Comments on
Life With An Anxious Mother

Don’t go outside, you’ll catch a cold.  Stay close by me, so I can keep my eye on you.  You’ll shoot your eye out!  Everyone has heard these types of phrases from their moms (or movie moms) from time to time. 

27 thoughts on “Life With An Anxious Mother

  • December 22, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    I found this article so intriguing. I grew up with a typical “nervous Jewish mother”. I was never had anxiety issues as a child but by college suffered from severe anxiety, panic attacks and depression. Talking to family members, my mother was very anxious throughout her pregnancy with me as well. I’m not sure if it was coincidence that I had a very tramatic birth and ended up being in intensive care for a month. I’ve spoke with some very insightful people who suggest the after-affects of my birth trauma is literally “stuck” in the cells of my body, and how my mother could have transfered her nervous engergy to me. Now I live a few states away with a very calm, loving and reassuring boyfriend whom I’ve been with for 6 years. I literally had to move hours away and keep phone conversations to just a few short ones per week. I really do love my mother but being around her makes all of my anxieties, that I’ve worked very hard to control, come on at full force. How can I continue a loving relationship without feeling overwhelmed? Also, I am afraid that even with all of my hard work to overcome my anxiety problems, I will end up just like her, a nervous reck. My wonderful boyfriend is afraid of that as well 🙁 How can I take charge before it is too late?

  • December 23, 2009 at 12:41 am

    Having moved back in with my Mother(80yrs,) I realized that my excessive worries, anxieties, depression, were instilled in me by my Mother. She was abused mentally by her Mother. And, I recently discovered that my Mother has attention deficit disorder as well.
    To keep from becoming a nervous wreck, I see a pyschiatrist and pyschotherapist, regularly, and taking medication for my depression. All of this has helped, but there are times when my Mother’s nervous energy, constant talking, worrying, exhausts me, and I have to get away to talk to a person outside. Also, doing an activity that takes my mind off it helps. Perhaps joining a support group, getting involved in a group activity, talking to others, will help me from drowning in the everyday need to be mindful of my own health problems?

  • December 23, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Undoubtedly, having an anxious mother may predispose some children to being anxious themselves, a trait that can last well into adulthood. At some point, however, we all must accept that our childhoods were less than ideal, subject to hurts, disappointments, painful experiences, and sometimes much worse, than learn to let our childhoods go. Accept that our parents did the best they could with the knowledge, personality, and experience they had at the time, and forgive the rest. We need not live shackled by our childhood experiences and traumas. We cannot change those experiences but we can make the conscious decision to not let them control our lives any longer. A well-grounded, stable, healthy friend or spouse can serve as role models and support, or there are many good therapists experienced working with people who have decided to let the past remain there so that they can choose to live more fulfilling lives in the present.

    • April 29, 2017 at 9:30 pm


  • December 23, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    A very interesting, well-written article. I did not grow up with an anxious mother, BUT I am quite anxious myself and worry how this may impact any children I may have in the future. I cognizantly work on reducing my anxiety through therapy, yoga and meditation. But it still is prominent in my mind.

  • April 17, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    I grew up with a stepmother, ever since I was seven years old. Her parents were real strict, self-made people; her father a colonel and her mother the director of the place they print coins in Norway. She was beaten when little and as a grown woman of 58 she still has that fire in her, as if she’s being chased. The constant analyzations she would make, of everything that was going on, completely shaped my public social life into strict, almost military, forms. On top of that she would tell extremely embarrassing coarse stories. Sometimes it would go weeks before we began talking afteer a disagreement. Eating dinner in silence with two people you love and one you hate really is shit. After years of being exposed to this obsessive narsissistic woman, with occasional bohemian filanthropist fits, my respect for women themselves was greatly lowered, reduced to sanctifying my addict mothers preserved virtues. Unloved, I learned to give as little as possible and expect as much in return. Though I see the world for what it is, at this point, I can never fully return to the emotional state I experienced as a boy with hope. At least I’m rid of all the hatred and anxiety. Life’s not bad, so I’m not complaining. If there’s one thing I learnt at the regime that was my home, it’s patience.

  • April 27, 2010 at 12:26 am


    I am 41 y.o. and I grew up with a terribly, terribly anxious mother, and it has affected me in many ways…too many to name here.

    Can you recommend any good books on the issue of tactics to deal with anxious mothers?


