June 4, 2024

Identifying Signs of a Narcissistic Mother

By identifying the signs of a narcissistic mother, you can better understand and address the impact that it has on your life.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Contributors & Editors

Susana Spiegel

Recovery Writer and Advocate

Kirsten Andersen

Recovery Writer and Advocate

Last Update on June 4, 2024

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Defining Narcissism

Growing up with a narcissistic mother can be emotionally draining and confusing, and sometimes, you don’t even realize it’s happening.

Recognizing the signs of a narcissistic mom can be tough, but it’s important for your mental health and overall well-being.

Once you see how it’s affected you, you can start taking the first steps towards healing.

This guide is here to help you identify those characteristics, find the support you need, and learn ways to cope.1

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder(NPD)?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a mental health condition best described by:

  • An inflated sense of self-importance
  • A deep need for excessive attention and admiration
  • A lack of empathy for others


You need to remember that while your loved one may exhibit narcissistic traits occasionally, people with NPD display these characteristics at all times and to an extreme degree.2

The key signs of a narcissistic mother include personality traits such as grandiosity, lack of empathy, and manipulative behavior. Other narcissistic mother characteristics to watch for are an excessive need for admiration, a strong sense of entitlement, frequent criticism and belittling, gaslighting and emotional volatility. By recognizing these signs of a narcissist mom, you can better understand and address the impact that it has on your life.

When dealing with a narcissistic mother, you need to develop coping strategies to protect your emotional well-being. Some effective ways of coping with a narcissistic mother include setting clear boundaries, practicing emotional detachment, seeking external support, avoiding confrontation, and prioritizing self-care. Engaging in self-reflection and therapy, finding healthy outlets and hobbies, and maintaining independence and self-worth are also important when living with a narcissist.

Therapy can be incredibly beneficial for you in processing experiences, learning coping strategies, and working toward recovery. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps you identify and change negative thought patterns you may have, while Family Therapy can help improve the communication and relationships within your family. Individual Counseling provides you with personalized support and strategies for dealing with a narcissistic mother. Additionally, online support groups for children of narcissistic mothers can be valuable resources for you to connect with others who have similar experiences and can offer understanding and encouragement in your journey of recovering from a narcissistic mother.

Personality Traits of a Narcissistic Mother

Narcissistic mother characteristics can be especially damaging because of the close and impressionable nature of the mother-child relationship.

Here are some common traits to look for when identifying a narcissistic mother:

  • Grandiosity and self-importance
  • Lack of empathy
  • Manipulative behavior
  • Need for admiration
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Envy and jealousy


These are all traits that can manifest in different ways, such as your mother constantly seeking attention, belittling your achievements, or using guilt and shame to control you.

You need to recognize that these behaviors are not normal or healthy and that they can have a lasting impact on your development and well-being.3

Key Signs of a Narcissistic Mother

Do you find yourself constantly questioning your intelligence, feeling emotionally drained after interactions with your mother, or struggling to form healthy relationships?

These may be signs that you have a narcissistic mother.

Noticing the signs of a narcissistic mother will help you better understand your experiences and feelings.

Below are some key indicators to look for:

Narcissistic mothers often resort to constant criticism and belittling to maintain control and superiority. They may criticize your appearance, abilities, or choices, making you feel inadequate and unworthy. This excessive criticism can erode your self-esteem and lead to feelings of self-doubt and insecurity. It’s important to recognize that this behavior is a reflection of your mother’s insecurities and not a true measure of your worth.

Impact on Children

The impact that being raised by a narcissistic mother can have on you can be profound and long-lasting.

Some effects you may experience:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Difficulty in forming healthy relationships
  • Perfectionism and fear of failure


You may struggle with feelings of inadequacy from being constantly criticized and belittled your whole life.

You may even find that you have a hard time trusting others and forming intimate relationships.

Why would you?

Since you were a child, all you have been taught is that love is conditional and unpredictable.

