It’s extremely hard, if not completely impossible, to find a bad parent who does not have at least some personality disorder traits. Looking over a list of the most common kinds of things toxic parents do can help clarify the issue.
The behaviors of toxic parents generally fall into 4 categories:
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse (including controlling, verbal abuse, etc.)
- Sexual abuse
- Neglect due to disinterest/lack of a sense of responsibility
Each of the above has strong connections to characteristics of several personality disorders.
For instance, controlling parents often have either narcissistic traits or traits of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Nothing a narcissist’s child does is good enough, because the narcissistic parent needs to feel superior to his or her child. Nothing an OCPD parent’s child does is good enough, because the OCPD parent is stuck on obsessing over perfection and details. Both are likely to control their children as a result.
Abusive and neglectful parents are highly likely, if not guaranteed, to lack a normal amount of empathy, which is characteristic of quite a few personality disorders, most notably Antisocial Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Abusive treatment may also often be seen in Borderline Personality Disorder and Histrionic Personality Disorder.
Neglectful parents are often disinterested in their children and unempathic. If a parent can empathize properly with their child, they feel bad if they don’t visit the school to see the child’s science project or make sure their child has warm boots in the winter. But parents who lack a normal amount of empathy simply don’t tune into such things. The kid will take care of him or herself, they figure. They’ll live. They’ll get over it. It’s “no big deal”.
Many abusive, toxic and neglectful parents struggle with addiction, and underlying personality issues can contribute to substance abuse problems. Addictions are characteristic of Borderline Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder, and narcissists have higher than average rates of alcoholism. People with personality disorders are also more likely than average to have other mental disorders.
If you have been dealing with a toxic or difficult parent, you owe it to yourself to carefully look into personality disorders — especially the personality disorders that are currently classified as “cluster B” personality disorders.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD)
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
Antisocial Personality Disorder (AsPD)
If a parent you know is controlling, it’s also a good idea to check out the cluster B Personality Disorders and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, which is in cluster C. (This is not the same disorder as OCD — It’s OCPD).
If you are involved with a toxic or difficult parent, a little investigation into personality disorders is a must. You’ll likely be very surprised at what you may find.
You can check out descriptions of all these disorders and more at Light’s House cluster B and cluster C support pages: