17 Revealing Signs of Mommy Issues in a Woman (2024)

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It’s a lot more common to hear about daddy issues or mommy issues in men, but is mommy issues in women an actual thing?

My friend Lisa has always had trouble maintaining healthy relationships, and it turns out she had mommy issues.

Lisa didn’t have a healthy relationship with her mom, which led to her having a negative self-image and trust issues. She was also controlling, judgmental, and overly critical of herself and others.

A mother's role in a child’s life is seen as the most important first relationship a child has. It makes sense that an unhealthy or insecure relationship with your mom or other significant female in your early or formative years has a direct impact on who you are as an adult and the relationships you have (or can’t sustain).

Wondering if you have mommy issues?

This guide has all the information you need to know about what mommy issues are, the most common causes, the signs that may reveal you have mommy issues, and how to deal with them so you can live a fulfilling life – which you are so worthy of.

Table of Contents

What Are Mommy Issues?

Mommy issues isn’t a term that’s easy to define, but in essence, it refers to the psychological challenges or personal issues you have as an adult that stems from your relationship with your mom while you were young and growing up.

Mommy issues may not just result from the relationship you had (and still have) with your mother; any unhealthy relationship with a female figure in your life during your childhood can result in the personal difficulties you deal with now that you are an adult.

These other female figures would have played a notable role in your life, and they can be a grandmother, aunt, godmother, or other female caregiver.

What exactly constitutes unhealthy relationship dynamics with your mom (or older woman) that has impacted your life so severely and dramatically?

You may have mommy issues because your mom was absent and neglected you, she may have abused or manipulated you, she was overly permissive, or she was overly protective and caring.

In general, these are all types of unhealthy mom-child relationships because your mother failed to be there for you in some way. She wasn’t what you needed during the whole of your childhood or during key moments, no matter how little or hard she tried to be a good mom.

It’s important to note that adult men and women can have mommy issues (just like they can have daddy issues), but the signs of mommy issues may present or manifest differently depending on a person’s gender.

For example, in men, mommy issues present as anger issues, not being able to deal well with critique, difficulty taking responsibility, believing the world is unfair, being jealous of other people’s success, and constantly seeking external validation. (You’ll learn about the signs of having mommy issues for women shortly.)

Reasons Why a Woman Has Mommy Issues

There are various reasons why a woman may have mommy issues. From a psychological point of view, mommy issues come down to:

  • John Bowlby’s attachment theory, which suggests that infants have an innate need for a close and emotional connection with their mom, the primary caregiver. The quality of the connection determines how well the person – as an adult – relates to, forms, and maintains intimate and lasting relationships with others. If a child experiences a toxic or otherwise unhealthy relationship with their mother, they could develop an attachment disorder.
  • Sigmund Freud’s Oedipus complex (for men) or Electra complex (for women), the latter of which occurs when a daughter is 3 to 5 years old because she competes with her mom to get affection and love from her father.

In plainer terms, here are the main causes why children develop attachment issues (or mommy issues):

  • Childhood trauma, such as enmeshment (or covert incest), abuse (physical, sexual, mental, or emotional), or extreme parental or domestic conflict
  • Unhealthy levels of control by the mom
  • Parentification, where the parent placed inappropriate responsibilities on the child, reversing the roles of parent and child in the relationship
  • Narcissistic abuse, where the mother viewed their child as superior, resulting in an over-inflated ego
  • An emotionally distant or unavailable mom who wasn’t affectionate or nurturing
  • A mom that doted on you or was over-strict, overbearing, or overprotective, leading to a low differentiation of self
  • Extreme conflict avoidance
  • A mom who was too lenient and permissive, letting you do anything and everything you wanted

Every relationship between a mother and her child is unique, and it is just as complex. There are many aspects of a mother-child relationship that need to be considered and fully understood before the true cause of a person’s mommy issues can be identified.

The Impact Having Mommy Issues Has on Your Relationships

It’s essential to note having mommy issues doesn’t affect everyone in the same way; it’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.

The real impact of your mommy issues on your life and your relationships depends on the actual relationship you have with your mother as well as the root causes of your mommy issues.

Mommy issues will impact your personal and professional relationships because you may struggle with self-doubt (and thus you self-sabotage your relationships, creating a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy).

You also didn’t have a great role model, so you don’t know how to be a great friend or partner.

With a low self-esteem, you may have multiple failed relationships or struggle to put yourself out there to get a job, or you may have an over-inflated ego, and who wants to put up with someone who believes they are superior to everyone else long term?

You may even have mental health problems, such as depression, borderline personality disorder, and anxiety, which makes it extra difficult to be in a relationship or keep a job. Or you may attract toxic people, leading to one unhealthy relationship after the other.

Since you struggle to connect and stay connected with people who are good for you (and even those who aren’t), you believe you are unworthy of love.

