By | April 4, 2014 20 Comments

When The Boogeyman Is Real – Seeing Sociopaths Through A Child’s Eyes

You are home alone. In bed. In the dark. Suddenly there is a loud thud. It came from inside the house. What was that? You are trying to fall asleep, but your nerves won’t let you. Laying on your back staring at the ceiling, you clutch the blanket around your neck. You are careful not to move. What if there is someone – or something – in the house? Did you lock the doors? Are you sure? You strain your ears to listen. The little hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Goosebumps cover your arms. Your heart is pounding. You hold your breath. You are so frightened that tears well up in your eyes, but you don’t dare cry. Audibly crying might attract the attention of……it.

That fear was something my brother and I felt almost daily as children. We were raised by two sociopaths. For children of sociopaths, the boogeyman IS real. My father was the violent sociopath. There was no telling what might set him off. Facial expressions, dripping gravy on the kitchen table, laughing too loud…..we never knew what would send him into a violent rage. Crying or running away from him was like pouring gasoline on a fire. If I was in my bedroom, I had to cry silently so my parents didn’t hear.

Dad’s volatile behavior occurred (for the most part) at night, when he was drunk. One thing remained constant: he had an ego and an ideology that rivaled Hitler. If you were any nationality but German, you deserved to be snuffed out. If my dad didn’t like you (maybe he just didn’t like your hairstyle), he wanted you gone. He talked constantly about wanting to kill people (whether he ever did and got by with it, I don’t know). Naturally when I was in bed each night and heard the garage door open, I was filled with fear and dread. I was on a high alert. I listened for voice inflections. What was going to happen tonight? Was he going to beat mom, or me? Was he going to beat my younger brother? My younger brother had Down’s Syndrome, and I feared for him as much as I feared for myself. Like all sociopaths, dad felt no remorse. Ever. Whatever he did to you, it was your fault, and you had it coming.

During the day, mom was our tormentor. I resented mom more than dad. She knew this, too. It fueled her anger when I showed preference for my dad. For me, mom’s cruel mental abuse was worse than dad’s physical abuse. I felt very conflicted. I wanted someone to comfort me, but had no one to go to. Aren’t mothers supposed to care about their children? Isn’t she supposed to be nice to us? Shouldn’t she hug us or something? Yet mom never tried to protect us, let alone nurture us. Instead, she created ways to inflict harm on us. My brother and I were frequently accused of things that happened only in mom’s imagination, or things that she did and let us take the fall for. For example, she was known for rummaging through dad’s things and then telling him one of us did it. She didn’t flinch seeing my brother and I punished for things she knew we didn’t do. Attempts to seek comfort from her were thwarted by more accusations. “That didn’t happen. I never said that. You’re just an ungrateful spoiled brat. You should feel lucky to have us. You never appreciate anything we do for you.”

The constant fear – that something bad was going to happen but we didn’t when or how – took a heavy toll on our mental and physical health. My brother “relieved” his anxiety through self-harm. When he was young, he used to bang his head on doors or walls until he bled. He had perpetual scabs on his forehead. As he got older, it escalated to cutting himself with sharp objects or burning himself. We had to buy him shoes with velcro because he would use shoelaces to “saw” his skin until he had an open wound. Me, I didn’t deal with the anxiety at all. I bottled it. When I became overwhelmed, I shut down. I dissociated. I remember having a little book with a cartoon of a child in a cabin. The room in the cabin was filled with toys and a loft area with a ladder. That was my “happy place.” I pictured myself in that room. No violence, no screaming, no gaslighting mother…………..just me. In my cabin. Sitting in my loft with my books or toys.

That is what motivates me to spread awareness about sociopathy. Many adult lives are destroyed by sociopaths, but the biggest tragedy is when children become their prey. Children’s minds are fragile. They don’t have a way to comprehend personality disorders. Sociopathic parents leave their children feeling extremely conflicted. They have an innate need to bond with their parents, but are faced with the doomed reality that their “protectors” are the perpetrators. It is a scary, lonely, painful experience. I never want another child to go through that. Boogeymen should only be in Scooby-Doo episodes, not living in your home.

