How to Deal With a Narcissistic Mother Without Losing Your Sanity?

Last Updated on April 16, 2021 by Alexander Burgemeester

Around 4.8% of the female population has narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). And like many other women, many of them go on to become mothers.

If you’re having a tough time with your mom, then you might suspect she has NPD, especially if your narcissistic mother exhibits some characteristic signs. In many cases, a narcissistic mother is an abusive mom. And a narcissistic mother is a toxic mom as well.

Because of this, you’ll want to know how to deal with a narcissistic mother without losing your sanity. Keep reading, as we’ll give you some effective tips for handling narcissistic mother behaviour.

1. Don’t Let Your Narcissistic Mother Walk All Over You

As you’ve grown up under her care, you know how difficult it can be to deal with your mother. The effects of narcissistic mothers on their children can be hugely detrimental, and you may be conditioned to do whatever you can to appease her so the Narcissistic Abuse is reduced.

But this just sends her the message that what she’s doing is fine and that you’ll keep taking her abuse. Of course, you love your mom, and you don’t want to upset her. But your well-being is important too.

Reading Suggestion: Maintaining Low Contact With Your Narcissistic Mother

It can be very challenging to do, but stand up to her and don’t let her get her way all the time. She may try and take out her frustrations on you, but hold your ground.

Explain to her calmly that lashing out in anger isn’t constructive, as nothing’s achieved from it.

2. Recognize That Your Mother Views You as Competition

For daughters of narcissistic mothers, they’re often viewed as competition. This is because you’re seen as the younger, better version of her, which makes you essentially a threat to her ego.

If you feel like she’s constantly tearing you down, this is because she’s trying to make herself feel better about her own flaws, such as the tell-tale signs of aging. In this case, you have something she’ll never get back: youth. As a result, she may feel bitter toward you and will try to attack your physical looks.

Reading Suggestion: Effects of Narcissistic Mothers on their Daughters

Because she’s your mom, it may understandably sting a lot when these words come out of her mouth. But try to detach yourself whenever this happens and don’t take the insults personally.

Of course, this is easier said than done. But one of the best strategies for dealing with a narcissistic mother is to not let the things she says bother you. When you can achieve this, it feeds her narcissism less and keeps you feeling sane more.

3. Don’t Hope to Change Her Behavior

You know what they say: you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. This is especially true in narcissistic parents.

One of the key things in how to handle a narcissistic mother is to understand and accept that she will most likely never change. Even if you see a glimmer of hope, this is usually the manipulative side of her coming out; in due time, she’ll revert back to her old self again.

Reading Suggestion: Can a Narcissist Change?

By accepting this fact, you’ll be able to find some peace within yourself. Before, you may have felt torn and hurt because you had hope that you could help change your mother’s behavior for the better.

But as you may have realized, change is up to her, not you. When you accept this, then you’ll feel more at peace. You can then focus on what you can do to deal with her behavior, not how you can alter it.

4. Establish Boundaries

In how to deal with a narcissistic parent 101, they’ll always tell you to establish boundaries. These can be either physical, emotional, or both.

If you live with your narcissistic mother, it may be difficult to establish physical boundaries, but it’s still possible. Have your room be off-limits and enforce that rule, no matter how much she throws a tantrum over it.

Otherwise, if you don’t live with your parents and your mom likes to drop by unannounced, establish a certain day and/or time when she can come over. If she shows up outside of those acceptable times, make it clear that you won’t accommodate her and she’ll be left waiting if she chooses to break those boundaries. Make sure you stick to this for maximum effectiveness.

On the emotional side of things, think about what’s acceptable and comfortable for you to share. Don’t let your narcissistic mom pressure you into giving up information that you want to have private. She needs to know that you aren’t an extension of her and that you have a right to privacy.

Go No Contact

If things get really bad and your mother keeps overstepping boundaries, don’t be afraid to go no contact. This is where you don’t answer her calls, visits, or any other types of communication.

For children of narcissistic parents, this can be next to impossible to do. After all, you feel a sense of duty and obligation to stay in touch with your parents since they’ve sacrificed so much to raise you. Plus, she may throw tantrums and get extremely emotional, accusing you of abusing and neglecting your mother.

