Establishing Boundaries with a Borderline Personality Disorder Parent
Growing up in a family in which one or both of your parents has borderline personality disorder leaves a difficult legacy. Studies indicate that children raised under these conditions often develop mental illnesses themselves, including borderline personality disorder. Borderline PD treatment can make a real difference in your quality of life, but getting healthy and continuing to interact with your parents can be very challenging.
When a parent is mentally or physically ill, they are unable to meet their children’s needs consistently. Parenting young children requires sacrifice and feels one-sided. Babies and toddlers cannot, in any kind of predictable or organized fashion, “give back” to their parents. Parents suffering from borderline personality disorder feel angry and abandoned by their children’s neediness and the perceived lack of reciprocation, and experience intense emotional outbursts (rage or sadness, most commonly). This leaves children growing up feeling:
Establishing boundaries with a parent who has trouble regulating his or her own emotions can be difficult and upsetting. Setting a limit — for example, saying no to a spontaneous meal together because you have plans — can lead to escalation by your parent. In extreme cases, setting limits — even such seemingly minor limits like refusing to meet for dinner at the drop of a hat — can result in a suicide threat. For someone who has grown up feeling sensitized to abandonment and guilt, this is a painful rollercoaster ride.
Borderline PD treatment can help your mom or dad tolerate having boundaries set for them and with them. In fact, navigating and negotiating boundaries is one of the most important aspects of borderline PD treatment.
You may be great at setting limits and establishing boundaries in every other facet of your life, but with your own parents (and your children), it feels much more difficult. Even if you are not diagnosed with this illness, it might be helpful to find a clinician who is familiar with borderline PD treatment. They may have insights and suggestions for how to establish and maintain healthy boundaries with your parents. The process may be bumpy at times but, the end result will be worth it.
Choose a better life. Choose recovery.