The Intelligent Divorce

And further unorthodox advice on relationships, marriage and parenting

The Borderline/Narcissistic Mother

Do you think your mother might be a Borderline or a Narcissist? Here's how to tell the difference. Read More

I like the article, but

Although I like the article, I think it needed some editing regarding the word "barron," which I believe is a misspelling of either the word "barren" or "baron":

"The Narcissistic mother treats her offspring like a know-it-all Barron who rules from up high." -- Here I think the word should be spelled "baron," a noble person.

"Barron womb" -- Here the word should be spelled "barren," as in empty or infertile. (At another point in the article the word "barren" is used correctly.)

Can Psychology Today get a better editor to check articles and make corrections and revisions before they are posted?

What is the relationship between Borderline and Narcissism?

This is a valuable exposition of an important distinction of which I had been completely unaware - that between Borderline personality disorder and Narcissist personality disorder.

But it leaves me unclear on one point - is Borderline pd a form of Narcissism, or is it fundamentally something different?

something completely different

beyond a doubt it is fundamentally something different! (Although many disgruntled ex's family members etc will tell you that all BPDs are NPDs but in reality that couldn't be further from the truth!)

Not so sure

I am not so sure that certain people don't straddle the line between borderlines and narcissists. And, I think that these people are the most harmful to their children -- inflicting both kinds of harm at intervals that are impossible to predict -- which creates an even more unstable pattern for their children.

Brain imaging completely different for BPD than for NPD

While some people may suffer from both BPD and NPD, they are clearly 2 distinct psych and physical "entities" with different areas of the brain active in PET scans and 2 completely different size emotional response centers (amygdalae, cingulate gyrus size and white grey matter) in the brain according to recent MRI studies. Translation: brains of BPD not resembling brains of NPD.

The physical manifestation in the brain of these disorders do not resemble one another AT ALL.

They are different but an

They are different but an individual may have both. The borderline is more primitive and the focus of their exchanges will be abandonment, not aggrandizement. Once they feel they are secure in a symbiotic (over dependent) relationship, or set of relationships, then the focus is likely to shift towards the self-aggrandizement.

Simplistic Analysis

What about the strictly Narcissistic mothers who aggressively abuse their scapegoat children?

Reply to Simplistic

Thank you very much for your response and great question. Narcissists can scapegoat their child and be abusive to them, but they do so for a different reason. Narcissists respond aggressively to what is sometimes referred to as a "narcissistic injury". This involves a statement or action that disconfirms the narcissist's grandiose self-image and sense of entitlement. Rejection is an example of a "narcissistic injury". This is not becasue the narcissist is afraid to be alone, like the borderline, but rather becasue abandonment conflicts with the image of superiority. Narcissists attack those that challenge these beliefs visiously in an effort to preserve their grandiose self-image. The child of the narcissist may have committed a "narcissistic injury" by failing to comply with some wish of the narcissist thus challenging the narcissists belief that they are more powerful and more influential than most. A failure to comply will be most offensive to a narcissist if it involves an action that is meant to be aggrandising for the narcissistic parent. For example, one narcissistic mother promised several of her friends that her adult child, an attorney, would handle their wills and affairs for free, without asking her son first. When the son found out he informed his mother that this would not be possible and she became enraged because "you made me look like a fool".

Overly Simplistic

This article is interesting but too eager to separate personality into distinct categories. As a daughter to this kind of women there is not as clear a distinction as Psychologists and Psychiatrists try to make.

My mother was both indifferent and narcissistic, and needy and abusive depending on what was going on in her life and on how I reacted to her.

you nailed it

My mother has been diagnosed with bpd, and you sum up the experience well. The unpredictability of it was one of the most difficult aspects for me--would my mother be my best friend today or would she scream at me for some imagined infraction? I learned to tiptoe around and put her needs first at all costs.

Interestingly, I dated losers in high school, and she was fine with them, but when I met my now husband in college (a great guy!), she "didn't like him."

I started counseling in college and learned to set boundaries with my mom. When I had kids of my own, she really crossed a few lines, and I limited contact to email because I did not want my kids growing up on the roller coaster of crazy that I did.

