Signs your mother-in-law has borderline personality disorder (7 signs)

In this article, we shall look at the signs that your mother-in-law has a borderline personality disorder. In addition, we shall explore borderline personality disorder, its risk factors, symptoms, treatment and coping methods. We shall also discuss how you can respond to your mother-in-law with BPD and how to communicate with her.

This information will help you learn more about the nature of this personality disorder.

Signs your mother-in-law has borderline personality disorder

The signs your mother-in-law has borderline personality disorder include:

  • She has intense anger outbursts
  • She is afraid of being abandoned
  • She has intense emotions (she loves you she hates you)
  • She is often reckless (substance abuse, sexual behaviour, gambling or binge shopping)
  • She tries to control you and her children
  • She is overly critical of others 
  • She puts her own needs first

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

BPD (its acronym) is a mental disorder that affects how you feel about yourself and other people. It also causes problems in carrying out normal day-to-day activities. People with BPD have a negative self-image, find it difficult to control emotions, and have a series of unstable relationships.

People with BPD dislike being alone and have an extreme fear of abandonment. However, their negative traits of irritability, mood swings and impulsiveness tend to push people away, even those who love you and want to have a meaningful relationship with you. 

The symptoms of BPD start in early adulthood and seem to worsen in young adulthood, however, the symptoms tend to improve with age and one can function normally with BPD.

Signs and symptoms of BPD mother-in-law

The signs and symptoms of BPD that you might notice from your mother-in-law include:

Emotional symptoms

The emotional symptoms of BPD include:

  • Sorrow
  • Shame 
  • Terror
  • Rage 
  • Feelings of sadness and emptiness (long-term)
  • Severe mood swings. She might feel suicidal and then feel better after a few hours. Mood swings vary; some feel better in the morning and some in the evening

Cognitive symptoms

  • Having upsetting thoughts, i.e. thinking that she are a terrible person
  • Auditory hallucinations. She might hear voices in their heads telling them to harm themselves.
  • Prolonged episodes of hallucinations, i.e. hearing voices and delusions, i.e. believing that your family members want to kill you

The cognitive symptoms of a worsening condition show the need to seek medical help.

Behavioural symptoms

  • Self-harm, i.e. she might start cutting herself with a razor, or burning her skin with cigarettes. The symptoms might go to the extreme of trying to commit suicide.
  • Engaging in reckless behaviour, i.e. having unprotected sex with strangers, binge drinking and extreme use of drugs, and going on shopping sprees.

The types of borderline personality mother-in-laws

The waif

Also known as the helpless is characterised by low self-confidence and feelings of unworthiness. In addition, they feel helpless, hopeless, and despair. They feel vulnerable, defective, anxious, moody, and irrationally fearful.

Waifs may have crying spells and be unable to give nurturing to others.

The queen

Commonly known as the controlling is characterised by a constant need for attention. Their welfare comes before their children and considers a show of defiance, having one’s own needs and disobedience as disrespect. (out of the fog)

You might notice that your mother-in-law has entitlement, deprivation, emptiness, anger, frustration, or loneliness from the deprivation they felt as children. Queens are impatient and have a low tolerance for frustration. They also push others’ boundaries without regret or recognition. (out of the fog)

The witch

Also referred to as the sadistic, is characterised by cruelty towards the young, weak and powerless as a result of self-hate caused by growing up in a toxic environment.

They feel no remorse for cruel acts, showing more interest in their well-being than concern over the way they have hurt others. You might notice that your mother-in-law’s triggers include jealousy, criticism, betrayal, abandonment, feeling left out, and being ignored.

The hermit

Also known as the fearful or avoidant is characterised by reclusiveness, fear and suspicion. They believe the world is up to no good and nobody should be trusted. They see potential disasters everywhere and are afraid of not being in control.

If your mother-in-law is poor at accepting criticism and perceives criticism as being everybody else’s view of them, then she is a hermit. They display their inner shame by continually criticising others. 

How do you respond to a borderline personality mother-in-law?

Dealing with a mother-in-law with BPD is difficult. Remember that to help a person with borderline personality disorder, you must first take care of yourself. When your mother-in-law has BPD, it is easy to get caught up in trying to save her that you neglect your own needs and health.