Plus, your mommy issues have further effects too if you become a mother. If you don’t deal with your mommy issues and heal, it’s likely that you’ll pass on your issues to your child, leading to a generational cycle that keeps on repeating.

17 Signs of Mommy Issues in Women

Here are the most common signs that you have mommy issues:

1. Overly Critical and Judgmental

Children mirror what their parents do, and sometimes, we continue learned behavior. If your mom was highly critical or judgmental of herself, you, and other people, it’s likely that you learned this behavior.

Now you are highly critical of yourself, your partner, your children, and any friends, colleagues, or strangers.

You most likely see slight flaws and mistakes as utterly disastrous and big no-no’s, and you feel angry whenever someone or something isn’t 100% perfect.

You also judge others, rushing into opinions, but you never really get to know them or give them the benefit of the doubt.

Open-mindedness isn’t a personality trait that people associate you with, and your criticalness and judgmentalness may be a result of your unhealthy relationship with your mother.

2. Clingy and Needy

Another sign of mommy issues in women is being clingy and needy in relationships, whether in friendships, romantic relationships, or work relationships.

Your clinginess and neediness is a result of your unhealthy or insecure attachment to your mom, and now you cling to others in your life so they can fulfill your emotional needs that were never met by your mom.

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You may even become needy and clingy with strangers or anyone who shows you any kindness in life.

Of course, everyone goes through times when they are needy, but if you are excessively needy (and with people you shouldn’t be clingy with), you have mommy issues.

3. Struggle with Affection

If you have a complicated relationship with your mom, it may not be easy for you to be affectionate. You may be overly affectionate with your friends, family, and colleagues, or you may not show any affection at all.

Sadly, you were never shown how to be affectionate (in healthy doses) as your mother wasn’t a good example or role model.

Struggling with affection lowers the quality of your relationships because real affection improves mutual understanding and love, and it helps build stronger bonds and trust.

4. Codependent

If you are overly dependent on others in your life, it’s a sign that you may have mommy issues.

You need your partner, friends, colleagues, and even your kids to take care of you, from meeting your emotional needs (which is actually your responsibility to meet) to managing practical things, like paying the bills, making appointments, and more.

You may be codependent on others if your mom did everything for you, so you grew up overly dependent on her. You never learned to be self-sufficient and independent.

5. Unable to Form Deep Connections

If your mom had unhealthy attachment styles and struggled to get close to others and maintain deep and lasting relationships, you may now find it challenging to form deep connections.

You can’t create healthy and strong emotional bonds with others because you don’t know what these are. Plus, you never bonded with your mom, making it even more difficult to form and sustain lasting connections.

You may also be scared to be vulnerable and open up, and this prevents anyone else from getting close to you.

6. Overly Protective and Caring of Others

If your mom was doting on you, it’s possible that your mommy issues are manifesting as being overly caring and protective of others.

You think this is what love is – taking care of others to the point of self-sacrificing and neglecting your own needs.

However, you may also over-care because your mom was never around to take care of you. You want to correct the “sins” of your mother, and your mommy issues present as excessive caretaking, the opposite of what your mom did.

You are now the caretaker of your family, doing everything for them because that’s what you know and what you learned from your mom, or it’s what your mom never did for you.

7. Promiscuous Behavior

If you find that you dive into promiscuous behavior and have multiple one-night stands or engage in sexually risky behavior, the chances are good that you are looking for the love you lost out on with your mom.

Your mother may have had a difficult relationship with your father, or she may have been too focused on her own relationships to pay attention to you as a child. Either way, you try to fill the hole your failed relationship with her left by mistaking lust for love.

8. A Strained Relationship with Your Mom

This sign is probably obvious, right? Of course, you have mommy issues if you have a strained relationship with your mom. But you don’t just have mommy issues if the relationship is mostly good and you’re just focusing on the negative side of it.

It’s time to be honest and objective. When you think back to your childhood and most of your adult life, was/is 85% or more of your relationship with your mom strained, difficult, and challenging?

Your answer could be yes if the same problems keep popping up when you think back, and these remain unresolved even though you’ve tried talking to your mom, solving them, and fixing the relationship.

9. People-Pleaser to the Extreme

Extreme or pathological people-pleasing where you bend over backwards to please people with little to nothing to gain from it is another sign of having mommy issues.

You may have learned your people-pleasing skills from your mother who people-pleased her way through life, or you may be trying to get affection, acceptance, love, and kindness everywhere because your mom never showed you any.

You may think that you are making yourself happy when you make others happy, but you are just filling a void or perpetuating unhealthy learned behavior.

10. Insecure

Mommy issues in women can also manifest as being insecure. This is very possible if your mom was overly critical of you and you never felt like anything you did was good enough.

You probably still feel this way, and even more so when your mother criticizes you now.

You don’t believe you can make anyone happy, much less yourself because your mom was never happy with you.

You still try to live up to your mom’s impossibly high standards, even though you are so insecure and have low self-esteem about how you look and what you do.

