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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5111
Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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My daughter Caitlin has Narcissistic Personality Disorder and

Customer Question

My daughter Caitlin has Narcissistic Personality Disorder and is 26 years old. She was very defiant as a child, especially with her mother, but seemed less defiant as she got older. Her mother and I divorced when Caitlin was 6, and her sister Emily was 3. Caitlin took the divorce hard at first, but I was always present in her life, and I was warmer with my children than their mother, who was and still is quite a rigid and angry person. Caitlin seemed fairly happy and well-adjusted, and was close to me, until the age of about 14. Then her personality changed drastically: she grew angrier and more distant with her mother and I, would blow up at any criticism, and had to be the centre of the universe.

Books I read say the disorder is both genetic and a product of her upbringing. But Caitlin's sister, Emily, had the same upbringing, and is a healthy young woman who graduated at the top of her class. My question is: How do I stop feeling guilty about how Caitlin has turned out? She has not spoken to me in 3 years, and does not want me in her life, and she won't tell me why. Her personality definitely is closer to her mother's than mine. I always tried to give Caitlin the best of me. How can I stop feeling so responsible for the way Caitlin is? Thank you.....Lyall Brown
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  cathy replied 3 years ago.

Hi Lyall and thanks for writing JA

 

Just curious here did the clinician who diagnosed your daughter say NPD or N traits?

 

Also has she shared the trauma with anyone?

Thanks for the additional information so we can best help you from JA.

Warm regards

Cathy

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
She was actually diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, but that was about 10 years ago, when she was 16. With everything I've read, she seems to be a textbook case of NPD: grandiosity, has to be the centre of attention, extreme anger at criticism. How do I stop feeling so guilty about her condition? Her sister was raised by the same divorced parents, and has turned out happy and at the top of her class. Thank you....Lyall.
Expert:  cathy replied 3 years ago.

I would rather opt out and allow experts to help you on this.

Warm regards,

Cathy

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Relist: Incomplete answer.
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 3 years ago.

Hi! You know, to give you the best answer, I think I should ask you a few questions first that will help define the problem and the situation.


Lyall, I've read the exchange of information above. Was there trauma in Caitlin's life before 14 years old or at 14? I mean abuse/molestation? We know about the divorce. So other trauma.

Have you read about BPD as well? There's a distinct difference in both diagnosis and treatment between NPD and BPD. You reject the BPD diagnosis. Is this correct? You feel NPD is more appropriate as a diagnosis for Caitlin, is this correct? Any specific reasons?

Any extra information that will help, feel free to share.

Let's go forward from the answers to these questions.

Please go ahead and post your response. I may be away from the computer for the night before you respond. If so, would tomorrow be okay for me to respond?

Dr. Mark

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Dear Dr. Mark: Thanks for getting back to me. I feel Caitlin really exhibits symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. She is extremely self-centred, and doesn't seem to have the extreme mood swings associated with BPD. I have attended a course on BPD, and there are similarities in the two syndromes. I know some people can exhibit symptoms of more than one syndrome.

 

To answer your question about trauma, I know Caitlin found my leaving and the divorce very traumatic, but she dealt with some of that in counselling. I stayed close with her, and saw her and her sister, Emily, often. Caitlin was alway kind of a serious child, like her mother, but she did have friends, and had fun, and did well in school. It wasn't until she was about 15 that she started to really change, and become jealous of everyone, and more distant with me.

 

He mother remarried in 1995, when Caitlin was 10, and Caitlin never accepted this man into her life, although he seemed quite nice and easy-going. This was a constant source of stress for her mother's home until Caitlin moved out at age 22. In talking with her mother, I'm not aware of any abuse that happened to Caitlin before the age of 15. I think a boy did try to take advantage of her when she was about 19, but she did not seem scarred by the incident.

 

BotXXXXX XXXXXne: I think Caitlin creates a lot of trauma in her life by the skewed way she views the world. She is extremely paranoid, and is suspicious of everyone. My other daughter, Emily, could not be more different; she is more easy-going, happier and well-adjusted. I know I have work to do on forgiving myself, and keeping hope that with time, Caitlin might mature a little, and maybe someday, let me back into her life.

 

The way she is now, putting people down and being angry all the time, ready to pounce on any mistake I make, I don't want to be around that kind of abuse. I received enough of that for 13 years in the time I was with Caitlin's mother. Anyway, thanks so much, and I hope this infor helps. Any advice you can give me would be great. Thanks....Lyall

Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 3 years ago.

Lyall, Thanks for the confirming information. First, let me say it sounds like you've put up with a lot for a very long time. And with NPD this is a constant. It does not change. We'll get to why below, though you seem to have done enough research to already probably know most if not all I am going to say about it.