I have been in therapy for 6 years (weekly, then bi-weekly, now a monthly check-in). Acknowledging how broken my childhood was has helped me to move past it and give my own children a different experience. It is a powerful thing to break the patterns of our upbringing.

Cindy or Casey Anthony?

Who was the Borderline mother? Cindy Anthony, Casey
Anthony, or both?


I have BPD and I have children and this portrayal of BPD couldn't be further from reality ...

I dont understand why a psychiatrist would want to steroetype a personality disorder that can manifest in over 300 different ways, types, intensities etc to a "fatal attraction" movie role as your mother is in this article.

Also it is proven BPD lessons with age...

wow I am sorry read this stigma perpetuating and inaccurate portrayal of BPD. JUST WOW ICK

please read to understand the biology of BPD

Borderline personality disorder is a heritable brain disease
Current Psychiatry 2014 April;13(4):19-20, 32.
Henry A. Nasrallah, MD
The prevailing view among many psy­chiatrists and mental health profession­als is that borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a “psychological” condition. BPD often is conceptualized as a behav­ioral consequence of childhood trauma; treatment approaches have emphasized intensive psychotherapeutic modali­ties, less so biologic interventions. You might not be aware that a large body of research over the past decade provides strong evidence that BPD is a neuro­biological illness—a finding that would drastically alter how the disorder should be conceptualized and managed.
Neuropathology underpins the personality disorder
Foremost, BPD must be regarded as a serious, disabling brain disorder, not simply an aberration of personality. In DSM-5, symptoms of BPD are listed as: feelings of abandonment; unstable and intense interpersonal relationships; un­stable sense of self; impulsivity; suicidal or self-mutilating behavior; affective in­stability (dysphoria, irritability, anxiety); chronic feelings of emptiness; intense anger episodes; and transient paranoid or dissociative symptoms. Clearly, these clusters of psychopathological and be­havioral symptoms reflect a pervasive brain disorder associated with abnormal neurobiology and neural circuitry that might, at times, stubbornly defy thera­peutic intervention.
No wonder that 42 published stud­ies report that, compared with healthy controls, people who have BPD display extensive cortical and subcortical abnor­malities in brain structure and function.1 These anomalous patterns have been detected across all 4 available neuroim­aging techniques.

Magnetic resonance imaging. MRI studies have revealed the following abnormalities in BPD:
• hypoplasia of the hippocampus, caudate, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
• variations in the CA1 region of the hippocampus and subiculum
• smaller-than-normal orbitofrontal cortex (by 24%, compared with healthy controls) and the mid-temporal and left cingulate gyrii (by 26%)
• larger-than-normal volume of the right inferior parietal cortex and the right parahippocampal gyrus
• loss of gray matter in the frontal, temporal, and parietal cortices
• an enlarged third cerebral ventricle
• in women, reduced size of the me­dial temporal lobe and amygdala
• in men, a decreased concentra­tion of gray matter in the anterior cingulate
• reversal of normal right-greater-than-left asymmetry of the orbitofron­tal cortex gray matter, reflecting loss of gray matter on the right side
• a lower concentration of gray mat­ter in the rostral/subgenual anterior cin­gulate cortex
• a smaller frontal lobe.
In an analysis of MRI studies,2 cor­relation was found between structural brain abnormalities and specific symp­toms of BPD, such as impulsivity, sui­cidality, and aggression. These findings might someday guide personalized in­terventions—for example, using neuro­stimulation techniques such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation and deep brain stimulation—to modulate the activity of a given region of the brain (depending on which symptom is most prominent or disabling).