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My parents split up when I was 7. That following year my mom planned to take us on a trip to the beach with money she had received as an inheritance. Sometime in June before we left for vacation, my Dad took us to see a new movie that was out – Jaws. I sat on his lap in the theater through the most of the movie with my head buried in his neck. He never considered leaving, I suppose. We went to the beach and wouldn’t go more than a couple of feet into the ocean. My Mom was so angry and disgusted with my brother and I. She makes comments to this day that she could’ve taken us to a local hotel swimming pool for a lot less money. Occasionally in moments of clarity she has blamed my Dad for sabotaging the trip.

That’s when I remember overwhelming fear all of the time, though I was too young to name it. I’m sure it started well before that but I still can’t remember much of anything before the age of 7. I know for certain that from this point on I lived the rest of my childhood with fear and dread.


My disordered egg donor SPATH bore 3 of us, 1 of which who inherited the disorder (my oldest brother, which was her firstborn). Growing up with her was HELL on earth. My first recollection of existence was that I remember having to stand in the corner everyday on 1 leg at age 3 for hours at a time, standing accused of stealing her sleeping pills and pain medications that she was addicted to.

My SPATH sibling and she NEVER got along and I now know why. You see, 2 SPATHS in the same household, victimizing one another are major ingredients for civil unrest and disaster. The SPATH sibling scared the hell out of both me and my youngest brother. I can remember how he would literally torture us, plot us against each other, pick on us and even attempted to sexually abuse both of us.

My SPATH donor treated all of us like slave dogs. She invalidated us, put us down, beat us constantly, emotionally abused us and controlled every aspect of our existence (how we ate, slept, folded the corners of our bedding, brushed our teeth, behaved in public, talked, you name it). I am not sure if any of you have been subjected to a beating by a sociopathic parent, but let me just tell you, it is the SCARIEST and most painful punishment a child should never have to endure. She looked like a robot in a trance, trying to trim a tree or something with wild fury and absolute persistence of the task with eyes like “a deer in the headlight”.

I left when I was 14, to be with my biological father, who she kept a secret for quite some time; however, my maternal grandmother told him of my whereabouts and we all worked together to get me away from her through child welfare services. Prior to that, my life as a pre-teen and early teen was a living hell. She would isolate me from my friends, then go behind my back and gaslight me and tell my friend’s parents what a rotten child I was and even made up stories that I was using drugs and that I was a covert hooker and that she had to often find and rescue me from the streets because I was turning tricks. I didn’t know why my friends stopped hanging around me and why I would be sitting at the lunch table at school all alone, until one particular friend told me why she could not hang around me anymore. I was DEVESTATED. When I confronted her with this information, she just cussed me out, told me to get out of her space with my BS and fanned me away like a fly.

Fast forward years later when she died, just before I met my SPATH ex-husband. I was so heart broken over her death, because she had manipulated me and made me believe that she loved me prior to her death and that she was sorry for the hell she put me through. I only discovered it was because she wanted money from me from an inheritance I received from my paternal grandparents. But nevertheless, I was happy that she all of a sudden loved me. It makes me sick and angry now, knowing what she was and how she conned me. If only LoveFraud existed then, I would have done things so much differently, stood up to her, spit in her face even and exposed her for the true MONSTER she was. I wanted her to love me so much, but now I know that she could never love anyone or anything, except herself. I carried the pain of wanting her love so much that I married a male version of her (so says my therapist).

In sum, it is true, the boogey man does indeed exist and it is in the form of an SPATH parent. Thank you for the article.


“…a beating by a sociopathic parent… is the SCARIEST and most painful punishment a child should never have to endure. She looked like a robot in a trance, trying to trim a tree or something with wild fury and absolute persistence of the task with eyes like “a deer in the headlight”.”

Exactly. I think that my mother dissociated (had a break with reality) when she’d become enraged. When I was really little, my mother’s rage terrified me so much that I actually “split” her into two people; there was “my mommy” who loved me and was nice to me, and there was “the woman” who terrified the crap out of me when she’d grip my arms, pull me close to her so she could scream at me an inch away from my face, slap me and shake me.

