I think my mom has a severe personality disorder.

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I think my mom has a problem. She gets upset about really small things and will scream at me for a half hour, and then just go back to normal. Once, we woke her up by accident and she started running around the house knocking things over and screaming and slamming doors and drawers over and over. Whenever I say, “love you,” she just grunts. I tried to talk to her about all of this and she just said it was my fault because I was provoking her, and she doesn’t like saying she loves people, and I should get used to it. She spends all of her free time watching star trek or cleaning. She buys expensive diet things and workout equipment and never touches it. She doesn’t care what happens to my brother in life, but she screams if I get a B. She’s always saying we can’t afford for me to do something, but she is always buying new clothes online. Whenever someone mistreats her (is rude, messes up an order) at a business place (restaurant, store), she’ll scream at them and demand to talk to the manager, and then insist that the entire brand is horrible and everyone involved is horrible, and we can never ever go there. She is 58, and I am 14, and her parents were immigrants and her mom treated her like a servant. I feel like she doesn’t love anyone but herself and has anger problems. She also has a need to adopt cats. Right now I believe we have seven. They’re well cared for, but it’s still ridiculous. She will sit down on the couch and stay there for hours upon hours. If she’s thirsty, she tells me to get her a drink, and my dad will come home at midnight from work (he works swings) and insist he make her something to eat. I love my mom, but I’m scared of her, and I’m scared for her. Can you please tell me what’s wrong or what I can do or how I can manage four more years living with her?

A: It is not possible to determine is your mom has a personality disorder from the information you have given. But what is clear is that you feel alienated, frightened, and ignored by her behavior. It is the consistency of her actions that is cause for concern. I am sorry you are having this trouble and agree that you need some help in coping.

Have you spoken to your dad? It seems like he would be the first person to connect with about your concerns. The swing shift schedule probably has him apart from your mom and sleeping at times when most couples are together, so he may not feel the impact of what is happening to you. Not having one parent you can go to doesn’t mean there can’t be comfort and support from the other. Asking him for help might be the first step.

I would also look to the guidance counselors in your school for support. They can at least give you a place to talk about the frustrations and help generate solutions or coping behavior.

Ultimately this is an issue that would be important for your mom, dad and you to bring to a family therapist (and your siblings as well if they are willing.) The counselors in your school should have a list of local family therapists who can help. There are also some suggestions from this list.

Thank you for writing to us here. It is an important step in the journey of you taking care of yourself, and coping with the problems with your mom.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 1 May 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). I think my mom has a severe personality disorder.. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/05/01/i-think-my-mom-has-a-severe-personality-disorder/