And this is actually the key to my answer to you that you need to consider and think about. Your question is how not to feel responsible. You know, Lyall, divorce itself makes many parents feel responsible for their kids shortcomings, even when it is not full blown NPD. There is a lot of guilt with divorce. But you couldn't live with her mom and you certainly are not responsible for her mom's dysfunction.

But there is a more pernicious difficulty in feeling responsible. Mental health disorders are not mechanical disorders: take a blood test, you got it or you don't. They are extremely individual. And you know enough about NPD to know that even the mothering doesn't give us precision in predicting NPD. An overprotective mother can induce NPD in some children; a cold and stiff mother can in others. How bizarre is that? And not all children.

So, who to assign blame to is impossible to know. And we know that personality factors are involved, but not two people with similar dispositions and similar backgrounds will both have the same mental health disorder!! So I need you to let that thought go. It is not a real world thought. In the real world, there are the important questions of whether to have ANY contact with her and how much. These are real questions. And I have worked with family members of NPD sufferers and I support anyone who says they've had enough and are ready to break ties. I have seen the toll NPD sufferers take on those in their orbit.

And you know from your years of experience that she will not accept help. Why not?

Because narcissists never believe the problem is in them. The problem is always in YOU. So if they ever seek help, it is only to get what they want. Then they stop coming to therapy once they've convinced the people who have forced them to that they have tried. And all the while, they keep doing what they believe they should be doing.

I'm concerned more about you. What do I mean?

You've put up with a lot and you are willing to put up with more. Clearly you love her but she's used you up. I need you to understand that she is not going to change because of your giving nature. Your goodness is not going to one day make her see the beauty of also being a good person. Narcissists don't change like that. It takes years and years of therapy. And so all she sees is someone to use. You're a good person and if you stay, I can understand: you've invested a lot into this relationship. I think these are the parameters for your making the decision.

If you choose to break off contact, I am going to recommend a wonderful book that you need to read and with it I'll give the Amazon page for it:

It is called: Freeing Yourself from the Narcissist in Your Life by XXXXX XXXXXez-Lewi.

http://www.amazon.com/Freeing-Yourself-Narcissist-Your-Life/dp/1585426245/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1283986442&sr=1-1

If you choose to remain in her orbit:

Step 1. You must accept that you cannot change her. This is the heart of the matter: what you see is what you are going to get for a long time (see step 2) if not for the rest of her life. Your job and your goal is to learn how to accept her the way she is and not be affected negatively by her. Yes, this is a tough, big job. But that is what she needs. You cannot be her therapist; you have to accept that this is how she deals with the world and that your job is to be there for her and with her without you getting too hurt by her personality difficulties.

Step 2. You can encourage her to seek professional help. Again, this will have to be only an encouragement. You know better than anyone that even encouraging her will probably not go over well with her, but that is the most you can do in that area. She has to be willing to go to therapy to help herself. No one else will ever be able to get her to stay in therapy and get benefit from it even if they convince him. The chances of her thinking this is a good idea are very slim.

I don't know how appetizing that sounded to you, but here are a couple of excellent books you can get on how to live with a narcissist.


1. The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship by Eleanor Payson. This is a great book that will help you with the lack of self-esteem that living with a narcissist or being close with a narcissist will do to you. Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Wizard-Oz-Other-Narcissists-Relationship/dp/0972072837/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284329075&sr=8-2

2. The Object of My Affection is in My Reflection: Coping with Narcissists by Rokelle Lerner. This book is newer but is extremely clear and insightful and has helped people since it came out 2 years ago. Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Object-My-Affection-Reflection-Narcissists/dp/075730768X/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284329075&sr=8-5

I wish you the very best and support whatever you choose to do in this difficult situation!

Please remember to click the green accept button. Feel free to continue the discussion; my goal is to get you the best answers possible. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue, just put "for Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX

Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5111
Experience: Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
Dr. Mark and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Dr. Mark....thank you so much for your detailed answer. It certainly did help me. I know I need to let go of any guilt feelings, and get on with my life. living it to the fullest. I guess I keep holding out hope that Caitlin will change, but this is probably magical thinking. I have cried so much, and feel I have lost a daughter. But I need to accept the few times she is somewhat loving. I don't know if she will ever talk to me again, but if not, that is her choice, and not my fault. Thanks again for the help....Lyall Brown
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 3 years ago.
Lyall, what you wrote now is a very clear and truthful perspective, not just a healthy one. It is very hard to accept our child's disability, and NPD really, at its core, is a debilitating disability. And to accept that she has to make her way with it and that we cannot change the situation but have to respond in healthy ways.

I wish you the very best! Dr. Mark

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