This will just drain your energy and in the long run cause resentment, burnout or health issues yourself. You can’t help someone else when your own mental health is in the gutter. The following tips will help you deal with a mother-in-law with BPD:

Have a life

Keep reminding yourself that you are not responsible for their well-being. You are allowed to have a life outside the relationship with your mother-in-law. You are allowed to cut her off for some time so as to give yourself time to relax and take care of your needs.

Educate yourself about BPD and its triggers

Educate yourself about borderline personality disorder and its symptoms. Learn the triggers of your mother-in-law’s BPD so that you are aware of when to engage her and when to back off. 

Avoid engaging her in arguments and confrontations

Being defensive and argumentative with your mother-in-law who has BPD will only aggravate her and worsen the situation. Know when to walk out of arguments, when you are being accused and criticized. Remember that she is sick, and give yourself time to cool off before responding.

Improve your physical well-being

Make sure to take care of yourself and eat healthy balanced meals. Have enough sleep and, take care of all your physical needs. When you are well rested and relaxed, you will be able to handle arguments and stress well.

Join a support group

Get support from family, friends and also professional help. Meet others going through the same problem and you might get insightful tips on how to deal with your mother-in-law. You can look for physical support groups around your area and if there are none, there are good online support groups that you can join.

Learn how to manage stress

You will need to be the bigger person during arguments and getting anxious and upset will only increase your mother-in-law’s agitation. Learn effective stress relieving methods in the middle of arguments and stay calm when the pressure builds up. You can use breathing techniques as a way of relaxation.

Communicating with your mother-in-law who has BPD

Communication is a key component of any relationship. Communicating with a person with BPD can be very challenging. Many people with loved ones with BPD liken it to arguing with a child.

They tend to make remarks that are hurtful and inconsiderate, they are not able to read body language and they can be irrational. Their fear of abandonment makes them react to any provocation and their aggression can quickly turn to fists or range and even physical altercations.

The communication tips when talking to your mother-in-law who has borderline personality disorder include;

Pay attention to their emotions

Their feelings communicate more than their words. Pay attention to their need for validation and craving to be understood. Try to focus on the emotions they are communicating instead of the words they are saying.

Be a sympathetic and active listener

Try not to distract them when they are talking. Do not use your cellphone, tv, or computer when talking with her. Withhold your judgements and needs and nod or use comments like ‘yes’ or ‘uh-huh’ to show that you are listening to her. Remember that you don’t have to agree with what she is saying to make her know that you are listening.

Stay calm

Even when she is acting out, try to remain calm and avoid confrontations. Walk away if you need to cool down and give yourself some time.

Make her feel heard

Do not try to correct her or try to win the argument even when she is being irrational.

Talk about other things and not the disorder

Take time to explore other interests with her. Discussions about her grandchildren or her garden can help diffuse the conflict between you.

Treatment for BPD


There is no medication for BPD but medication can be given for the symptoms that manifest, i.e. antipsychotics, antidepressants and anxiolytics


Dialectical Behavioral Therapy will help you respond to emotional situations with positive coping mechanisms and with reason and proper judgment. This will reduce seeing things in white and black.


This is necessary if you are experiencing extreme symptoms like suicidal thoughts and attempts, or hallucinations and delusions that are affecting your daily functioning and relationship with others.


In this article, we looked at the signs that show your mother-in-law may have a borderline personality disorder comprehensively. We also discussed the types of borderline mothers-in-law.  In addition, we discussed how you can respond to your mother-in-law with borderline personality disorder and how to communicate with her.

Finally, we looked at the treatment options for borderline personality disorder. If you have any questions or comments, please let us know in the comments section.

Frequently asked questions: Borderline personality mother types

What does borderline personality disorder look like in a mother?

Mothers with BPD may oscillate between over-involved, intrusive behaviours and withdrawn, avoidant behaviours.

Can people with BPD be good moms?

People with borderline personality disorder can be very effective and nurturing parents if they learn how to cope with and manage the intense symptoms of BPD.

How do you respond to a borderline parent?

You can respond to a borderline parent in the following ways;

  • Be patient.
  • Be realistic.
  • Try to separate facts from feelings.


Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault. (28th November 2021). Borderline Personality Disorder. Verywellmind. Retrieved from:

NHS. (July 17, 2019). Causes- borderline personality disorder. Retrieved from

Salters-Pedneault, K. Coping Skills for Borderline Personality Disorder. Verywellmind. Retrieved from:

Helpguide, Helping Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder. Retrieved from 

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