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Dealing with a Narcissistic Mother

Coping with a narcissistic mother requires a realistic approach to protecting your emotional health.

Here are some ways you can do so:

  • Set Boundaries
  • Emotionally detach yourself from her
  • See a therapist or find a support group
  • Avoid confrontation
  • Be kind to yourself, and practice self-care


Setting clear boundaries and being sure to consistently stand your ground is extremely important.

This might mean you may have to limit contact with your mother, set aside specific times to speak with her, or refuse to participate in her manipulative behavior.

When it comes to your mother, setting boundaries like these can be challenging and, at times, heartbreaking, but you don’t have to do this alone.

Seek support by talking with a friend, or a family member, or maybe even a therapist.

Having support can be incredibly helpful while trying to figure out how to deal with this difficult relationship.

Living with a Narcissistic Mother

There can be many different circumstances as to why you are living with your narcissistic mother.

Maybe you have not left home yet; maybe it’s because you feel guilty leaving her, or maybe it’s because you feel you need her or that she needs you.

Living with your narcissistic mother can be an absolute ordeal, and the importance of utilizing daily coping skills to help manage the challenges you face when living with a narcissistic mother is beyond necessary.

Here are some coping strategies that can help manage the challenges of living with a narcissistic mother are:

  • Having a strong support system
  • Being sure to make time for self-reflection and therapy
  • Finding healthy outlets for dealing with the toll living with a narcissistic mom can have on you, such as picking up a hobby
  • Maintaining independence and self-worth
  • Surround yourself with positive influences


All of these things are important in their special way.

By now, you have learned that standing up to her is not an option but losing a battle.

When living with her, it’s better to play the game and do what you have to so that, if possible, you can keep the peace.

However sometimes you are faced with a mother who craves the spotlight, one that just has to be the star of the show by any means necessary.

When faced with a narcissistic mother like this, it’s important to maintain your independence, making sure to never give her too much information, knowing she will surely throw it in your face and use it against you.

It’s important that you know what she’s saying holds no truth, that she is just trying to hurt you.

The way to survive living with her is to surround yourself with positive influences, participate in activities that bring you joy, and work on building your self-esteem and sense of identity separate from your mother’s influence.

Quick Tip

10 Symptoms You May Experience as a Daughter of a Narcissistic Mother

If you suspect your mother has narcissistic traits, you might recognize some common symptoms in yourself.

Here are 10 symptoms you may experience as a daughter of a narcissistic mother:

  1. Low Self-Esteem: Constant criticism and lack of validation from your mother can lead to a diminished sense of self-worth.
  2. People-Pleasing Tendencies: Growing up trying to earn your mother’s approval can make you overly focused on pleasing others.
  3. Difficulty Setting Boundaries: You might struggle with saying no or establishing personal limits.
  4. Chronic Anxiety: Living in a tense and unpredictable environment can result in ongoing anxiety for you.
  5. Perfectionism: The need to meet high standards to gain your mother’s approval can lead to perfectionistic behaviors.
  6. Fear of Abandonment: Emotional neglect from your mother can create a deep fear of being abandoned or rejected.
  7. Trouble Trusting Others: Manipulation and gaslighting from your mother can make it hard for you to trust people’s intentions.
  8. Guilt and Shame: You may feel guilty for wanting to distance yourself from your mother or for not meeting her expectations.
  9. Difficulty Identifying Emotions: Suppressed emotions and lack of validation can make it challenging for you to recognize and express your feelings.
  10. Dependence on External Validation: You may have a constant need for approval from others to feel worthy and validated.


Recognizing these symptoms is an important step in understanding the impact of your narcissistic mother and beginning your journey towards healing and self-discovery.