As a small child I had no other way of processing the reality that my own mother would seem to “go away” and the person screaming at me was like…in a trance with those dead eyes, dilated to nearly solid black, like a shark’s eyes… and she *didn’t even know me.*

I retained a vestige of that primitive atavistic fear of her rage for the rest of her life; she died a couple of years ago.

But my mother was a “walking Cluster B” of spath traits plus borderline pd, narcissistic pd and obsessive-compulsive pd; she’d alternate between terrifying spathy rage behaviors with amazing thoughtfulness and kindness sometimes, so I grew up bewildered: badly confused, anxious, and stressed to the max. I never knew which mother I was going to be in the care of from day to day, or even hour to hour.

There is a song called “Hell is for Children”; makes sense to me.



I could not have described it better,”As a small child I had no other way of processing the reality that my own mother would seem to “go away” and the person screaming at me was like”in a trance with those dead eyes, dilated to nearly solid black, like a shark’s eyes” and she didn’t even know me.”

Our many beatings, often were done with extension cords, telephone cords or the buckle of a belt. I still have permanent scars on my legs and other parts of my body from the beatings. During those beatings, the “dead eyes” and “break with reality” was so intense and scary, I thought she actually intended to kill me and would pray to God that she wouldn’t. She would often say to us, “I brought you into this world, I will take your goddamn ass out”, as though she was entitled to issue her wrath on us.

I listened to the song, and here it is on youtube, along with the lyrics: Wow, Pat Benatar really exposes the twisted reality of the abuser and the abused. Great song, thanks for referring to it.

My egg donor had two personalities only: public and private. In private, she was mainly a cruel, callous, hateful, evil and contemptuous monster. In public, she was a loving, doting “mother”, which made it hard to even confide in other people about her wickedness because no one would believe it. I sometimes wonder about hell and if SPATHS are actually demons, sent here to do the devil’s work. So yes, it makes sense in regards to Pat Benatar’s song, if in fact, “Hell is for Children”.

In so many ways, this clip from the movie, “Precious” reminds me so much of my egg donor and the way she would behave. If you haven’t seen it, you should watch it on youtube:

Thank you for your feedback. Hugs and positive thoughts your way.


Wendy – thank you for sharing and for giving a voice to those of us who grew up with personality disordered adults. When I learned about sociopaths a few years back, it reframed my childhood experiences in a way that explained *everything*. It is bittersweet to have the understanding now but not be able to go back and prevent/escape/protect anyone involved. My older brother is a depressed alcoholic who has never held a steady job.

My mother had malignant envy which could be triggered by a TV show, a phone conversation, a day dream. The most difficult times were my preschool years when I was home alone with her and my teen years when she escalated the gaslighting and smear campaigns in order to destroy my growing independence. I was 27 years old before I got completely away by moving 2 time zones away and going no contact. My biggest regret is not understanding soon enough to be of help to my father who was stuck with her, although his sister Opal lived with them the last year of his life and kept him safe. My post name honors her.

It felt to me as a child that “evil never sleeps.” I stayed shutdown too most of the time. I still dissociate easily and have hyper vigilance at night. But now I understand myself and how I came to these mental habits – it was pure survival and it worked at the time.

My father never knew what he was up against and so could not help us. But he did model a different way of being human so I have drawn on that over the years to help me.

Thank you again for sharing and best wishes in your continued work.


Hello, OpalRose. I hope you don’t mind if I chime in with a reply.

My older brother became an alcoholic too, though he is high functioning with a good job. Outwardly, he seems happy and successful but he’s almost always intoxicated if he’s not working. He left home at 18 and married right away. It came to light last year that he blames me for a lot of what happened when we were children/teenagers. I don’t know how this has happened, but he has substituted me for my mother in his memories. The things she did he is certain that I did.

I wonder if it’s true for most of us that the siblings have strained relationships, or none at all, even after the parents are gone.


Hi OwnMyOwn – I am estranged from my brother and my cousins. I’m so sorry to hear your brother projects onto you the behaviors of your disturbed mother. My brother managed to marry a woman very similar to my mother and he is always conflicted and unhappy.

I’ve struggled with this over the years – wanting validation and communication about our mutual survivor issues. But I’ve had to let it go since any conversations about it break down rather quickly into blaming me for not being a better daughter. As if I could have fixed her.