Reading Suggestion: The Narcissist and No Contact

However, you should hold your ground. If you’ve given her multiple chances and clearly stated that you’ll cut off contact, you have every right to do so. If she won’t respect your boundaries, then it’s clearly toxic behavior that you don’t need to be around.

It’s up to you how long you want to keep this up. Some children will choose to go no contact for forever, while others will have a trial period.

If you decide to do the latter and your narcissistic mother reverts back to her old behaviors, don’t be afraid to go no contact again for your own sanity.

5. Identify Your Own “Co-Narcissistic” Behaviour

Because your narcissistic mom has raised you from birth until now, there’s no doubt that you’ve picked up some unhealthy “co-narcissistic” behaviors from her. For example, you may have a lack of boundaries with her, as well as an inability to express your feelings and fear of anger.

As you can imagine, all of these things can have a negative effect on your life and other relationships. It can be a good idea to take a step back and see what kinds of thought patterns and behaviors you’ve developed as a direct result of your mother’s narcissistic influence.

Once you’ve identified these things, then it’s best to move onto the next tip.

6. Seek Therapy and Counseling

When dealing with a narcissistic mother, it can feel extremely overwhelming, especially if you don’t have any siblings and you have to do so on your own. Not only that, but you can also feel very alone in the world.

It’s always a good idea to go to therapy or counseling. Even for people who aren’t currently struggling with mental health issues, speaking with a professional is highly beneficial.

When you get in therapy, you’ll have a safe space to speak about your parental issues. They can give you helpful advice on how to live with a narcissistic mother and how to address and fix your co-narcissistic behaviors.

If you need help confronting a narcissistic mother, these professionals can also help you come up with ways to do so. Not only do they have the knowledge of how to deal with people with NPD, but they also have plenty of experience with people in similar situations as you.

In addition, if you’ve developed mental health issues (such as anxiety or depression), a therapist can also help walk you through healthy ways to cope. If they deem it necessary, they can also refer you to a psychiatrist so they can assess the situation and prescribe you the appropriate medications.

By getting the right medications, it may make it easier to deal with your mental health issues while having to live with a narcissistic mom.

Know How to Deal With a Narcissistic Mother

By knowing how to deal with a narcissistic mother, it can be just a little easier to interact with her. In many cases, you can still maintain a relationship with her. But if she’s so toxic that it’s ruining your quality of life, then in this case of a narcissistic mother, no contact may be best.

It may be tough to deal with; your mother did raise you since birth, after all. But the fact is, there’s no excuse for the emotional turmoil she’s put you through. If you have no choice but to keep her in your life, then at least you have some useful tips for dealing with a narcissistic mom to use.

For more information on walking away from a narcissistic mom, please take a look at our narcissistic abuse recovery articles now.

Written by Alexander Burgemeester on

Alexander Burgemeester has a Master in Neuropsychology. He studied at the University of Amsterdam and has a bachelor's in Clinical Psychology. Want to know more? Read my author bio page.

15 thoughts on “How to Deal With a Narcissistic Mother Without Losing Your Sanity?”