Magnetic resonance spectroscopy. In BPD, MRS studies reveal:
• compared with controls, a higher glutamate level in the anterior cingulate cortex
• reduced levels of N-acetyl aspar­tate (NAA; found in neurons) and cre­atinine in the left amygdala
• a reduction (on average, 19%) in the NAA concentration in the dorsolat­eral prefrontal cortex.
Functional magnetic resonance im­aging. From fMRI studies, there is evi­dence in BPD of:
• greater activation of the amygdala and prolonged return to baseline
• increased functional connectiv­ity in the left frontopolar cortex and left insula
• decreased connectivity in the left cuneus and left inferior parietal and the right middle temporal lobes
• marked frontal hypometabolism
• hypermetabolism in the motor cor­tex, medial and anterior cingulate, and occipital and temporal poles
• lower connectivity between the amygdala during a neutral stimulus
• higher connectivity between the amygdala during fear stimulus
• higher connectivity between the amygdala during fear stimulus
• deactivation of the opioid system in the left nucleus accumbens, hypothal­amus, and hippocampus
• hyperactivation of the left medial prefrontal cortex during social exclusion
• more mistakes made in differenti­ating an emotional and a neutral facial expression.

Diffusion tensor imaging. DTI white-matter integrity studies of BPD show:
• a bilateral decrease in fractional an­isotropy (FA) in frontal, uncinated, and occipitalfrontal fasciculi
• a decrease in FA in the genu and rostrum of the corpus callosum
• a decrease in inter-hemispheric connectivity between right and left ante­rior cigulate cortices.
Genetic Studies
There is substantial scientific evidence that BPD is highly heritable—a finding that suggests that brain abnormalities of this disorder are a consequence of genes involved in brain development (similar to what is known about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism).
A systematic review of the heritabil­ity of BPD examined 59 published stud­ies that were categorized into 12 family studies, 18 twin studies, 24 association studies, and 5 gene-environment inter­action studies.3 The authors concluded that BPD has a strong genetic compo­nent, although there also is evidence of gene-environment (G.E) interactions (ie, how nature and nurture influence each other).
The G.E interaction model appears to be consistent with the theory that ex­pression of plasticity genes is modified by childhood experiences and environ­ment, such as physical or sexual abuse. Some studies have found evidence of hypermethylation in BPD, which can ex­ert epigenetic effects. Childhood abuse might, therefore, disrupt certain neuro­plasticity genes, culminating in morpho­logical, neurochemical, metabolic, and white-matter aberrations—leading to pathological behavioral patterns identi­fied as BPD.

The neuropsychiatric basis of BPD must guide treatment
There is no such thing as a purely psycho­logical disorder: Invariably, it is an abnor­mality of brain circuits that disrupts normal development of emotions, thought, behavior, and social cognition. BPD is an exemplar of such neuropsychiatric illness, and treat­ment should support psychotherapeutic ap­proaches to mend the mind at the same time it moves aggressively to repair the brain.

They are one and the same,

They are one and the same, stop medicalising distress. Child abuse radically changes the brain. Child abuse causes brain damage.

I'm sorry I can't quote endless research and neurological studies but having lived through psychological abuse and displayed many BPD symptoms I can attest personally that the abuse changed me for the worse and it has taken a lot of time and effort to re-wire.

I'm sorry but it makes me so angry that we separate the brain from psychology. Our brain is our experience. It is moulded and shaped from experience. Yes we are born with a temperament and an inclination towards certain behaviours. But we are also highly highly influenced by our environment.

This includes coming to believe that we are fatally flawed and our brains are wrong if that's what psychologists, psychiatrists and neurologists tell us.

Thank you for this valuable

Thank you for this valuable contribution to the understanding of the neurochemical correlates of personality disorder. This information adds both clarity and complexity. The clarity is from the understanding that those affected by personality disorder have altered brain functioning and hence are suffering from some sort of illness. The complexity is because the children of those affected suffer from the abuse anyway. Would it be possible for you to reply with some information as to the genetic transmission of these neurochemical deviations so that children of mothers with BPD and NPD can know whether or not they are at risk for disorders themselves and what steps they can take to mitigate their vulnerability to their own functioning? You also raise the very interesting possibility that these mothers are hurting their children with the intent of being good parents but unable to understand the pain they cause due to the effects of their disease.

The presence of both serotonin 1A receptor (HTR1A) and dopamine transporter (DAT1) gene variants increase the risk of borderline personality disorder.

