My Mom is Toxic: How to Identify and Deal with a Toxic Mother

Having a toxic mother can be one of the most challenging experiences for anyone. Mothers are supposed to be the primary caregivers and nurturers, and it can be particularly difficult when they do not fulfill these roles adequately. A toxic mother can be detrimental to your mental and emotional well-being, and it’s essential to identify the signs of toxic behavior to avoid falling into the same patterns yourself. In this article, I will help you to identify and deal with a toxic mother.

What is a toxic mother?

A toxic mother is a parent who exhibits manipulative, controlling, or abusive behavior toward their adult child. This can include behaviors such as guilt-tripping, belittling, and emotional manipulation. These behaviors can be damaging to an adult child’s mental and emotional health, leading to feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

One example of toxic mother behavior towards an adult child could be constant criticism and belittlement. A toxic mother may belittle their child’s choices and accomplishments, causing them to doubt their own abilities and worth. 

Another example could be a mother who consistently ignores or dismisses her adult child’s feelings, refusing to validate their emotions or experiences.

Toxic mothers may also use manipulative tactics to control their adult children, such as guilt-tripping or emotional blackmail. For example, a mother may threaten to withdraw love or support if their adult child does not comply with their wishes or demands.

Signs of a toxic mother

1. Emotional Manipulation

She guilt-trips you

Emotional manipulation is a common trait of a toxic mother. She may use tactics such as guilt-tripping, gaslighting, or emotional blackmail to control her child’s behavior. For instance, if the child doesn’t follow her orders, she may use guilt-tripping and say things like, “I sacrificed so much for you, and this is how you repay me?” This type of emotional manipulation can have a lasting impact on a child’s emotional well-being and can lead to anxiety, depression, and a lack of self-confidence.

2. Verbal Abuse

A toxic mother may engage in verbal abuse, such as belittling, name-calling, or yelling. This type of behavior can have a lasting impact on a child’s self-esteem and confidence. For instance, if a mother calls her child “stupid,” “lazy,” or “useless,” it can lead to feelings of worthlessness and shame. Verbal abuse can be incredibly damaging and can lead to long-term emotional and psychological problems.

3. Over-protectiveness

A toxic mother may also exhibit overprotective tendencies. She may try to control her child’s every move and may not allow them to take risks or make their own decisions. This type of behavior can lead to a lack of independence and can prevent a child from developing problem-solving skills. Overprotectiveness can also lead to anxiety and a lack of self-confidence.

4. Neglect

Neglect is another sign of a toxic mother. She may fail to provide her child with the necessary emotional support or care. For instance, if a mother is emotionally distant, she may not be there for her child when they need her. Neglect can lead to feelings of abandonment and can make a child feel unloved and unwanted.

5. Enmeshment

A toxic mother may become overly involved in her child’s life, leading to an unhealthy attachment. This type of behavior is known as enmeshment, and it can often affect the child’s ability to develop their identity. 

For instance, if a mother is overly involved in her child’s decisions, she may not allow the child to make their own choices or develop their own sense of self. Enmeshment can also lead to a lack of boundaries and can prevent the child from developing healthy relationships with others.

6. Conditional Love

A toxic mother may only show affection and love to her child when they behave in a certain way or meet certain expectations. This type of behavior can lead to a lack of unconditional love, which can have a lasting impact on a child’s emotional well-being. For instance, if a mother only shows affection when the child achieves something, it can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

Dealing with a toxic mother

woman in emotional distress

Dealing with a toxic mother can be a challenging and emotionally exhausting experience. If you are struggling with a mother who displays narcissistic, manipulative, or abusive behavior, it is important to take steps to protect your mental health and well-being.

One of the first steps in dealing with a toxic mother is to recognize that her behavior is not your fault. It is common for children of toxic mothers to blame themselves or feel responsible for their mother’s actions, but it is important to remember that you are not to blame for her behavior.

Another key step is to establish boundaries with your mother. This can include setting limits on how much time you spend with her, what topics you are willing to discuss, and what behaviors are acceptable. Be clear and firm in communicating your boundaries, and do not allow yourself to be guilted or manipulated into changing them.

It can also be helpful to seek support from a therapist or counselor who can provide guidance and validation as you navigate this difficult relationship. A therapist can help you work through the complex emotions and dynamics involved in a toxic mother-child relationship and can help you develop healthy coping strategies.

Finally, it is important to prioritize your own needs and well-being. This may mean taking a break from your relationship with your mother, or even cutting ties altogether if her behavior is too toxic or damaging. Remember that it is okay to prioritize your own mental health and happiness, even if it means distancing yourself from a family member.

Dealing with a toxic mother can be a painful and difficult process, but it is possible to establish healthy boundaries and protect your well-being. Remember that you are not alone and that seeking support from a therapist or counselor can be a valuable tool in navigating this challenging relationship.

