View Full Version : Histrionic mother

Dec 31, 2009, 01:03 PM
My mother has a serious mental illness, and she doesn't realize it. Her older sister has been diagnosed schizophrenic, and her older brother has to compulsively stir up drama. Her mother is a nutcase as well, and over the last six years (as I've grown into my twenties), I've noticed that my mother is seriously histrionic. Not the "beautiful thin oversexed" histrionic woman, but the other type - the overweight, martyr, "woe is me" histrionic.

She is constantly martyring and reminding me about how much she's done for me. She qualifies every accomplishment I've ever made with how she's helped ("My daughter has her degree! I totally let her stay with me and paid for her schooling so she could finish school, and now she's a great sociologist!" - she paid for two semesters of school, and drove me crazy in the process). As I've finally moved out and away from her, her histrionic behavior has grown worse and worse as she's realized that her stranglehold (i.e. brainwashing) has been released on me. Now, two years later, I recognize the full degree of her psychosis.

She can't have a five minute conversation without bringing up something that she's "the best" at ("I'm the best poker player you've ever seen!") or saying that any ailment she has is "the worst" ("the doctor said it was the worst bee sting he'd ever seen!" "The doctor said it was the worst case of carpel tunnel syndrome he'd ever seen." "The doctor said it was the worst toe break he'd ever seen!" - this is the same toe that she was walking on, and that I accidentally sat on. She didn't even notice I sat on it.) She's so hypochondriacal about every ailment that I don't even believe her when she tells me she's sit or hurt. Every time I talk to her, all she can talk about is how much she hates her job and she works so much. She typically works 8-10 hour days, but somehow during the conversation, it becomes a 12 hour day, and then 14 hours, and then 16 hours. She only works 3-4 days a week, but she can barely pay the bills. She complains about not being able to buy a house, but she's ruined her credit (and mine, but that's another story), so she can't buy a house or car without having to pay exorbitant amounts for it. Every thing with her is a sob story, and I've heard it so much and for so long that I can't even pretend to care anymore, because I realize that 95% of it is absolute crap. What's difficult is, 5% of it is truth, and I can never figure out which part is true and which part is histrionic "woe is me" crap.

Recently, she's friended me (and all of my friends) on Facebook... and then takes every opportunity to turn any comment I make into something about her. If I make a comment on her page that's anything other than "OMG YOU ARE THE BEST MOTHER EVER!" (which I would never say, because she's not great anymore), she gets personally affronted and pitches a histrionic fit. She wants to be constantly showered with praise and love and affection, and I just can't pretend to feel that way about her. I can't indulge her histrionic behavior anymore. I can't listen to her tell me or someone I know that she did something I know she didn't do. Her condition is only getting worse, and she is completely blind to the fact that she is crazy.

I've tried to gently tackle these issues with her individually, but she just goes nuts and calls me selfish and mean and vicious. I don't know what to do about this anymore. I've read on other forums that you have to just cut off contact with people with this type of personality disorder, but I'd like to try to talk to her about it before I cut off all contact. What can I do to talk to her about my issues with her? Can I just come out and say, "You're histrionic and you need help"? It's gotten so bad that I am happier not even speaking with her. Talking to her at all makes me stressed out and crazy. But I'm newly married and I eventually want to have children, and I think she would not handle being separated from her grandchildren. She would be a good grandmother (until they got old enough for her to brainwash them as well).


Dec 31, 2009, 09:12 PM
The advice you received about cutting off all contact with folks like her is correct. This is not something that you can tap dance around though. You just have to do it. There is no talking to her as she will just stress you out more and lay a huge guilt trip on you that you won't be able to get out from under for years to come. You should not feel guilty about this - you have seen what she is and what she is capable of doing. And I would also advise that you defriend her (or whatever the term is) on your Facebook account. That particular site and the MySpace site is one of the worse inventions ever and causes more strife than ever imagined.

You have your life to lead. You can do this either with or without her in your life. Just be sure that you move far enough away physically that she can't just drop in on you unannounced one day. A few thousand miles should do.

She sounds like she is bipolar. There is no reasoning with a bipolar person who is out of control.

Dec 31, 2009, 09:26 PM
I agree with twinkiedooter.You have to live your own life and that's a tough call.

Is she on meds? Do other people see this bizarre behavior and if so ,are they willing to come forward in a type of intervention?

People who are mentally ill are often the last to know.

She may be very clueless.
She almost sounds like a narcissist personalty.

I would try to pinpoint her symptoms and then learn what the best way of intervention is and how to approach her.

It must be very heart wrenching.

My Mom has Dementia and I know I can't abandon her because of it but it is a sad and trying ordeal none the less.

Jan 1, 2010, 07:29 PM
This type of personality disorder could have started in very early childhood, and I suspect it did, as no doubt your upbringing had some challenges to say the least.

While it is a personality disorder, it is treatable. Keep encouraging her to seek a qualified mental health care provider to diagnose and offer treatment for her. You may want to pave the way with medical information, brochures, etc. and leave them at her home.

I doubt that she is unaware how her behaviour affects others. She may not be able to pinpoint her behaviour in certain circumstances as being overbearing or attention seeking (ie the Facebook thing), but she will have a general knowledge that she makes people uncomfortable, says and does things that she regrets afterwards, and keeps repeating mistakes in a social sense.

I think you are right on the money with a personality disorder here, and while you have a good fix on it, there is really little you can do to change her behaviour. People like your mom are adaptable, and seek to be the centre of attention, or in the spotlight, and will find ways to do it, no matter how much you talk to her.

I wonder if it wouldn't be worthwhile to speak to your family doctor about this. When she goes in next, he can address some issues and gently try to lead her to some treatment options.

Don't be too hard on yourself for not affecting any change. All you can do, is let go as much as you can, and focus on other people who make you happy. Take it all in with a grain of salt.

It is as difficult to cope with this, as it is to cope with any other illness, particularly when it is a family member.

Don't give up on her, but give less, and enjoy your life more.

Jan 1, 2010, 11:00 PM
From what you describe, this disorder verges on the narcissistic. Narcissistic and histrionic personality disorders are generally extremely hard to manage/treat.

They are also the most frustrating and difficult to live with. It's always all about them, and particularly for an older person this mindset would be extremely difficult to challenge, let alone shift.

In the end you are not your mother's counselor. You can tell her that she needs help, or suggest that she get help, but in all likelihood, she won't. So you have to learn to live with someone that drives you crazy.

It's about you creating the boundaries regarding contact with her and you tempering your reaction to her. You decide. Set the rules and decide how and when you want to make contact. Accept that she lives in crazy town and that you can't change that - you can only change your reaction to her.

Treat her like a child - reward her 'good' behavior - ignore the
'bad' behavior. Give her the praise she wants when she's being 'good' and go no-contact when she's being 'bad'. She's looking for accolades, so dole them out occasionally. Ignore the me, me, me stuff when you can. If she has a histrionic fit, simply refuse to engage.

You can 'mange' your reactions to a person like this, but it does take practice and it does depend how serious the personality disorder is. With some people complete non-contact is the only solution for peace of mind. Good luck, I have one in my life as well.

Nov 21, 2010, 03:43 PM
Though I am almost 17, I had to get a permanent restraining order against my mother, she constantly violates the order by having third parties contact me for her, but so many people are manipulated by her, I loose someone once she had manipulated them. I have lost that whole side of my family and your story brought tears because at least now that I'm not all alone and someone understands. Sadly, the court could not help my younger brothers due to improper refiling on dcfs' behalf, prevention is better than treatment and the judge agreed with me, he just legally couldn't protect my little brothers.