  • November 16, 2010 at 2:40 am

    It’s affected me horribly. I have carried the same behavior for so long, that I’ve had trouble with many other issues, one being lack of forgiveness for all the issues I’ve faced that caused anger. My mother’s anxiety has transferred to every one of her children. Not only that but many other issues too. Such as her narcissism too. I still cannot maintain healthy relationships, or make friends comfortably. It takes several years for me to form what most people form in 1 year or less. I have not found enough information to resolve the issues. Even counselors have told me it would take a lifetime and I can’t rely on them forever so make friends. Ironically they expect me to make friends when these are my biggest issues. I could definitely use a book if it gave the best information. Haven’t found the best one yet, besides the good book, but not one relating to these issues all putting together all the help information.

  • December 23, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    I have experienced Panic Attacks for many yrs.They began after I left my phys/emo abusive ex husband.Today I am divorced for many yrs now.Have experienced the worst anxiety attacks ever! Shaking Violently and unable to talk is the worst!Meds helped alot,today I only take 25 mg of Seroquel at bedtime.What helps? Well talking to someone who You trust,distracting Yourself by watching something funny,go online play games or do quizzes,self soothing – wear something comforting,spa music,hot bath,facial,reading something positive and motivating,being creative!draw to express your feelings,color like You did as a Child!Write Poetry! Find a hobby,that makes You feel good! Give To Others however You can! Deep Breathing when You can feel it starting,when Your chest hurts is another indictation.Drink something warm and comforting,smelling something invigorating,enticing,delicious,and journalling,why? To get your unlistened or unvalidated feelings of anger,sadness,etc out!Slow stretches (Yoga) very relaxing or even a walk outside or Shopping!Buy Yourself something,small if You can’t afford it,otherwise splurge!Believe Your Worth It! Go for a walk outside if it’s not cold.Most Of All!!! Take a Life Skills Course! This opens up all kinds of possibilities! Teaches You to Value Yourself,Think more Positively,Increases Your Self Esteem! If Your Shy,Insecure You Can Choose To Change! Like I Did!
    This All Has Worked For Me…

  • December 28, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    i live with a “worst-case-scenario” mother. every conversation, every dinner conversation, every attitude, and every single remark revolves around worrying that the worst will happen or about the horrible things in the past. the majority of her time, she talks to me about her fibromyalgia, paying off the mortgage, not enough food in the house, her obesity, her arthritis, her back, her stomach hurting. when conversations aren’t about her, she analyzes all the controversial problems and issues about other people or events, even family members. she is hyper critical of my sister, always putting her down and lowering her expectations of her. she turned 22 last may and graduated from college. she is more or less disappointed.

    i am her emotional puke bucket. she is never optimistic. more or less, her anxiety is infectious. i hate it because it bleeds the life and joy out of me. most of the things she shares with me, i can’t help her with. she says that her doctor says if she doesn’t lose weight she’ll die in 10 years. i have encouraged her to lose weight and commend her progress as she loses weight. but i can’t solve her obesity. i can’t/shouldn’t pay off her mortgage. once, she told me that she thought about committing suicide. i was speechless. i’m only 18.

    my older brother has given up on helping them. my older sister is in capable of helping her. .

    being her son, and even more an adopted son, i still love her as a mother. and she has made a lot of sacrifices for our family.

    however i grow tired with each passing day. more or less, i am disgusted and tired of always feeling guilty because i feel her pain is some how my fault. whether she knows it or not, i feel as if she is flooding me slowly with her anxiety and that flood of anxiety is slowly becoming me.

    • July 22, 2014 at 5:15 pm

      Sorry you are dealing with this 🙁
      I can relate very much. My advice to you is to learn to separate your mom’s issues from your life as much as possible. It’s one thing to be supportive and caring, and a whole other thing to allow yourself to be subjected to problems she has that are not solvable by you.

      Learn to set boundaries. There are a lot of resources online you can find by googling that. You will feel guilty at times. She may even attempt to lay guilt on you by claiming you don’t care if you chose to walk out of the room when she is doing this. Do not take on the stance that any of this is your fault.

      And also, try to understand that she has learned this behavior elsewhere, so try your best not to take it personally. I don’t think they realize how much it hurts their children when they do this. They just don’t know another way to be. But it is not your job to fix anything. It is your job to be responsible for yourself and that includes taking care of yourself physically and mentally. We are only responsible, ultimately, for our own actions.