Hugs to you. Thank you for sharing with me.



Reading that your mom was targeting your daughter sparked a note of realization with me. My mom had a very difficult and abusive childhood. She doesn’t appear to have a personality disorder, but has always favored my brother and then my sons. I have always been the target of criticism and a disapproving attitude. My daughter became her new target when she was twelve or thirteen. My mom was the same abusive person that she has always been to me, maybe worse. I recognized it and removed by daughter from those situations by subtle actions. Now my daughter is older and stronger and sees my moms actions for what they are, but until now, had it allowed the normal grandmother relationship that my mom had with my sons, my daughter would have taken an undeserved amount of verbal abuse. To hear of your daughters treatment helps me know that I made the right choice and I wasn’t just being “sensitive”.

My mom is just a very hurt soul, but she has a lot of love and compassion. Her inner anger is just misguided.


Great post and comments by everyone here. The triangulation of family members & projection onmyown described is one of the worst aspects of living with all this, imo, because it truly does leave you on your own. …and under the control of the abuser with no chance of aid or rescue.

OMO, you said that your siblings have transferred their feelings and even memories of your mother’s abuse on to you. I’m so sorry that happened to you. That turned a light on for me – big time. I’m pretty sure the same thing happened to me, even though I’ve been estranged for decades so I can’t be certain. That’s the only way things start to line up re: my brothers and father. Not sure either how exactly that works or how it happens (would love to hear from anyone who might).

But boy does that ever deepen the damage when the abuses of the parent not only happen to, but are also attributed to, the victim so that any punishment or repercussion goes the victim’s way. It’s a step beyond ‘blame the victim’ – it’s punish the victim for the abuser’s sins. In that case there really is no-one to turn to, and no-one even to validate your experience (which is where the real damage happens imo). The abusers actions have now been attributed to the victim, so everything becomes ‘fair game’.

It helps me to see it laid out so clearly. I now see that I’ve been buying into it and letting it change my behaviour my whole life – living my life as if it really were true. That’s something I need to start changing right now!

For me, the triangulation/projection goes hand in hand with my mther continuing to stalk and slander me for years – even long after the estrangement. She couldn’t have continued to do that and get away with it unless she had first made me out to be the monster to everyone around her. Your comments helped me to realize that the only way she could have done that is by doing what your mother did to you and your family: twisting everyone’s memories.

Wendy, thank you for writing this post. Painful, but healing and cleansing to read.

My mther used a similar kind of mind-f*ck on all of us when we were growing up. She used to encourage my younger brother to act up (he did some pretty serious stuff), and would leave me to babysit. If he did anything at all when she was away – no matter how slight – I would be punished instead of him for allowing him to do it. Of course, whenever he tried to get into trouble and I would try to prevent it (and he would sometimes look at me and go “Ha, HA!” while doing it), no matter what I would do to try to stop him I would get beaten for that too. And the beatings of me for things he did were in front of both of my younger brothers. I can only imagine what that modeled for them.

I know this response is late, but I wanted to thank you for posting, and Onmyown, OpalRose and Hopingtoheal (and anyone else I’ve missed) for their responses. It’s helped me to see something I hadn’t seen clearly until now, and is starting to connect those last few threads of WTF? left hanging around.


My brother also married a woman much like my mother, a pure manipulator. She talked him into a secret marriage at age 19, and none of our family knew until she had planned and executed a bogus bridal shower that took place nearly 6 months after the civil ceremony. She left him after they declared bankruptcy less than 10 years later. I, in turn, married a man just like my father – cold and casually cruel.

I see my brother typically twice a year at Thanksgiving and Christmas. These are not happy times, because my mother usually says or does something terrible that sucks all the oxygen from the room. I think I am the only one who truly recognizes what’s happening. Like you, any mention of the past usually ends in brother blaming me. He says things like, “Why couldn’t you have just shut up?”. My mother looks back on those times with satisfaction. She enjoys portraying herself as a victim of my father and stepfather. She also enjoys the memories of instigating fistfights between my then-teenaged brother and stepfather, with absolutely no understanding of how sick and twisted it was.

In the last year I’ve started making excuses not to go to any family get-togethers, mostly because my mother has started targeting my 13-year-old daughter for her poison. I just can’t allow that to happen.