Front Genet. 2014 Jan 7;4:313. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2013.00313. eCollection 2014.
The presence of both serotonin 1A receptor (HTR1A) and dopamine transporter (DAT1) gene variants increase the risk of borderline personality disorder.
Joyce PR1, Stephenson J2, Kennedy M3, Mulder RT1, McHugh PC4.
Author information

Dysfunction in the dopaminergic and serotonergic neurotransmitter systems has been demonstrated to be important in the etiology of borderline personality disorder (BPD). We investigated the relationship of two BPD risk factors, the HTR1A promoter polymorphism -1019C > G (rs6295) and the dopamine transporter (DAT1) repeat allele, with BPD in a major depressive disorder cohort of 367 patients. Out-patients with major depressive disorder were recruited for two treatment trials and assessed for personality disorders, including BPD. DNA samples were collected and the rs6295 polymorphism was detected with a TaqMan(®) assay. The DAT1 repeat allele was genotyped using a modified PCR method. The impact of polymorphisms on BPD was statistically analyzed using uncontrolled logistic and multiple logistic regression models. BPD patients had higher frequencies of the DAT1 9,9 (OR = 2.67) and 9,10 (OR = 3.67) genotypes and also those homozygous HTR1A G allele (OR = 2.03). No significant interactions between HTR1A and DAT1 genotypes, were observed; however, an increased risk of BPD was observed for those patients who were either 9,10; G,G (OR = 6.64) and 9,9; C,G (OR = 5.42). Furthermore, the odds of BPD in patients exhibiting high-risk variants of these two genes differed from those of patients in low-risk groups by up to a factor of 9. Our study provides evidence implicating the importance of the serotonergic and dopaminergic systems in BPD and that the interaction between genes from different neurotransmitters may play a role in the susceptibility to BPD.

Genetic risk variants - pub med

Psychiatry Res. 2014 Jun 28. pii: S0165-1781(14)00534-4. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2014.06.031. [Epub ahead of print]
Association between dopa decarboxylase gene variants and borderline personality disorder.
Mobascher A1, Bohus M2, Dahmen N3, Dietl L4, Giegling I5, Jungkunz M2, Kleindienst N2, Limberger M2, Meisenzahl E6, Rietschel M7, Roepke S4, Schmahl C2, Schott B8, Schwarze CE3, Tadić A3, Treutlein J7, Vogel F3, Witt SH7, Zetzsche T6, Rujescu D5, Lieb K3.
Author information

Despite heritability estimates of 37-69%, research has identified few genetic risk variants for borderline personality disorder (BPD). The present collaborative candidate gene study of 987 BPD cases and 1110 healthy controls found an association between BPD and single nucleotide polymorphism rs12718541 in the dopa decarboxylase gene.

BPD is an illness much like schizophrenia is an illness Lets work to cure the illness

I don't think it is helpful to place blame ie... Does a schizophrenic mother intend to hurt her child because of the manifestations of her illness, Does a BPD mother intend to hurt her child because of the manifestations of her illness? No, they clearly have a mental illness. Here are the risk factors for developing that illness.

Schizophrenia Causes
By Mayo Clinic Staff
It's not known what causes schizophrenia, but researchers believe that a combination of genetics and environment contributes to development of the disorder.

Borderline Personality Disorder Causes
By Mayo Clinic Staff
As with other mental disorders, the causes of borderline personality disorder aren't fully understood. Experts agree, though, that the disorder results from a combination of factors. Researchers believe factors that play a role include:

Genetics. Some studies of twins and families suggest that personality disorders may be inherited or strongly associated with other mental disorders among family members.
Environmental factors. Many people with borderline personality disorder have a history of childhood abuse, neglect and separation from caregivers or loved ones.
Brain abnormalities. Some research has shown changes in certain areas of the brain involved in emotion regulation, impulsivity and aggression. In addition, certain brain chemicals that help regulate mood, such as serotonin, may not function properly.

I think it is also unhelpful

I think it is also unhelpful to not hold people to account for their behaviours. This does not mean blaming but rather letting people know they have personal responsibility whatever their illness. This can be viewed as empowering not blaming if the emphasis is on healing and change.

We cannot stop hurting people if we refuse to acknowledge we are hurtful at times. Lots of people have difficulty regulating their emotion for very many reasons but I believe strongly that however ill someone is they still can develop their capacity to make better, less damaging choices.

