Kids & Parenting

What is a narcissistic mother

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The classically narcissistic mother
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The answer to what is a narcissistic mother is complex

According to Greek mythology, Narcissus spurned the advances of the nymph Echo and was punished by being forced to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool, doomed to look but never able to touch.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) takes its name from this story and is defined by the Mayo Clinic as “"a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. They believe that they're superior to others and have little regard for other people's feelings.”

This disorder can be extremely hard on the children of a narcissistic parent, especially if it’s the mother. The traits of a mother suffering from NPD are often excused as being those of ‘tough’ parenting or even a ‘helicopter’ parent, but can be dangerous when take to extremes.

A narcissistic mother may show  pride in the accomplishments of her children, but often only to take credit for them. She has high self-esteem and sees her children as an extension or ‘reflection’ of her and as an endorsement of her worth. She will set high standards for her children and exert control over their studies and activities to insure that they meet her high and sometimes unreasonable expectations.

This pride in her children’s accomplishments is not accompanied by a show of love for them. In fact, a narcissistic mother is usually cold to her children, family members and those in her inner circle. On the other hand, she will always put on a positive maternal face to outsiders, hiding any problems. The interests of her children are not important to her and she will suppress them if they conflict with her own goals for them.

This can often manifest itself in severe anger or even violent behavior. If confronted for her actions or caught doing something wrong, a narcissistic mother will deny any offense and often transfer the blame to a child so she can use it as an excuse for punishment. A narcissistic mother will often completely ignore her children, which will cause them to give in to her demands as a way to get attention or some semblance of love again.

As expected, Narcissistic Personality Disorder causes emotional and behavioral problems in children of narcissistic mothers. One of the most common is eating disorders. In the mother, the disorder can lead to alcohol and drug abuse, depression, relationship problems and suicidal tendencies.

While the causes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder are not well known, it can be treated by a trained psychologist. There are tests to help identify the personality traits and behavior for mothers who are in denial. Treatments include behavior modification and family and group therapy and usually lasts several years. Anti-anxiety or antidepressant drugs may be prescribed as well. All members of the family affected by the behavior of the narcissistic mother are encouraged to seek their own treatments and participate in the group and family therapy.

While Narcissistic Personality Disorder is rare, it can cause serious problems that affect entire families. Narcissistic mothers start showing the traits in early adulthood. If you know someone who has these traits, be a good friend and gently but firmly help them recognize them and seek help.

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