      Find a trusted friend to talk to about your feelings. A therapist can be greatly helpful. Make goals for yourself that do not depend on her and take little steps towards them. Be mindful of your own mental state, because I know I learned anxiety. I feel very sad for my mom. I have wept tears of sadness and frustration. I have been angry. But I know that my mom learned this way when she was young. I know there is no one to blame. Maybe there is a genetic predisposition to it but from my experience, the prevalence in my family of this seems to be a cultural thing. A learned way of dealing with stuff that is ultimately unhealthy.

      Like the author says, we “grow up believing their home environment is normal whether it is healthy or not.” Life as you know it right now can be different! You are worthy of being happy. Try to remember your mom probably wishes this if all that anxiety she’s doing didn’t cloud her.

      When I find myself in a position that I must reinforce boundaries with her I often follow up with an “I love you”. Because I do. But I love myself too so the boundaries help me and by default, help her since our relationship is less strained as a result.

      • August 12, 2017 at 10:13 am

        This situation is very much relatable to me. As trtlehdche says, one way of dealing with this is to realize that if your parents get anxious with any decision you make, its their feeling and not yours. They have to figure out a way of coming out of their anxiety.

  • July 19, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    I am 56 years old my mother is 86. She is a constant
    worrier and very negative. Always a reason why something won’t work out why a person shouldn’t try
    to do something whether it is me or somebody else.
    My step daughter is living with me and my husband now
    and she just got a job. My Mom immediately thinks it
    won’t work out because she will have to lift and be in a cold warehouse. Maybe it won’t always work for 30 years but maybe it will for now. Whenever I tried to do something the same thing. Don’t want to be like that to my step daughter. Just always the worst will happen in her mind. I wonder if she needs anti depressant medication or if it would be to late.

  • September 17, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    I recognized your article as one which was familiar to me. My father, not mother taught me to be afraid, unsure, have low self-esteem and to think of myself as a joke at times. The saving grace to me was that I had the ability to seek out books and therapy which helped me understand my inability to feel better about life and how his behavior had affected me. Today, at 65, I can truly say that many years were spent getting over his ill-taught lessons, but I believe that I have. I even forgive him his ignorance. He was orphaned with his sisters as a child, and lived in the South. We are an African American family, so I am sure that he also faced situations that were cruel because of race. I was born in New York and the availability of materials and people that can help you be who you want to be is enormous. I am glad that I was born with a very strong psychological insight, which led me to understand how I had become so very nervous, etc. Whoever reads this, if you feel that you are hindered by your senses and reactions – YOU CAN BECOME WHO YOU WANT TO BE. Trust that information, good psychiatrists and therapists do exist and if you seek, you will find help. I wish you all the same success I now feel.

    A. Marie

  • September 17, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    Please notify me if there are any follow-up comments via e-mail. I neglected to check the box below, and I would love reading and communicating. Thank you. I just sent my comment in and it referred to my father as being the anxious distraction to my mental health. I hope the article reaches someone who can take something away from it.

  • February 23, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    I grew up with autism spectrum disorder. This made it so that I appeared normal, but my social behaviors and organizational skills were not. My mom had to think ahead weekly about what i had to do. This obviously caused stress for her. Jump forward and today i am twenty five years old. I can manage my own life but since i live with my mom she wants to constantly hold my hand through the process. I have a job helping out others with disabilities and I am afraid she will be so involved with this that it will make my job and progression through life maddening.

  • August 18, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Hi, it feels relieving that someone out there shares my feelings. I grew up with an extremely angry and anxious mother. My dad passed away when I was 3 and she had to go through hell to raise me and my brother. Although we have been well raised in terms of education, I recently realized that she has literally injected me with every bit of anger and fear she had. Subconsciously, I turned out to be a loner, afraid of society, always suspicious of everyone’s intentions and easily pushed into extreme anger when slightly intimidated. The end result was that I got married so late in life (39) and got divorved soon after. It is possible that my marriage was doomed to fail anyway, I now realized that it may have survived if I were a clamer and more pleasant person. I am now staying alone in my apartment and feel a lot of anger towards my mum for leading me to where I am…yet I understand she never meant it. I am feeling a lot calmer now and I go to exercise regularly. I send to my ex several times to talk but she never replies…yet she is kind enough to allow me to see my daughter every week. I am sorry for myself but I am not giving up…as if struck by lighting, I am seeing everything so clearly now and in as much as it shocking to see all these facts in a single shot, I am living and enjoying this process of slow recovery…it may be too late but I am at least trying to live the rest of my life in peace.