What I have observed is people who are very ill, but are still able to take responsibility, work towards improving and bettering their lives. I have however suffered at the hand of the type of person who refuses to acknowledge any responsibility, or see the damage they do, and so there is no improvement or healing.

These different styles of personal responsibility cross all mental health diagnostic boundaries, with the exception of NPD that could be argued to be the definition of lack of personal responsibility. However, it is not an exclusive trait of NPD, in fact many functioning, apparently healthy people have this trait. Life has just gone their way thus far!

I would hate to see a world were people act however they like and blame their illness for all sins. By my, admittedly, personal definition you would have to be sick to murder someone, do we therefore say that person couldn't help it. Despite having a set of behaviours that can be diagnosed there is much movement and scope for variation within those boundaries.

confused here

Who is saying not to hold people accountable for their behavior? If a schizophrenic mother is abusing her child, the child WILL be taken away from her.. whether she suffers from schizophrenia or not.
Having a mental illness does not give one a free pass from crime (unless they aren't mentally competent to stand trial in which case they would go to a psych ward until they can stand trial but in either cases the child would not still be with the abuser they would be taken away). If you do drugs whether or not you have a mental illness your child will be taken away. The law is the law about endangering children.

What I am taking about is a much grayer area in intention.

Say, you said to a friend who suffers from BPD "I would rather be anywhere but here right now."
BPD's, being extra sensitive, are going most likely to take that comment personally and be hurt by your comment thinking it was directed at them. The BPD might cry and give you the silent treatment or have a chip on her shoulder the whole day because of that comment. The BPD will suffer thinking you don't want to be with them from your comment.

WAS IT YOUR INTENTION TO HURT THE PERSON WITH BPD? Most likely not. You might just have a killer headache or be really sleepy and said the comment not realizing the BPD would take it personally. IS IT THE BPD'S INTENTION TO CAUSE YOU DISTRESS BC THEY TOOK YOUR COMMENT PERSONALLY? Most likely not. Their brain is reacting to a negative comment like how their illness presents... they hear a negative comment fear circuits get activated, they react.

You could say The BPD needs to take responsibility for how they reacted. The BPD could say most people use good etiquette/manners and don't say something negative about not wanting to be with someone, because it could be misconstrued. Perhaps you could take responsibility knowing you are with a BPD and be more careful with what and how you say things, perhaps the BPD could get more training in how not to react and to fight what their brain is saying. This needs to be worked on by all parties involved.

Being hurtful goes both ways and normal / not normal has many variants. Some people think its normal and perfectly ok to say what you feel. Some people think its not normal to tell someone you'd rather be anywhere but there with them as that is extremely rude.
But the disease of BPD is such that a person w BPD will suffer from a comment like that, their brain will react biologically due to their illness. If they react too strongly and are abusive they deserve/ will have their children/or in this case a friendship taken away. But most cases of BPD reactions fall far short of abuse.

What I am talking about is what the Dr said in his comment about A person with BPD's "intent of being good parents but unable to understand the pain they cause due to the effects of their disease."

They aren't causing pain on purpose, the are most likely trying very hard to be a good parent, but they don't always react like a "normal" person because of the biological disease. We need to understand and TREAT the biology of the disease so all involved suffer less.

I apologise if I took you the

I apologise if I took you the wrong way. I will explain my experience of 'no blame'.

There is an argument to be had that people are labelled BPD to let society and parents of the hook for both intentional and unintentional child abuse and neglect, or even not seeing the possibility that some children need a little more care. The disease is put on the individual and society does not have to look at itself. The child is given the mental health label and the parenting is absolved. This is where I feel that sometimes those who say 'don't blame' go too far and look the other way.

As a child brought up in an abusive house and an adult trying to heal the effects of such I have repeatedly been told to not 'blame' my mother, that 'she couldn't help it' or 'she meant well' to the point that I find the phrase 'she did her best' offensive. Because, all these things have been said by people that refuse to believe me and continue to invalidate my experience that a mother can be cruel. Also whenever dealing with GP's, most of my acquaintances and a significant part of my family, my depression and BPD symptoms have been talked about as me and my problem, not ever as a result of a specific and individual set of circumstances, without anyone ever asking 'what happened to you?' or even 'what's going on for you right now?'

