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KatawaGrey's avatar

How would you deal with mother-induced paranoia?

Asked by KatawaGrey (21335 points ) March 1st, 2009

My mother is kind of a paranoid person. I’m not clinical here, I just mean she gets really really worried about a lot of little things and tends to blow them way out of proportion. By this I mean she freaks out when I don’t use the club in my car and I’m parked in a locked lot that has a security guard on duty all the time and I’m often parked next to lexus’ and mercedes’. there are a lot of examples if this kind of reaction but it’s the latest one that is scaring me the most. I’ve been sick since last Sunday and throwing up on and off. My mother is convinced that I am pregnant and keeps pestering me to go into planned parenthood to get a pregnancy test done. When I told her that the first time I got sick was right after my period and before my boyfriend and I had had vaginal intercourse this month, she just said it could have been a false period. it wasn’t until today when I broke down on the phone in tears telling to stop telling me that she thinks I’m pregnant because it is scaring the hell out of me that she apologized (I’m 20, btw).

My question is, how do I deal with this kind of reaction in the future? For the little stuff like using the club, I usually just ignore her advice or only follow it when she’s around, but for the big stuff like this, I’m not sure how to handle it and I’m pretty sure I can only break down in tears once or twice before she starts saying this stuff anyway.

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10 Answers

bythebay's avatar

I’m sorry for your frustration. Remember first and foremost she loves you and is only trying to look out for your well being. Her paranoia is simply a manifestation of her love for you accompanied by her loss of you as you grow up & away from her. I’m 45 and my Mom still pesters me daily about basic things concerning my well being. Be polite and remember she’s coming from a good place.

As for the pregnancy thing; she could be right. Perhaps if you are very bothered by her approach you could tactfully explain to her it’s not the care & concern you dislike, it’s the delivery. And if it makes you uncomfortable to discuss your personal life with her – don’t share so many details with her.

dynamicduo's avatar

Dealing with illogical people is hard. Logic simply doesn’t work on them.

What you can do is assert your adult rights to steering or ending discussions. If I were in your situation, I would respond to the club insistence by saying “Thanks Mom, I’ll keep my car safe.” and then if she kept bringing the issue up, I would clearly and firmly say “This issue does not need to be discussed. I can keep my car safe on my own. I am ending that discussion. Let’s talk about X.” and change the subject. You have taken a similar approach in your handling of the pregnancy obsession. Be frank with how her words are affecting you if being kind is not getting through to her.

There’s nothing wrong with standing up for yourself and telling your mother to stop hounding you about item X, Y or Z. Sure it can be done in a respectful way, but I don’t take crap from my parents just because they are my parents. As an adult I expect to be treated like an adult by every other adult, even those who knew me more as a child. This includes talking to me respectfully, not asking prying questions, etc. If another adult continued to infringe on my rights by talking to me in a disrespectful way, I would clearly and frankly tell them to stop, and if it continued I would cease associating with the person until their actions changed. You can’t control anyone else’s thoughts or behaviours, but you sure can control your own, and you are in no way obliged to continue associating with people who do not respect you as shown by their actions.

nebule's avatar

talk to her some more…
tell her how much it upsets you
but you understand that she’s only looking out for you
but you need your independent thought and action
you are after all an adult now
well in the UK you are anyway….
that shouldn’t matter anyhow!

marinelife's avatar

I recommend the book Toxic Parents by Susan Forward.

It has a lot of how tos on handling communication that I found really useful. It was really helpful to me in setting boundaries with my mother. Sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it.

I also thought dynamicduo’s answer was excellent.

laureth's avatar

My mom is the paranoid sort, too. However, she’s been that way for ages (I’m kind of used to it) and I have come up with two ways to handle stuff like this. Caution: neither one may work for you. Your mileage may vary.

1. Prove her wrong. Take a pregnancy test, and assuming it comes up negative, either send her a scan/picture of it or hand her the thing if she lives nearby. “There, satisfied?”

2. Play along as though she’s right. Start talking about crib prices, daycare, and wanting to learn how to knit or crochet the cutest booties ever. Use the word “grandma” a lot. And when it’s false, say, “Oh well, I guess next time we’ll know not to worry about nothing, eh?”

It’s true that both of these are sort of manipulative, the second one moreso. I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do, but it is a tool that’s helped me combat my own mom’s manipulativeness. It gets easier, the older and further away you get. Good luck!

KatawaGrey's avatar

@laureth: I greatly appreciate you answer. I guess what wasn’t clear is that my mother and I have a good relationship, it’s just that she does this thing that bothers me a whole lot and this time it was too big to ignore. I did get a pregnancy test done (after the nurse told me I had a virus) and did tell my mom about it. I made it very clear how much she had scared me and she did sound genuinely remorseful.

laureth's avatar

Sounds like it all worked out in the best possible way (except for the virus). It’s good to have a working relationship with your ma. I wish I did. :)

Judi's avatar

How horible for your mom that she is so motivated by fear. It must be a very unhappy existence. I don’t have an answer for you, because only she can change her behavior and thought process, but I do feel sorry for your poor mother. Worry makes for restless sleep and is not good at all for your long term health.

galileogirl's avatar

I think laureth is very close to it. Try not to tell her things that are going to feed into her paranoia like the fact that you didn’t use the club. You also don’t have to share things like the details of your cycle.

She is obviously not ready to allow you to be a grown up and I kind of question your readiness, too. When someone is upsetting you on the phone, try “Gotta go, call ya later” click. If you don’t put a stop to it, it could affect your future family.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be great friends, just deflect the conversations away from your personal business. There are millions of other things to discuss.

augustlan's avatar

Have a serious heart-to-heart with your mother, at a time when nothing else is going on. Tell her exactly how her fears affect your life. Let her know that you appreciate the fact that she loves you and cares about your welfare, but her worry is rubbing off on you. If she’s anything like me, she already knows she is over-protective, and would not want that to negatively impact your well-being. Ask her, in the nicest way possible, to keep her little worries to herself, and only make you aware of them if there is a serious risk that you may be overlooking.

If you find it too difficult to say these things face-to-face, write her a letter. Give her a few days to absorb the letter and then give her a call to discuss it. As a mother myself, I know I would appreciate your honesty. Good luck!

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