  1. I was raised by a narc. Mother. I was the scapegoat. I also have ADHD. I’m74, a widow, and have 2 children who have also been raised by a narcissist, me. I’m not charming, popular or a people pleaser. My mother was the most universally popular person I’ve ever met, but she was insincere. My husband was the same, but totally real and sincere, humble and truly deeply empathetic. Our marriage survived 48 years, and he still loved me- I don’t know why, because I abused him abominably.
    I have only recently realized and accepted that I am this way. I have also realized I have BPD. My mother punished me by abandoning.
    I have passed her toxic behaviour on to my children, who were and are both wonderful kids in every way, always, loving and caring of me and their dad.
    My dad died at 69 from an aggressive n.h. Lymphoma. My husband died at 70 of the same kind of lymphoma. I fear I am responsible for both of their deaths. My husband suffered through 7 years of ghastly treatments and drug trials, during which he gave me emotional support and kept my spirits up consistently, while I could hardly be bothered to cook for him, I was so selfish.
    I don’t know in what ways I have emotionally abused my children, who are now in their 40’s. They had a very loving and understanding father, and I a husband. I know that I have disrespected boundaries, not validated emotions, been ungrateful when they have helped me, laughed at things that were not funny and hurt them, and Taken away their self respect and self esteem. I broke them.
    My daughter is a PhD psychologist. She is doing an amazing job of raising her own kids. They are strong, resilient, positive, fulfilled. She has developed empathy that she was on a track of not having, like me.
    My son is a lawyer and MBA. He is over-empathetic and very angry in general. He has totally given up on me, because despite years of therapy, I failed to improve inside myself, and continued to treat him without love, empathy, respect and compassion. He finally had to cut me off completely because I enraged him which has raised blood pressure to dangerous levels for his heart and brain. He knows me better than I know myself. I deceive myself, deny, lie, control and manipulate, and he always sees to the bottom of me. He reacts with justified anger. I talk about things in a grandiose way that really upsets him, and it is so ingrained in me, I’m not even aware of my behaviour. I’m an ingrate. He always tries to help me with many legal and financial matters and I argue with him, even though I know he is correct. I put him down. He can’t stand to be in contact with me.
    I have spent most of my adult life in therapy, because of my mother, whom I continued to relate to all her life in a co- narcissistic way. She destroyed me and I let her.
    I am capable of feeling empathy, but not in a normal way. I’m emotionally immature, still. I had a normally loving father, but he was not demonstrative. I always knew he had my back, the same as my husband.
    I have an amazing therapist who gives me unconditional caring, respect, support, compassion, understanding, empathy, and great therapy – DBT, and others. I fear I may be hurting him without knowing it also.
    I feel so sad now, both for my son, who suffers greatly, and for myself who misses him terribly. I don’t even know how he is coping with life, with covid, etc.
    My goal in this is that I’m sure that many people are in my position- both a victim and a perpetrator and perpetrator. I tried very hard NOT to treat my children the way I was treated, but they both feel that I emotionally abused them, so I must definitely have in many ways. I want this to be known to therapists in general. There is a sandwich generation always, both hurt and hurting others.
    I feel guilty, sad, helpless, but determined to change myself with the help of my therapist, whom I have made cry in the past. I don’t know how long he can take me, and he’s not obliged to care for me in any way, but he is decent and kind and giving.
    I know my daughter’s children will not be affected. She will make certain of that.
    My son has no children, so can’t pass it on, but suffers so much himself. His wife was brought up in a tradition of stoicism and hiding true feelings, always putting on a happy face, but I think she may suffer from that burying and hiding of true emotions.
    Any comments from professionals would be deeply appreciated.

    Reply
    • I have read your story and it is so close to mine. I have been looking out for some one to talk to. This is an epidemic and it is real these woman and fathers are destroying lives and it is not okay. I am looking into inpatient programs just to tell myself it is not my fault. Thank you for your story!

      Reply
    • NPD and Narc is on a spectrum, so its hard to diagnose properly without proper training and clinicals. There are NPDs that recognize they have NPD, just like there are some people with psychopathy that go into therapy. It takes some significant damage or reason to change usually.
      They do experience empathy (people with psychopathy do not). Most people are not self aware. But some people are. I would stay far away from blogs and videos that say that they are not self aware, there is a lot of misinformation out there.

      Reply
  2. I am currently looking for some help, I know now that my mother is a narcissist it took me a whole life time to realize it. Knowing that there is others in the same situations give me comfort knowing that I am not alone. Thank you Susan for sharing your story, I always have to remember that I have a narcissist for a mother so that I don’t get pull into it again and again. This really hurts and the sad part is I don’t know if my mom realized what she is doing to me.

    Reply
    • i can so relate. It finally “clicked” to me after many years. I could never understand it. Always fighting, turmoil, sibling rivarly, always toxic. Nothing ever solved. I dont know if my mom knows, but I’m thinking she does, she is not stupid. How could you be if you can remember things from YEARS Ago and bring them up OVER AND OVER again. I am know talking care of my mental health. Since i have stayed away from her. I seem to have “peace”. Not sure how I will approach her again, but i don’t want to have an quilt either.

      Reply
  3. My narc mother has caused me to have major depression. At almost 50yo and her abuse hit kept going even after my father died.
    She is highly covert malignant narcissist so good at turning it on and off, hot snd cold.
    All part of the mind F—-y.