I’m fortunate that neither of my parents were drug addicts, or alcoholics. I didn’t get slapped, or punched; I’m thankful for that.

My father was the main abuser, the sociopath, but my mother contributed in subtle ways: I could never share my feelings with her, since she would only tell my father, or ignore them, and she has a problem lying, being unreliable, and gambling.

Still, she was also a victim. There was a hierarchy: Everything that I did was my mother’s fault, and everything my younger sister did was my fault.

I don’t remember exactly when I became afraid; I know that it was before age ten: My father had a distinctively loud truck, with no muffler. I could hear it from a block or two away, and I’d run to my room and close the door. Sometimes out of sight meant out of mind.

Any time he’d call my name, my pulse raised. I was never sure if he was going to give me a whipping, take me somewhere (which always lead to insults, at some point), or just tell me to do some simple chore.

I never felt safe, when I was awake. When I wasn’t home, I was at school with the bullies.

My younger sister was spoiled (She didn’t realize this, until her early twenties.) And, since my father molested my stepsister, it frightens me to imagine what may have been going through my father’s mind.

LL Mequon


Though my mother wasn’t a sociopath, she is a severe narcissist. And, yes, it has taken an enormous toll on all family relationships. I am the oldest of 10 children. My mother–who is threatened whenever we siblings are close–has done her best to destroy our relationships. (My siblings often mix me up with my mother, as well. Especially since I did a lot of the care taking for them.) Most of my siblings don’t understand the dynamics of narcissism, so are vulnerable to her lies and manipulation. I have a sister with Down’s syndrome who still lives with my mother–she displays a lot of behaviors that are likely rooted in her lifetime exposure to a mother who can care for no one but herself.

I found out several years ago that I was married to a sociopath (for 26 years!) During that difficult time, needless to say, she was not a comfort to me. In fact, she caused some problems between me and a brother I had had a good relationship with. It’s too long a story to go into now, but my divorce was threatening to her and she needed to have my brother as her ally. Long story short, out of 9 siblings I have one that I am somewhat close to. And that is because he is somewhat aware of personality disorders. He still sees my mother, though, so I am never sure if she will eventually do something to damage our relationship.

I just wanted to say I think I know something of your pain and the sense of injustice and betrayal when you are blamed for your parent’s actions. We were just children at the time, too.


Wow. Sometimes it’s a post like your that opens my eyes to the obvious.

I used to wonder why mom (I’ve seen it in other families) purposely instigated the kids to fight each other at the same time they yelled about having terrible children. Your observation rings so true. Why didn’t I see it before?! Yes! Mom was threatened whenever we were close! That explains so much. I felt confused and didn’t understand why she was so angry when we were getting along and being thoughtful or kind to each other. Well, duh to me. She didn’t want us to get along, if we learned to turn to each other rather than to her, then she’s lost her power.

Thank you for giving me a puzzle piece. I just know that someday I’m gonna finish this jigsaw picture and everything will make sense!


