NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, November 10, 2014

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

This is the third article in a series of articles that looks at the effect of growing up with a parent who had borderline personality disorder.

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

In my first article I gave an overview of borderline personality disorder, and in my second article I provided a fictionalized scenario of a young woman, Karen, from the time she was an infant until college, who grew up with mother who suffered with borderline personality.

In this article, I'll discuss how this fictionalized character, Karen, was affected by her mother's problems and how she was able to get psychological help in therapy to overcome these problems.

As I mentioned in the prior article, Karen grew up in a chaotic home environment with a mother who exhibited many of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder.

Karen often felt anxious because of her mother's anger, depression and unpredictable moods.  She wished that she could help her mother, especially after many of her mother's frequent breakups with men and a suicide attempt.  But Karen was too young, and she often felt helpless.

Fortunately, she had a schoolteacher who took Karen under her wing.  This teacher liked Karen, and she motivated and inspired her to look forward to a future that included college.  This was a new perspective for Karen.

Karen had a lot of inherent strengths and, with the help of this teacher, who helped to mitigate the chaos that was going on in Karen's home, Karen worked hard in school and she eventually got a scholarship to attend an out of state college.

Karen was happy to be away from home.

Initially, Karen's time at college went well.  But in her third year, after a relationship with a young man that she had been dating got serious, she became anxious and ambivalent about the relationship.

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

Karen knew that her relationship with Dan was a loving relationship.  Even though they were both young, deep down she knew that they could be happy together--if only she didn't feel like running away when she felt emotionally vulnerable and scared.

She knew she needed to get psychological help before she ruined things between her and Dan so, although she felt hesitant, she went to the student counseling center.

After hearing about Karen's family background, the school counselor, who was an empathetic therapist,  knew that Karen needed more than the short term therapy that the counseling center provided.  So, she provided Karen with psychoeducation about trauma and why it was important to get psychological help (see my article:  Untreated Emotional Trauma is a Serious Issue).  Then, she referred her to a trauma therapist who had an office nearby.

Karen's only experience with therapy was in family therapy when she was a child, after her mother made a suicide attempt.  She remembered liking the family therapist, so she had a favorable memory of family therapy.  But she had never been in individual therapy.

Karen explained to her therapist that she couldn't understand why she was feeling so afraid of being in a relationship with Dan.  After all, Dan treated her well and she knew they loved each other.  She explained that whenever she felt so frightened that she wanted to run away from him, she felt like she was going crazy.

Her individual therapist helped Karen to understand that her current reaction to Dan was being triggered by her early childhood experiences.  She told Karen that she would help her to separate "now" from "then"(see my article:  Working Through Emotional Trauma: Learn to Separate "Then" From "Now" in Therapy).

Her therapist began by helping Karen to develop internal resources to deal with her fears and to cope with working through her early trauma.  These resources included mindfulness meditation, breathing exercises and safe place meditation.

Once Karen developed and used these resources to cope with her fears, her therapist spoke to her about EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy, which is a trauma therapy that has helped many clients who are suffering with trauma.

Karen processed her traumatic memories and fears in EMDR therapy over time.  Gradually, using the EMDR float back technique, they were able to get back to Karen's earliest traumatic memories.

At the end of each EMDR therapy session, her therapist used the last part of the session to help Karen to debrief and to do a meditation to help her to feel calm and safe.

During this time, Karen continued to see Dan and she was feeling much less anxious about the relationship.  Knowing that Karen was getting help, Dan was also patient and understanding.

EMDR isn't a "magic bullet," especially when a person has had the kind of underlying trauma that Karen experienced.  But, over time, Karen was able to work through her trauma and her fears.  She was also able to have a stable and happy relationship with Dan.

Getting Help in Therapy
Growing up with a parent who had borderline personality disorder can be traumatizing and have a negative effect on your adult relationships, especially romantic relationships where core issues tend to surface.

EMDR is one form of therapy that is used by EMDR therapists to help clients to overcome trauma.  Other forms of trauma therapy include Somatic Experiencing and clinical hypnosis, also known as hypnotherapy.

Getting Help in Therapy

If you have underlying trauma that is getting in the way of your having a more fulfilling life, you could benefit from getting help from a licensed mental health professional who is an experienced trauma therapist.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who has helped many individual adults and couples.

One of my specialties is helping clients to overcome emotional trauma.

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

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.