  • January 9, 2017 at 11:30 am

    I am an anxious person, but my anxiety reached a new level after the birth of my daughter. I did have another baby boy, but it seems to me that my anxiety is centered around my first child. It is preveting me from enjoying good moments with her, if her mood changes i think that may be she is getting sick and I alwys think about the worse illneses. It wakes me up at night. When something good happens in my life i dread what might be coming after, because life can’t be that good.
    This anxiety is affecting the entire family, especially my husband who can’t seem to be able to help me.

  • March 9, 2017 at 10:05 am

    Hello All,

    I would like to thank you all for expressing your emotions and feelings how to override the anxiety. Your stories are so familiar to mine about how my mother has raised me. She tells me about all my bad characteristics each day as she know them good. Being nervous she can scream about half an hour and later say that it was my fault. When years passed, I stopped to react so emotionally as I did before which helped me to not go insane.

    Setting up the boundaries – I guess it’s the best solution to use. Recently I have read a very good book: Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns M.D. You can upload it for free. This book helps me to not allow all things happening around to influence on my mood.

    I hope in future people will not treat their children bad, only because they were not treated good by their parents!


  • April 3, 2017 at 3:22 am

    Wow! Just Wow!

    It all makes so much sense to me now.

    My mother grew up with an anxious mother. My grandmother was certainly a worrier, and anxious about everything, so much so that she became a hermit and rarely went out. She slowly isolated herself from friends and eventually only left her home when it involved absolute necessity.

    My own mother appeared not to be anxious, but I think she was just really good at disguising it. I don’t have too many clear memories of her as she died in a car accident when I was quite young.

    My turn – Yes, I am anxious, I have learnt to hide it, I have learnt to work around it and I have learnt to cope, but it is most certainly there. It is only now becoming clear to me that I don’t have as strong a hold as i thought and my son is now being affected by it. I have severe self doubt, very little trust and just generally worry about everyone around me to the point I make myself sick.

    He has had some rather severe rage reactions at school that seem to stem from anxiety. We do not put pressure on him regarding achievements, he is well liked and generally a very easy going little guy, but anxiety is creeping in as he gets older and it now appears that he has developed all the self doubt, worrying and general fear that seems to plague his mother!

    This particular article has opened my eyes and I am grateful, now we at least have a better clue where to start and i can work out coping mechanisms for us both. I will not let this affect his life like it has mine!

  • June 13, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    I am surprised that nobody has mentioned that anxiety is genetically inherited and not just learned through the example of a mother. My mother was not anxious, (it seems to have skipped her) but my grandparents on both sides, as well as uncles and some of my brothers, have extreme anxiety, as do I, and now my son does. Although a mother who has her anxiety under control can help teach her children how to live without anxiety holding them back, her example is not the only factor that will keep them from having anxiety. I don’t think it is helpful to blame mothers or others for anxiety in your own life- it could just be that you inherited it. Anxiety is very genetic, it runs in families. I think each person should take responsibility for their own anxiety and take control of it so they can live the best life possible for them as well as their children.

  • October 25, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    I had an anxious mother. Nearly my entire life, I have spent trying to quell my mother’s anxieties rather than pay attention to my own. She hovers constantly, gives me near incessant unsolicited advice, follows me around telling me how to do things, and throws a pity party for herself when I get angry and annoyed by her hovering behavior.

    It is fairly difficult to deal with anxious mothers because everyone thinks they’re so nice. Since they’re not abusive per say, it is difficult to accuse her of something (god forbid you cause her to fret even more!). But basically anxious mothers are really toxic in a bizarre way – they drown out your voice, and force you to pay all of your attention to them, or become as stoic and silent as possible because GOD FORBID You have an anxiety or problem that might cause them to worry. Any problem you have will suddently be focused on how much they are worried about your problem. Pretty much always you will get so involved in their worry that you forget your own problem and spend all your time on their worry.