First off, my heart goes out to everyone who has shared. It is disheartening to know how many children are affected by parents who are inflicted with personality disorders. It literally breaks my heart and at the same time, makes me very angry. On a good note, it is clear that each of you have done some footwork and are on the road to recovery.That makes me happy and inspires me to keep moving myself. Although my situation wasn’t as difficult as some of yours, it continued to have enough impact on me that led to many years of regret and pain. My parents divorced before I turned five years old. My dad was an alcoholic/addict and died before I turned twelve and my mom married three times before I turned six. Obviously her second marriage was short-lived, but carried a lot of insanity. Husband #2 beat my mom daily for the short time they were together. Husband #3 would begin as perfect, even for me and my brother (2 yrs older than me)but would eventually grow old and bitter. They are still married today, but my mother has clearly wore on him, to the point that he looks so bitter and resentful, I often catch myself wondering, why in the hell does he stay. I love my mom, but I have grown to learn, life it too short to waste it on drama, chaos, anger… really, all the above. Growing up, my brother and I both were affected mainly by being taught not to feel. Go with the flow. Definitely, do not cry. Neither one of us were ever disciplined, but rather allowed to do what we wanted to, mainly because my mom had a social life to maintain. As a kid, this was seen as awesome, but looking back on it now, I would have preferred discipline and guidance. I unfortunately, had to learn a lot about life (everything) on my own. I never talked to my mom about anything. This would lead me into three marriages myself. My last husband, now ex-husband, in my opinion is definitely narcissistic-psychopath. Of course I didn’t have any idea about this when first meeting him, but it didn’t take long for me to realize this dude was different then anything I had experienced before. If I were to be completely honest, he always gave me a creepy feeling, but the insecure, enabling, gullible, weak person that I was in 2002, refused to let myself see this. This marriage would lead me into more pain, then all my years with parents. The most gut-wrenching part of all, we had a daughter together who just recently turned eight. I live in fear daily about the impact this man has on her and prey to GOD that he protects her when I cannot. After he and I officially divorced in 2009 (he left 5x’s prior to this, but I continued to allow his troll ass to come back). When I finally stood firm and did not allow him to come back, he did the typical and found his self a new victim. Literally meet her and married her within a few months. They have been together for a few years now, which most would think that’s a good thing, but trust me when I tell you, it has been nothing but hell. This woman has taken care-taking to a brand new level. She takes care of all his responsibilities and even taunts me with text messages, along with him, when I’m not doing what they think I should be doing. She believes everything this man tells her. EVERYTHING!
Obviously, our daughter was excited for awhile when going to her dad’s, especially because this woman has money and would buy our daughter, anything she wanted. As we all know, the newness wears off eventually. The step-mom, it seems is getting tired of covering my ex’s responsibilities and has began taking it out on my daughter. When I get her back, she looks exhausted and sad… but is very limited on what she shares with me, because it is forbidden by her father to discuss what they do. I have no idea what goes on with her when she is with them. When he has her for extended periods and I call her, our call is placed on conference call and she doesn’t say a word. Recently, the step-mother took it upon herself to take my daughter to her kids pediatrician and filed out paperwork, specifying her as her mother and had her placed on Vyvance (ADD medication). If you wondering why I haven’t mentioned filing any of this in court, I have. Many times, but it has been a waste of time. Clearly the court is all about the money. We have even had a guardian ad litem, assigned to us, only for her to pretty much side with my ex. At this point, the only thing I feel my daughter and I have going for us is she is getting older and is starting to pickup up on all the madness. I am now working avidly with my daughter about opening up and talking. Reminding her she has a voice. I also remind her constantly that I am here for her and will protect her, but need to say, I sometimes wonder how much power I really do have as a parent,and how much protection I can truly offer, when our court system will do nothing to protect her.
This is by far, a level of powerlessness no parent, let alone anyone should ever have to experience.
Reading each of your post has helped me see, even as children, we can survive such circumstances when it is necessary. I want to believe GOD provides what is needed (doing for us – what we cannot do for ourselves). Sure, it stills eats my freak’n lunch on a daily basis that I cannot provide my child what every parent should never be deprived of doing. In saying this, it is reassuring to know, a power greater than any of us steps in. This is what a choose to lean on today. Otherwise, I’d lose my mind.
Thanks again to each of you and your stories.


You’re welcome, and also, thank you, for sharing. 🙂


I too welcome this topic even though its personally painful for me. I think its important to openly discuss the harm that having a parent with the traits of psychopathy or sociopathy (basically antisocial pd + narcissistic pd) does to their children.

My mother was a “triple threat”, so to speak; she had borderline pd (formally diagnosed) but I believe she also had narcissistic pd and antisocial pd traits as comorbid disorders.

In the book “Understanding The Borderline Mother” this trio of disorders is referred to as a “Queen/Witch”. While the author of UTBM discusses healthy ways to cope with and manage a relationship with other sub-types of borderline pd mothers (even the “Queen”, which is narcissistic pd plus borderline pd, can be handled effectively with the right techniques) she recommends creating substantial emotional and physical distance from the “Witch” bpd mother, or even totally cutting off all contact, permanently.

This particular combination of negative traits and behaviors in a mother can be extremely toxic for her child, emotionally and even physically. I do function rather well in my professional life, but this success is compartmentalized; I think I was “broken” too early to heal from the severe emotional and physical abuse, rejection and neglect RE being able to have normal social relationships. My younger Sister is much healthier than I am in that regard, much more social, and I am grateful that we have each other, at least.