Now the 64 million dollar question is, how much is me? and/or how much is trauma/abuse? I can tell you so far it feels like both, but a not significant set of behaviours and emotional responses have either fallen away or greatly reduced as I have healed from my traumatic childhood. So much so that I no longer qualify for any diagnosis.

I'm also talking about the grey area. I would argue that a large proportion of neglect and abuse happens despite a person's best intention. A subtle form of neglect that goes on is not taking a child's unique temperament into account.

This is what I meant by taking personal responsibility. I know for a fact that I have not been the best parent at times, but by empowering myself of the knowledge that I can make small and incremental steps to increase my resilience and decrease my emotional overload I have got to a place of being a good enough parent. I therefore take the worst of the environmental triggers for mental ill health away from the next generation. Will this be enough to prevent mental illness for them? Only time will tell. There is no denying my son has inherited a sensitivity that have caused him to have problems and struggles where my daughters don't, but I also know that my emotional problems during his infancy contributed significantly to his problems. Something I am working on to repair as much as I can.

No I did not intend to hurt my children, but if I had refused to see the harm I was doing because of my behaviours, my own recovery from my past abuse would be incomplete. My mother, the women who abused me, I can see now did not intend to hurt me, but without seeing any proof that she tried to do anything differently I find it difficult to forgive. I can move on from it, make my own path and see she was troubled and in pain herself, I even feel compassion for her struggles but it is hard to excuse her for it. In excusing it I invalidate my own pain which I know from experience helps no-one.

I guess the question is, can people like this, who do not take responsibility, change. Can they ever see that they could change things for the better for both themselves and others? My own belief is that the current medicalising of human distress actually disempowers a lot of people who are taught to 'blame' their illness. It's not them, it's not their environment, it's not society, it's not abuse in all it's forms. It's their illness. People can change when they feel it's in their power but for a long time those with mental health problems have been told they can't change. Thankfully this attitude is dying away.

BPD is now seen as very treatable, the new shift to mindfulness therapies is proving that people can change their functioning, and neural pathways have been seen to change. These changes caused by abuse can be slowly unpicked and undone. Great news for me, great news for my son. Great news for us all.

Interesting premise but still an illness you need to respect the power of the illness

Your comment struck a chord in me as I have experienced something similar. I had a Bipolar mother who when I was 6 decided to play Russian roulette with a real gun and me (she didn't want me to have to suffer in the world like she did and voices in her head told her to save me by killing me). The gun went off, I was alive she wasn't.

I suffered in life from the effects of growing up with a Bipolar mother. I too was always told not to blame my mother as she was mentally ill. There were days she couldn't get out of bed and take care of me bc she was mentally ill. I am angry that I didn't have a normal mother, and a normal childhood.

You are right she should have taken personal responsibility and gotten up each day and fed me and nurtured me and not tried to shoot me with a gun. That was abusive.

She did it bc there were voices in her head and psychosis that told her that was the right thing to do. Her mental illness prevented her from doing the right thing. How easy it was for her to get away with it bc she had Bipolar. and YET she did have Bipolar! she did have voices in her head that normal people don't have. BECAUSE that is the nature of the illness. and it is an illness. We can't pretend that she was really a normal person lurking under a label of bipolar. There were changes in her brain that normal people don't have.

Could she ever have changed and taken personal responsibility and not abused me? ONLY I THINK IF THEY CURED THE ILLNESS.

Your statement : "the current medicalising of human distress actually disempowers a lot of people who are taught to 'blame' their illness. It's not them, it's not their environment, it's not society, it's not abuse in all it's forms. It's their illness. People can change when they feel it's in their power but for a long time those with mental health problems have been told they can't change."
Totally disregards the ILLNESS!

Maybe Cancer patients should just stop pretending that they are sick and get off their butts and act normal. GUESS WHAT? They can't until they cure the cancer! I think most of the cancer patients would tell you to be thankful that you do not have the illness and have some compassion for those who truly do have an illness and stop blaming them, that is not helpful.


