In a perfect world, all mother-child relationships would be respectful, mature, loving, and have a healthy balance of togetherness and independence. Sadly, the world isn't perfect, and many women endure rather turbulent, guilt-ridden, dramatic, or just plain dysfunctional relationship with their moms. If any of the aforementioned sounds eerily familiar, it could be time to look for the signs a mother has dependent personality disorder.
Personality disorders are mental conditions that involve unhealthy and unchanging thoughts and beliefs about oneself and others, according to the Mayo Clinic. There are three general categories of personality disorders: Cluster A, which manifests in paranoid or schizoid behavior; Cluster B, which is characterized by dramatic, narcissistic, or antisocial behavior; and Cluster C, the disorders stemming from irrational fears and anxiety. Dependent personality disorder, or DPD, falls into Cluster C.
DPD, according to the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders (as reported by the Mind Disorders website), "is characterized by an excessive need to be taken care of or depend upon others." One of the more common personality disorders, DPD occurs in about 0.5 percent of the population, according to PsychCentral. But when it's your own mom who's affected, it's easy to feel as though you're the only one dealing with this stressful relationship. These are some of the key signs that your mother may have DPD:
She Asks Your Opinion On *Everything*
It's natural for a mom to consult her daughter if she's looking for a mother-of-the-bride gown or a recommendation for a good Italian restaurant. But, explained Psychology Today, if your mother frequently needs your help with the smallest decisions, like whether to wear a coat outdoors or what to have for dinner on an average Monday, this could mean she's too dependent on others to handle daily life.
She Needs You To Manage Her Bills
Naturally, one or both of your parents may rely on you for assistance with certain tasks as they age. But a parent with BPD expects others to take care of them even when they're quite capable of living independently. If your mom pleads ignorance or helplessness over issues like paying her bills, balancing her checkbook, or making routine appointments, this could be a sign of the disorder.
She Can't Take Criticism
People with BPD are emotionally fragile to the point where even a suggestion of criticism hurts them to the core. If you have a mother with this disorder, you may feel like you're walking on eggshells, afraid to say anything negative for fear of seeing that wounded look in her eyes.
She Never Disagrees With You
Having a mom who's open-minded is wonderful. Having a mom who always says, "You're right" or, "Whatever you say, dear," regardless of the circumstances, is cause for concern. As WebMD explained, people with DPD are so afraid of disapproval that they'll go along with anyone's opinion or choices, even if they secretly disagree.
She's Her Own Worst Critic
We all have our moments of feeling inadequate, but for someone with dependent personality disorder that feeling never goes away, according to the Bridges to Recovery website. If your mom has DPD, she has no faith in herself at all, and constantly needs assurance that you love her.
She Can't Stand Being Alone
Fear of abandonment is a huge issue for people with DPD, according to Psychology Today, because being alone just reinforces their belief that they're unworthy of love and attention. You may notice that your parents' marriage seems more like a parent-child relationship than a romance, with your mother relying on your dad to run the household and keep her company.
This fear may even lead a DPD sufferer to put up with an abusive partner, or to rush into new relationships following a divorce or death, explained the Mayo Clinic. At the very least, your mom may expect you to call or visit frequently.
You're Feeling Like Her Mother
Although adult children are often put into the caregiver position when a parent is ill or disabled, children of a mom with DPD take on that role because their mother thinks she's more helpless than she actually is. This can leave you feeling drained, resentful, and unhappy, according to A Place for Mom. You might be envious of friends who have a healthy relationship with their mothers — and guilty for feeling that way.
Personality disorders such as DPD can only be diagnosed and treated by a trained mental health professional. If you suspect your mother has this condition, you can try to persuade her to see a doctor. More importantly, however, it's important for you to seek help to deal with your mom's behavior. As A Place for Mom advises, "You will need to recognize that your parent did not choose to have this disorder. But that does not mean that you need to let them harm you. What you need to do is to set boundaries in place that will protect you from further damage."