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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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I have been reading about personality disorders in order to

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Hi, I have been reading about personality disorders in order to understand my mother. I have read a lot and done my own counseling to look at alcohol use (my mother drank regulary for many years) and the effects on children (ACOA, Precious Child work) as well as ADD (I was diagnosed w/mild ADD in the early 2000s when many people were getting diagnosed). However, I am wondering more and more if my mother has a PD/PDs that was underlying her drinking, that she was never treated for and that we never recognized. She is 78 now, and she does not drink anymore. She also consumed large quantities of coffee since her teens, but has also stopped that due to having atrial fibrillation. She still smokes as far as I know (I say that because she is secretive about it). To give you a sense of her personality...It is volatile. She can go off on something and start a vebal war with the person, generally a family member (but she has fought with others in the past). She often fights in letters by email, and the victim these days is usually my sister-in-law. My brother has become a serious alcoholic (with a lot of sexually acting out, too), and my mother has not been handling it well. She blames my sister-in-law. At the same time, she can launch off on any of us kids and now her older grandkids, too. She can also bring up supposed old grievances with her own mother and my father, both of whom are dead now. She idolizes her father, who apparently my grandmother threw out of the house when my mom was 12 due to his drinking and violent temper. As far as I know, my mother never really saw or heard from him again after that. My mother also holds my brother, the one I mentioned earlier, in very high esteem. So she can definitely idolize peoole as well as demonize them. She is very curious, well-read and intelligent, but her logic is her own. Her emails are a hodgepodge of Bible and Constitution references woven in with whatever she is trying to say. There is usually some truth/intelligence in there if you can weed through it. My mother always justifies her behavior no matter how mean-spirited or strange it is. She sees herself as speaking from God, a teller of truth who believes in "full disclosure". Others are wrong; others have a problem. She also sees herself as a victim of people, the system, etc. Hopefully, this gives a sense of her. Thank you.
Hello, I'd like to help you with your question.

It does sound like your mother might have a personality disorder. When someone acts as she does towards others (idolizing certain people, demonizing others, etc) and is not able to regulate their emotions in order to get along with others, it is possible they have a personality disorder.

Personality disorders are typically ingrained behaviors that someone develops, usually in response to being raised in a dysfunctional home. The person could not get their needs met (for unconditional love and attention) so they developed other ways to get what they needed which usually involved dysfunctional behaviors. When they grew up, they continued these behaviors even when they were no longer needed.

Knowing what your mother might have and how to react to her behavior can help. While there is no way to diagnose her without seeing her for an evaluation, the behavior you describe sounds like narcissistic or borderline type. Here is a link that can help you figure out what she might have:

Many people can have some traits of one personality disorder or they can have some traits of a couple of personality disorders. By finding a personality disorder that seems to fit, you can at least know what you might be dealing with.

When dealing with someone with a personality disorder, it is helpful to keep in mind that they are not reacting to who you are as a person or even what you are doing. They are going by cues they learned long ago on how to relate to their world. And their responses can seem overwhelming and out of touch with the actual situation. They can also be very hurtful and hard to cope with.

If your mother won't get help or change in any way (common with someone with a personality disorder), you may have to change how you interact with her. One thing that helps is to see what she does as about her own issues and not you. Also, think of one phrase you can say to her that neutralizes anything she might say. such as "I'm sorry you feel that way". That usually shuts down the person and you can make a quick exit out of the situation.

I hope this has helped you,
TherapistMarryAnn and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Hi Kate,
Thank you for your very helpful response. I'm wondering about confidentiality...Do these questions and answers show up on some kind of a forum under mental health (it's my first time using I have used an alias, but I did give a good bit of info in my question that could be recognizable if a family member or friend happened to see it.
Best, Customer


You're welcome! I am glad to help.

The results of Just Answer questions are searchable under Google so if you would like privacy, you can ask the moderators on Just Answer to make your answer private and they can take care of that for you. Probably for you, that is under a customer service link, or something similar.

Take care,