Unique Challenges for Sons & Daughters

Although both sons and daughters share some common challenges when faced with having a narcissist for a mother, there is also a distinct difference in their experiences due to gender roles and societal expectations.4

Differences of Sons

  1. Pressure to meet masculine stereotypes: Sons of narcissistic mothers may feel pressure to conform to traditional male roles, such as being emotionally stoic, aggressive, or dominant. This can cause a son to struggle with internal turmoil and conflict with their authentic self.
  2. Difficulty expressing emotions: Narcissistic mothers may discourage or punish their sons for expressing vulnerability or emotions, leading them to experience difficulties with recognizing and expressing their feelings in adulthood.
  3. Struggles with intimate relationships: Sons may have trouble forming healthy, intimate relationships with their partners due to a lack of positive modeling from their mother and a fear of vulnerability.
  4. Enmeshment and identity issues: Narcissistic mothers may view their sons as an extension of themselves, leading to enmeshment and difficulty in developing a separate identity.
  5. Performance-based Love: Sons may feel that their mother’s love and approval are contingent upon their achievements, status, or ability to meet their expectations.

Differences of Daughters

  1. Comparison and Competition: Narcissistic mothers may view their daughters as competition, leading to constant comparison, criticism, and a sense of never being good enough.
  2. Difficulty with female relationships: Daughters may struggle to form healthy friendships and connections with other women due to a lack of trust and positive female role models.
  3. Pressure to fulfill the mother’s unfulfilled dreams: Narcissistic mothers may project their unfulfilled desires and dreams onto their daughters, pressuring them to achieve what they couldn’t.
  4. Appearance-based criticism: Daughters may face more scrutiny and criticism regarding their physical appearance, leading to body image issues and low self-esteem.
  5. Role reversal and Emotional caretaking: Daughters may be expected to take on the role of emotional caretaker for their mother, leading to a sense of responsibility for their mother’s happiness and well-being.

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The Path to Healing and Growth

Navigating the complex emotions and challenges that arise from growing up with a narcissistic mother can be a difficult and painful journey.

However, it’s important to remember that healing and growth are possible.

By seeking support, engaging in therapy, and taking proactive steps toward recovery, you can begin to untangle the impact of your mother’s narcissistic behavior and build a stronger, more resilient sense of self.

Therapy and Support

When seeking support or therapy, it’s important to note that these differences are not absolute and can vary depending on the individual family dynamics and the severity of the mother’s narcissistic traits.

Also, remember that either as a son or daughter of a narcissistic mother, you are both likely to experience a wide range of emotional, psychological, and relational challenges that will require you to seek support for healing.

Regardless of your gender, seeking therapy, setting boundaries, and building a strong sense of self are important steps in breaking free from the impact of having a narcissistic mother and creating a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Here are some different types of therapy approaches for you to consider:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Family Therapy
  • Individual Counseling
  • Seeking gender-specific online support groups for daughters of narcissistic mothers or sons of narcissistic mothers

Recovery and Healing

Healing from the effects that having a narcissistic mother can have on you can seem impossible at times, but by taking these suggested steps, it is possible:

  • Recognizing the issue
  • Accepting and processing how you are feeling
  • Strengthening your self-esteem and finding your own identity
  • Setting healthy boundaries


At Cornerstone Healing Center, we understand the challenges you may be up against when facing those hard truths and allowing yourself to feel and express your emotions when recovering from a narcissistic mother.

Remember that you are not alone and that by prioritizing your well-being, seeking help when needed, and by being proactive, you are taking the first steps toward reclaiming your life and emotional health.

Key Takeaways

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Author & Reviewers

susana spiegel recovery writer and SEO expert

Susana is a recovery writer and advocate with over 8 years in addiction recovery. She is passionate about sharing accurate and helpful information about mental health, addiction, and recovery. She holds a Bachelor’s in Christian Studies from Grand Canyon University and has over 7 years of working in the addiction field. 

lionel estrada lisac clinical director

Lionel is the Clinical Director of Cornerstone’s Scottsdale treatment facilities. He has had over 4 years at Cornerstone. He is personally in recovery and passionate about helping others overcome substance abuse and mental health challenges; he is trained as an EMDR, adopting a trauma-informed approach to treat the underlying issues.

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