    It’s extremely irritating and toxic to say the least. I’ve gone the opposite direction and have tried to become a non worrier (using extreme prayer and yoga, etc.) and have even been told I am unemotional and apathetic. I would rather this than having everyone fret over my worries though.

  • January 9, 2018 at 6:35 am

    I can relate to all of this and the commenters also. I love my mother but I have to really be careful because one small conversation can still send me spinning back into a black hole of depression.
    It goes like this: she’s only anxious because she cares, but why is she SO anxious about me? There must be something terribly wrong with me.
    I am 60 now, and my mother can still affect me like this, and even though I’ve told her what it does to me etc etc she can’t seem to stop.
    I think some mothers hang on tight to the mothering role, they hang on too strong and for too long. They almost disable their children because they really don’t know what else to do but be a mother!! the need to be needed.
    I guess I really see that as the underbelly, and because of that I feel sad for my mother and for all women that cling to this identity. Society encourages it, even deifies it!
    I learned from my mother how not to be. That is a gift in itself! But the gift was hard won – many counsellors, meditation camps, religious affiliations etc etc later…but it was a gift worth winning!
    Free yourself and your children will also learn the ways of being free, not trapped in codependency and anxiety.

  • September 2, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    My mother’s problem has always been a combination of anxiety, social phobia, and social isolation. She grew up shy and without any close friends, and she never did make any friends as an adult, not even after she got married. It is SO HARD to grow up, as a woman, with a mother like this. It’s like having a 13-year-old sister who never grows up; you can’t confide in or rely on such a person… And you can’t recommend she get any help or therapy, no matter how nicely you try, because she reacts angrily and as if she is terribly insulted. (To her, suggesting she needs help just makes her feel more embarrassed, and stokes her social anxiety even further…) She has no friends to suggest this for her. She and my father have been separated for years, so he isn’t interested in suggesting help for her. She was in the hospital recently for an anxiety attack, and she freaked out when left alone in her hospital room too long, and had to be tranquilized. When the doctor suggested she see a professional for help with her anxiety, she refused. Now does nothing but talk about how insulted she felt that this was even suggested, etc. What do you do with a person like this? My sister and I have always just resigned ourselves to not really having a mother. And it’s only going to get worse the older she gets. What do we do??

  • September 28, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    This is my mother all the way. I am an adult. Almost 40years of age. My mother spends time with my sister and I and some with my brother. I love her to death. But she catastrophizes every little bump in the road. She drives us insane. Every ding our car. Makes. Every noise is a disaster waiting to happen.

    I suffer with anxiety order. I love having her with is. Her prescence can be a calming and pleasant thing. Until we hit bumps in the road. AND THEN I WANNA HAVE MY BROTHER COME GET HER. So I can have peace and calm and positive space to work through problems. She freaks out constantly. I had my anxiety under control. And then she came back. And we started having car trouble. And suddenly he sky is falling. I’m exhausted mentally and emotionally trying not to absorb her negative energy. What do I do?.

    Its making me resentful and angry. I don’t want to hurt her feelings. But I’m ready to send her packing. I’ve had enough.

  • July 29, 2019 at 9:10 pm

    I’m a little late to this post but I feel better in a way knowing that I’m not the only one dealing with an extremely anxious mother. I’m 54 and my mother is 84. She’s been anxious her whole life, I think because her mother died when she was 9. She makes mountains out of every molehill. All she did my whole life was complain to me about how horrible my dad is. I didn’t get married because I thought all marriages were like hers and didn’t want to end up like her. Now she has a lot of ailments because of her age but her anxiety about them is just too much for me to bear. Her complaints trigger my anxiety in the worst way and then it takes days for it to pass. I moved in to help her but I think moving out is best and I’ll pay caregivers to take care of her because I need to take care of myself. I think we forget to do that when dealing with an anxious parent. And its sad because we love them and want to help but it was never my responsibility to make sure she was happy. I see that now.

  • March 6, 2020 at 1:49 pm

    I wonder whether anyone has advice for dealing with a mother who is obviously anxious (even people who don’t know her well comment, “Wow, she’s a worrier!”) but is in denial about it.

    I keep letting her suck me into her anxiety trap, and I believe she wants me to commiserate with her there. When I try to empathize, then talk about the possible good outcomes, she says she doesn’t feel supported, or that she feels lectured to. I don’t want to reinforce her doomsday scenarios, but I do want to help her feel supported in her old age.



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