs for closeness but is also fearful of dependency and rejection at the same time.  T

his ambivalence is communicated to the infant on an unconscious level and it is detrimental to the infant's healthy physical and emotional development.

The Effect of Growing Up With a Parent Who Has Borderline Personality Disorder

For the mother with borderline personality the vacillation between longing and fearing emotional intimacy is an emotional dilemma (see my article:  An Emotional Dilemma: Wanting and Dreading Love).

The infant who is raised by a mother with borderline personality disorder experiences unpredictable emotions, including unpredictable rage.

A mother with borderline personality disorder might also be emotionally and physically abusive with the infant or neglectful.

Children who grow up under these circumstances often have difficulty developing trusting relationships  as children and as adults due to the unpredictable nature of their early childhood experiences.

The negative affect of growing up with a parent who has borderline personality disorder can be mitigated by the loving presence of another adult, like the other parent, an older sibling, a grandparent and so on (more about this in a future article).

In Part 2 of this article, I will continue discussing the affect of growing up with a parent who has borderline personality disorder.

Getting Help in Therapy
You don't need to be psychotherapist to know that growing up in an emotionally unpredictable and chaotic home has a profound effect on you.

Getting Help in Therapy

Many people, who grew up with one or both parents who had borderline personality disorder, fear that they will develop similar dynamics with their children or in their adult relationships, even though they don't want to do this (see my article:  Discovering That You Developed the Same Traits You Didn't Like in Your Parents).

As I will discuss in a future article, the emotional effects of growing up in chaotic and abusive or neglectful household can be overcome in therapy if you work with a licensed mental health professional who understands these dynamics and knows how to help people to overcome them.

It's often hard for people who grew up in unpredictable households to trust coming to therapy, but for those who get psychological help with an experienced therapist, they can learn to live a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and EMDR therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.

Also see:  The Effect of Growing Up With a Parent Who Has Borderline Personality - Part 2





















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