Hi, I'm so sorry to hear

Hi, I'm so sorry to hear about your early childhood. Your experience was truly awful and all I can say is it does get better. I was very angry for a while but it passes if you allow yourself to be angry ( which often times means getting strong enough to tell other people to mind there own business, and to get strong enough to know for certain that your childhood was not right - regardless of your mother's intentions and capabilities)

My intention was definitely not to blame people for being sick, but to ask the question whether slowly but surely and with support and encouragement, people can make changes for the better. I was talking about cure in a roundabout way.

The discussion here is more about borderline/narcissitic mothers and how much control they have over their behaviours. The difficulties of psychosis and bipolar are a different issue.

The comparison with cancer while emotive is not as straight-forward as it seems. Almost all mental illness has both strong cognitive and behavioural elements that can be changed slowly over time, while cancer does not. CBT, DBT and Mindfullness amongst other treatment modalities work for many mental illnesses by effecting this change. Recognising that one can effect change in the brain is empowering. My intention was definitely to make people think that SOME of the cure is within them. That being said I understand some people are just too sick at times and i didn't intend to blame people for not changing what they can't or needing help when very ill.

Kindest Regards

Thanks, I am sure your intentions are good!

and MY POINT (along with my point of sharing all of the latest scientific studies of the real physiological changes in the brain of BPD that indicate a true medical illness) is that people who suffer from BPD they can't help it they aren't trying to abuse you. They aren't intentionally acting this way what so ever. IT is a MENTAL ILLNESS. Complete with Physiological Brain Changes no different than the cellular changes in cancer or the physiological changes in the brain from Bipolar.

When you speculate why they can't see that they are acting off, Why don't they don't just go get help and fix themselves because, you, a normal person (or a family member), have told them to over and over again why don't they take personal responsibility and fix themselves ... like you said: QUOTE
"the type of person who refuses to acknowledge any responsibility, or see the damage they do, and so there is no improvement or healing".

Guess what?

We must understand that and stop attacking people who suffer from BPD as hiding behind their illness instead of "manning up" and doing the right thing to get better. They don't know that their brain is not behaving "rightly". They just know what their brain tells them what their experience is... and that is different than what your brain tell you.

Eventually they may get a diagnosis and then they can take steps to get better but it is no difference than a cancer patient or a bipolar patient taking the steps to get better after a diagnosis.. and it won't be easy.


So when the author ends this post with WHAT HE DID:

"Truly breaking free requires seeing things for what they are. Effective therapy will require grieving the mother you wish you had, and coming to terms with a woman, however destructive, who is doing (and did) the best she can. Anger yields to sadness, which yields to acceptance."

You and others stop placing blame and work on truly understanding the disorder so we can cure it.
Just think about it

I'm not getting my point

I'm not getting my point across somehow. I'm sorry you feel I'm being so judgmental. I'm not sure where you read judgment in my argument. Voicing the possibility of healing is entirely different from telling people to 'man up' which was not what I said.

I have been the one doing the damage to others and I have also been the one who knew there was something wrong with my behaviour and I have also been able to change my behaviour over TIME. I have done exactly what the author says.

Broken away from a medical model of BPD, stepped away from a psychologically abusive mother and truly grieved my poor mothering, accepted her for who she was, used CBT and DBT to change my cognitive distortions, emotional volatility and poor behavioural patterns. All these things contributed to my BPD not JUST being born with a dodgy brain. Mental illness is created by a heady mix of biology, environment, trauma, and society. Real physiological changes are seen in the brain because our brain responds to our world. To just say that a BPD is a disordered brain without looking at the reasons why is very black and white and in MY experience de-humanising. My trauma was ignored and belittled by those who liked to say I was just born this way. A mental illness diagnosis did little to lead me to a lasting recovery. What did was an understanding of trauma which led to the realisation I act like this because I am reacting to life as if it was still as scary as when I was young.