So, yes, please do share with us any information and research you have or come across RE this issue. The public needs to be more aware that children are at great risk for both emotional and physical abuse and neglect if their parent(s) have this horrible disorder of psychopathy/sociopathy (either alone or in combination with other mental disorders or personality disorders.)

Babs – Many women have been misdiagnosed as borderline when they were, in fact, sociopaths. It seems that a lot of clinicians do not want to apply the diagnosis “antisocial personality disorder” to women.


In my mother’s case, I believe she actually did have all three disorders, but predominately borderline pd. Two different therapists diagnosed her with borderline pd, at different times of her life.

The borderline behaviors (extreme, rapid mood swings, black-and-white thinking, as in “you’re all good and I love you, but now you’re all bad and I hate you”, fear of abandonment, high impulsivity, self-destructive behaviors, easily triggered into inappropriate rage, interpreting neutral facial expressions as hostile, transient psychosis or breaks with reality, etc.) came out mostly when we (my dad, sister and I, and her own older sister) were alone with her.

The npd traits (grandiosity, domineering behaviors, need to be the center of attention, demand for special treatment, etc) and the aspd traits (lack of empathy, lack of remorse, sense of entitlement to break rules, revenge-seeking behaviors, etc.) she seemed to have more of a handle on, somehow. These seemed less frequent and intense to me, anyway. Again, it was mostly in private that we experienced these behaviors in mother.

However, I agree with you that the way the current DSM defines the traits and behaviors of personality disorders, there is substantial overlap among the Cluster B group and there are a lot of misdiagoses of all of them RE getting mistaken for each other.

(A recent paper I came across concluded that bpd is not just a “woman’s disorder”, its just that women with bpd tend to wind up in psychiatric care, while men with bpd tend to wind up in jail or in substance abuse programs, so the sexes end up being counted in different sets of statistics due to phenotypic differences. Meaning, women with bpd mostly “act in” with self-harming behaviors while men with bpd mostly “act out” with other-harming behaviors, but the underlying dysfunction is bpd high impulsivity, dysregulated emotions, and aggressive, violent behaviors. )

It appears that as more and more research is done on the neurobiology of mental disorders, the ability to fine-tune more discrete, targeted definitions of the various pds will
happen. I recall coming across a research paper that mentioned a “signature” neurological/brain-activity pattern for psychopathy.

My feeling is that continued scientific research into brain biology and structure, functioning, chemisty, etc., is our best hope for overcoming these horrible, debilitiating, toxic mental disorders. Its too late for my mother, she passed away a few years ago, but there’s real hope for the upcoming generations to have access to more accurate diagnoses and better, more effective treatments for mental disorders.


Babs, great information. Thank you.

That book sounds like a good resource. Good to know that someone recognizes that there are some types you need to be well clear of and not try to attempt to repair relationships with. My mother was definitely in the witch category, but she had little to no BPD, mainly anti-social and a bit of narcissism.

If you happen to remember where you read that paper you were mentioning (“bpd is not just a “woman’s disorder””), I’d appreciate if you’d post a link. It sounds promising. The only exception I’d make to it is that, according to some criminology blogs and articles I’ve read, women don’t just “act in”, they are as likely to “act out” as men, but tend to pick methods that are harder to detect (for instance, I’ve read that almost all female SKs are of the ‘organized’ type), and victims who are far more likely to be overlooked. Same thing with health care workers, btw – lot’s of similarities. Still leads to the point you made, which is that they are counted in different statistics due to phenotype differences.


Hi Annie,

Here is the study which concludes that statistically, the number of males and females with borderline pd is virtually the same, its just that males with bpd are counted in different sets of stats than females with bpd due to “notable gender differences in borderline personality disorder with regard to personality traits, Axis I and II comorbidity, and treatment utilization.”

Innov Clin Neurosci. May 2011; 8(5): 16”“20.

PMCID: PMC3115767

Gender Patterns in Borderline Personality Disorder

Randy A. Sansone, MDcorresponding author and Lori A. Sansone, MD


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