Protecting myself from my adult psychopathic child

By Anonymous

“Your child is not normal”.  

Can you imagine feeling happy and relieved at reading these words about your child–words that were written to me by an experienced therapist?  

Can you imagine being told by a psychiatrist that the best outcome you could hope for with your adult child is that they never contact you again?  The BEST possible outcome? 

Can you imagine looking through a stack of saved papers relating to your child and finding articles with titles like:  “What drives emotional abuse and how to begin to recover”?   

Can you imagine needing to talk to your boss to alert them that they might be receiving an anonymous and malicious complaint about you from your adult child?  

I have had all of these experiences. 

The reason I was so happy and relieved to be told at last that my child wasn’t “normal” was that I finally knew there was an explanation for the horrible way my child treated me. Unfortunately, the explanation was that my child is psychopathic. 

I didn’t know that at the time. But looking back at family photos, I see that the facial expression my child wears in almost all of them is haughty, arrogant, and hostile.  Almost never a real smile. Who would want to make such faces?   

Now I know the answer: a child who is fundamentally callous. Who does not have normal emotions like joy and love. Who can hurt people without experiencing any remorse.  It was frustrating and difficult when they were still young. But having an adult child with psychopathy is all about fear—sometimes even terror.  

Emotional fear of my child. 

Fear of their constant seething anger, their withering and never-ending insults.  My child didn’t like my voice, my cooking style, the way I cleaned the house — and other things I’ve tried to forget.  I don’t know what it is with psychopathic children, but several I’ve heard of hate the sound of their parents’ voices.  There were other forms of put downs – for example, telling me other people don’t like me and can’t I see that? 

And it’s not accidental. There’s malicious intent.   

I remain in physical fear of my child.  

Fear that they would try to kill me, and even an idea of how they would do it. 

Fear of speaking up to anyone about my experiences–of admitting to anyone that I’m afraid of my own adult child.     

Fear of being accused by other people of having created the psychopathy myself, whereas I know that I’m the victim of it and not the cause. 

Fear of my child’s false claims that they are scared of me.  

Fear of the fake crying, the manipulation of therapists.   

Fear of their lying about me to others–the last of which is so humiliating and disgraceful. The false claims that I was an abusive parent–which I believe they loved to say since it garnered so much attention–was so vile. 

Fear of the criticisms, of the panic attacks I have had, a result of the way my child treated me. 

I have found myself wishing that there was a mistake at the hospital, that somebody could convince me that this child isn’t my biological child.  The fact that my body produced this child feels like such a betrayal.  How could my own body produce a person who would grow up to abuse me?  

I have reluctantly come to realize my child doesn’t feel any true affection for me. I was a prop, a tool to get other people’s attention, to become the center of attention, which they crave.

If you have the misfortune to be the parent of a psychopathic child, I know you will recognize elements of your own stories in mine. You will meet people who will doubt your story, or doubt that you tried your hardest to be a good parent, or both. They will think you caused your child’s problems and that you’re getting what you deserve.  

I want to make sure you know that there are others out there like you. I am like you. Parents like me understand how  demoralizing raising a child with psychopathy often is. 

Sure, there are potential treatments and sure, your adult child might improve over time.  (Emphasis on might.)  But until that happens I am so sorry to say that the best thing you can do to help and protect yourself  is to stop wishing for emotional closeness of any kind with your child.  The best thing you can hope for, and the best way to protect yourself from being a target, is to have minimal contact with your child.    

Specifically: 

  1.  I would never let myself be alone with my child, for fear of what they might do, or what they might say I did
  2. I would never take part in family therapy with my child–there is a good chance that they will manipulate the therapist, and it’s a chance I don’t want to take. 
  3. I never contact my child unless they contact me first.  I always reply promptly, but I never initiate. 

The failure to implement these measures could potentially be very costly to you, the parent—emotionally, financially, or even physically. As a parent it’s hard to admit, but some adult children are difficult in such a way that parents have to prioritize protecting themselves.

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