Healing wasn't easy or a quick fix but it was possible. I would argue that the majority of people with mental illness are in distress and know on some level there is something wrong with them, knowing there is something wrong is what makes us act out. The real hurdle to healing is the lack of care for mental health.
If mental illness was like cancer then where were all the good wishes, the support, the care facilities and understanding when I had my breakdown? Nowhere to be seen. If mental illness was given the same care as cancer then a lot more people would be able to recover.

This is why I am in disagreement with a purely biological model of mental illness. It denies all other possible contributors of mental ill health and still doesn't help to heal you. It can be very de-humanising if it doesn't acknowledge the ENTIRITY of a person's experience.

I'm not the original poster you replied to

I just get checked the "notify when new comments are posted box" when I commented way above, but

The poster said in a post about the mayo clinic that BPD is caused by genetics, environment and brain abnormalities. Schizophrenia is also thought to be caused by the same factors. I think the poster is implying that Cancer also is caused by genetics biology and environment.

No one is saying that environment doesn't play a part in developing mental illness, just that it isn't the whole part. In order to cure and prevent its important to look at the whole picture of the illness. Environment might activate the genetics that activate the biology, but also sometimes genetics activate the biology with or without the influence of environment, sometimes the biology activates the environment etc...

You were fortunate to have insight into your illness that allowed you to overcome it. Some people with some illnesses are not so fortunate (nor biologically lucky) to be able to overcome their illness. Case in point I would argue would be the nature of narcissism does not allow the narcissist to know something is wrong w them and work to cure it so they can relate better to others. The disease or biology of the brain of a narcissist just doesn't allow that kind of insight. Many cases of psychosis are the same way.

People who suffer from OCD usually have insight that their compulsions are "crazy" but they are unable to break the cycle without medication. Psychological counseling like CBT isn't enough to cure the illness or brain from its biology. It takes an integrated model of both psychological counseling and medication or deep brain stimulation.

In the past BPD has been an illness that has been stigmatized with many accusing the sufferer of manipulation and faulty intentions as many times they can pass as normal or not quite as sick as someone with schizophrenia. I think the poster was just trying to bring awareness to the biology of the illness that many times gets overlooked. I personally wish they would bring more awareness to the biology of narcissism so that we could make progress with that illness although there is much debate on whether or not its even an illness as so few present for treatment.

Good point although I also had another point

I originally posted the biological studies/ info on BPD (I couldn't find many studies on Narcissism) to help adult children of these mothers facilitate forgiveness toward their mother.

Sometimes its easier to come to acceptance of the intentions behind a parents actions if you can see and understand the biology of the illness the mother is suffering from. It becomes clear that the mother has an illness and not just a character flaw or bad intentions. Its easier to let the anger go and give way to grieving and acceptance so the adult child can heal as the author stated in his article.

In so many posts Ive read much anger towards someone suffering with BPD because of their actions. I am pointing out that this is an illness- every bit as real as any other illness -no matter the horrible actions that come from it as the author described in his article. Many illnesses have horrendous actions as I have experienced first hand. Many mental illnesses don't allow for insight so the sufferer can heal themselves through therapy or even present for treatment.

BTW Not everyone who is diagnosed with BPD suffered trauma or and environmental trigger. There are many sufferers of BPD who didn't have an abusive childhood.

There are also many BPD's who don't have insight into their disorder or know something is wrong with them. There are many presentations of this illness.

Some are able to find cures with the many therapies that are being offered recently, and some need medication intervention. Perhaps they will find a nose spray of a glutamate antagonist or oxytocin that can reduce the symptoms immediately... all avenues are open along with the current psychotherapeutic models. I am not closing any doors.

Was just at a seminar in NYC about this Different Brain

Ever wonder why people with BPD misunderstand you?
Ever notice you haven't said anything yet your loved one thinks you are angry?

People with BPD do not process facial expressions in the same part of the brain as do other people. They receive different messages from facial expressions that affects their responses to social situations and can trigger impulsive or inappropriate reactions. This can explain their painful sense of social exclusion and rejection.
Eric Fertuck, PhD

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

Mark Banschick, M.D., is a psychiatrist and author of The Intelligent Divorce book series.


Subscribe to The Intelligent Divorce

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?