    As a result of my depression I blasted my mother with verbal rage and said things I wouldn’t normally say in a calm normal state of mind.
    So now I’m left with the guilt and shame (I apologized and she forgave me) of “how could you even say that to your mother??”

    Told her that she no longer has a daughter anymore due to her gaslighting me and throwing me under the bus and that I wouldn’t even go to her funeral then told her to get out.

    Not like me at all- all came out in an angry verbal rage.

    Is this normal??

    What help do you recommend I receive as this has caused me major depression?

    Reply
    • Hi Vivienne,

      When you are being gaslighted and manipulated every time, eventually you will explode as you did. My only recommendation would be to talk to someone, a psychologist preferable. If your mother truly is a Narcissist you will need to approach her differently and try not to let her get to you. Easier said than done, but a good Psychologist can help you very well with this.

      Reply
    • Yes. its a cycle and a vicious one. She is is the wrong.. and they will never apologize. When my mom did apologize it was a SORRY!! in yelling. I am sad that it has to be like this, but i know that she will never change. I can only take care of my mental health. I try and speak to professionals as well to keep me on the right path. Its destructive, and I truly believe it can affect your entire life and the choices you make later on as an adult. For the record in in my 50s as well. and i have PTSD with chronic depression and anxiety. SO, i get where you are comming from.

      Reply
    • Glad to hear Im not going crazy. I tried to be nice to my mother. She turned so fast. I ended up kicking her out of my home. As you state, a verbal rage. I have never felt! I dont know where it came from. She claimed everything was my fault and no one liked me but everyone loved her. I ended up making a police report. I di not know what else to do. Yes, I feel bad, but does she? All the control put downs I took I just blew. I have four children. I guess that is why I am reaching out. Its funny she said I was going to be like my father I said good. She said I don’t think so he’s stuiped. The list goes on but I am as I stated before reaching out. Thank you

      Reply
  4. Everything I’ve always known, I suddenly realized, ( I like to say) at the age of 50. I decided to look up controlling mother, not expecting to find any real answers for my moms odd behavior. Then I found the word Narcissist. I felt like someone had wrote a book on our family. I’m the scapegoat as you might guess. It is amazing how Narcs all behave so similar without even knowing.

    Reply
  5. All this rings so true. I knew that my mother could be controlling and say mean things but, I never imagined it was a disorder. It explains her extremely jealous nature and I feel I have been the scapegoat because I’m the daughter. My looks, career, intelligence were attacked from preteen on up until ten years ago. She even started to put doubts in my head about my husband

    Reply
  6. I too, took me a few years to realize my mom was a narcissist. I don’t tell her everything going on in my family, just so she can make comments. Just wondering how to handle when I explain how she is acting toward an issue, she turns it back on me stating “why are you so cranky”, “what’s wrong with you”. Then she stops talking to me. She has gotten in several rage outbursts with other family members, and will say she’s gonna kill herself. She has been saying this for over 40 years. At one of these, I even got the phone to call for medical help to come get her, and she got scared and stopped. I was done playing her games. I am so glad to know I am not the only one dealing with this.

    Reply
    • It sounds like your mom has BPD straits also. My mother uses the silent treatment with me. She knows as an adopted child that it cuts deep. Usually, she does it if I assert myself in a healthy way or have an opinion different to her own. She doesn’t treat her biological child this way. My twin and I are the scapegoats and she usually is rejected one of us at a time. If I stick up for or support my twin from the smearing then I will be rejected too. It’s more of covert narcissism and my other family members are what’s called “flying monkeys”. They are convinced it is my mental illness and give her the supply she needs. Her unpredictability is the worst. I never know when she will turn and feel I have to comply in order to not be rejected. I am only just learning now at 50 that I don’t need to suppress my emotions around her and if it’s met with silent treatment then I can go no contact. I do need therapy as it’s not an easy decision. But it’s the only way I can maintain my mental health.

      Reply
  7. Don’t get drawn into an argument over the phone, you might find that the Narcissist is secretly recording you. They will antagonize you in a subtle way then pour it on once you get angry, then play it for everyone in the family along with some lies providing “evidence” that your the crazy one. Yah it can be that bad!

    Reply

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