Here are some of the responses that you can use if your mother exhibits toxic behavior:

1. Criticizes your choices“I appreciate your concern, but I need to make my own decisions.”
2. Belittles your accomplishments“I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and I won’t let your words diminish that.”
3. Invalidates your feelings“My feelings are valid and I deserve to be heard and understood.”
4. Guilt trips you“I understand that you want me to do this, but I need to make my own choices without feeling guilty.”
5. Withholds love or support“I don’t feel comfortable with you using love and support as a bargaining tool.”
6. Invades your privacy“I need my personal space and privacy. Please respect my boundaries.”
7. Makes demeaning comments“Your words are hurtful and I won’t tolerate being spoken to like that.”
8. Tries to control your life“I appreciate your advice, but I need to make my own choices and live my own life.”
9. Gaslights or denies your experiences“I know what happened and I won’t allow you to make me doubt my own reality.”
10. Criticizes your appearance“My appearance is not up for discussion. Please respect my boundaries.”
11. Uses manipulation to get their way“I won’t be manipulated into doing what you want. I need to make my own choices.”`
12. Compares you unfavorably to others“I am who I am, and I won’t let you compare me to others or make me feel inadequate.”
13. Acts passive-aggressively“I prefer direct communication. If you have something to say, please say it clearly and respectfully.”
14. Isolates you from other family members“I value my relationships with other family members and won’t allow you to come between us.”
15. Demands your attention or time“I have other commitments and responsibilities. I need to prioritize my own needs.”
16. Refuses to take responsibility for their actions“I need you to take responsibility for your behavior and apologize for how it’s affected me.”
17. Tries to make you feel guilty for setting boundaries“I won’t let you make me feel guilty for prioritizing my own mental and emotional health.”
18. Uses fear or threats to control you“I won’t tolerate being threatened or intimidated. I need to feel safe in this relationship.”
19. Dismisses your achievements or goals“I won’t allow you to diminish my goals or accomplishments. I deserve to be proud of myself.”
20. Denies you access to important information“I need access to this information. It’s important for my well-being and I won’t allow you to withhold it from me.”

Moving on from a toxic mother

Seek Professional Help from a therapist

Moving on from a toxic mother can be an incredibly challenging process, but it is also essential for your mental and emotional well-being. Whether you have recently cut ties with your mother or are in the process of doing so, there are steps you can take to move forward and begin healing.

One of the first steps in moving on from a toxic mother is to acknowledge the impact of her behavior on your life. This may involve confronting painful emotions and memories and processing the trauma that you have experienced. It can be helpful to seek support from a therapist or counselor who can help you work through these emotions and develop healthy coping strategies.

Another key step in moving on is to establish boundaries for yourself. This may mean limiting contact with your mother, setting clear expectations for what behaviors are acceptable, and prioritizing your own needs and well-being. Remember that it is okay to put yourself first, even if it means creating distance from a family member.

It can also be helpful to focus on building a support system outside of your family. This may involve reconnecting with friends or family members who are supportive and understanding, joining a support group, or seeking out a new community or hobby that brings you joy and fulfillment.

Finally, it is important to give yourself time and space to heal. Moving on from a toxic mother is a complex and emotionally taxing process, and it is important to be patient and gentle with yourself as you navigate this journey. Remember that healing is a process and that it is okay to take things one day at a time.

In conclusion, moving on from a toxic mother can be a difficult but necessary step toward healing and growth. By acknowledging the impact of her behavior, establishing boundaries, building a support system, and giving yourself time to heal, you can begin to move forward and create a brighter, healthier future for yourself.

What does the research say?

A study done by the University of Chicago says that feeling lonely can be harmful to a person’s health and well-being, especially for older adults. Humans evolved to band together to survive and finding oneself on the social perimeter is not just sad but also dangerous. 

Feeling socially isolated activates neurobiological mechanisms that may promote self-preservation in the short term but take a toll on health and well-being in the long term. People who feel lonely tend to be more defensive and self-protective, which can undermine their efforts to form better connections with others. 

The effects of feeling socially isolated include higher vascular resistance, increased cortisol levels, altered gene expression, and decreased quality of sleep. All of these processes can contribute to early morbidity and mortality. Therefore, it is important to have positive social relationships and to avoid feeling lonely to promote better health and well-being.


If you grew up with a toxic mother, it’s essential to recognize the signs and seek help. A toxic mother can have a lasting impact on a child’s emotional well-being and can lead to long-term emotional and psychological problems. 

However, it’s never too late to seek help and heal from the wounds of a toxic mother. It’s essential to surround yourself with people who love and support you and seek professional help if necessary. Remember, you deserve to be happy and live a healthy, fulfilling life.

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