11. Controlling

When you look back at your behavior with others, are you mirroring your controlling mom?

Controlling behavior can also point to having mommy issues, and it’s likely something you learned from your mom.

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Because your mom controlled you and everyone else around her, you’ve learned that this is acceptable behavior.

You have expectations of how people should behave, and when they don’t behave in that expected way, you become angry and upset. You aren’t flexible at all; everything should be “your way or the highway.”

12. Have No or a Few Female Friends

If you have mommy issues, it’s likely that you get along better with men (especially if you had a healthy relationship with your dad and other men while you were growing up).

That means you don’t have any female friends, or if you have female friends, there are few in your circle.

These female “besties” may also be more casual friends or acquaintances if you’re being honest because you struggle to form deep connections and you may have other mommy issues that prevent you from getting close to other people.

You expect other women to treat you as your mother did, making it impossible for these friendships to thrive.

13. Trust Issues

Having trust issues shouldn’t come as a surprise. A mother’s love should be unconditional, but it’s likely that your mother loved you conditionally – if you ever felt any love from her.

Even mothers who are overbearing and dote on their daughters conditionally love their kids.

Because you never felt loved or felt unconditional love from your mom, you’ve developed trust issues, which of course, significantly impacts every relationship in your life.

Trust is one of the main foundations of healthy relationships, and without it, no relationship can make it, and a break-up or falling out is imminent.

14. You Strive to Do the Opposite of What Your Mom Would Do.

With mommy issues, many of you purposefully do the opposite of what she would do because of a determination to be a better person.You treat your daughter(s) like you wish you had been treated in the first place.

Unlike your mother, who was always critical, you are complimentary toward others.And you're humble and giving.Your mom was often selfish and used others to her advantage.

However, you are relentlessly trying to break bad parenting cycles in your family tree.

15.You Still Do Things to Earn Her Approval.

You know you’re dealing with mommy issues if you’re subconsciously doing things to earn her approval.

On her birthday, are you giving an unhealthy amount of extra thought to the gifts you get for her?Do you spend more on her gifts than you do others?

In her absence, do you still find yourself fixing your hair a certain way, wearing particular colors, or avoiding some outfits because you can hear her critical words echoing in the back of your mind?

16.You Still Talk About What She's Done Years Later.

When you're having conversations with others, do you always seem to mention your mom and the ways she's mistreated you?

Do you have the habit of sharing critiques she's had about you, the manipulative things your mother has done to you, or ways she’s embarrassed you in the past?

After you are away from your friends or family members, are you repeatedly telling yourself that you won't complain to them about your mother anymore?Yet, whenever you are around them, you constantly complain about your mom again and again.

17.You Avoid Her Phone Calls and Texts Because the Interaction with Her Gives You Great Anxiety.

A very revealing sign of mommy issues is when you are going through your day; everything is great until you receive a text from your mother, which changes your mood. Especially if the text says, “Call me.”

Perhaps your mother calls you on the phone, and you don't know whether to answer it or let it go to voicemail.You fear what she will ask of you and her reaction if you have a response she doesn't like.

How to Heal or Get Past Mommy Issues

Having, building, and maintaining healthy relationships must sound like a pipe dream for you, but it is possible to have these.

You first need to identify that you have mommy issues, then understand and address them so you can grow, heal, and get past these personal challenges that are holding you back in life.

To heal from your mommy issues and more forward, follow these steps:

Step 1: Become aware you have mommy issues

The first step is to identify that you have mommy issues, and from there, think back to your relationship with your mother or other significant females during your childhood.

For example, was your mom overly critical? Did she try to be the perfect mom but was overbearing and expected too much of you?

Dig deep to determine where your mommy issues come from. You can journal or meditate to help you find the answers.

Step 2: Feel what you feel

Your mom may have never allowed you to feel what you feel. You may have been punished for feeling angry or crying, or you may have learned it’s best to lock up your emotions in a box.

To heal from having mommy issues, you need to allow yourself to feel. And you need to accept that it’s okay to be angry, disappointed, sad, or happy.

So, take the time to sit with your feelings and just be.

Step 3: Get the support you need

To break the cycle and heal, you need a strong support network who has your back and will help you deal with your mommy issues.

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It’s essential to choose trusted family members or friends or reach out to a mental health professional to get the emotional support you need to heal and let go.

Step 4: Set boundaries

If you have mommy issues, it’s likely that the relationship between you and your mom is still filled with tension and unease. Setting boundaries is critical, whether your mom was overly involved in your life (and still is) or whether she was absent and neglectful.

Create and stick to healthy boundaries to protect yourself so your mom doesn’t get overbearing or only reaches out when she wants to use you.

Step 5: Work on yourself

When you have mommy issues, you know what signs you identify with. It’s time to work on yourself and change your behavior.

If you are judgmental, acknowledge that this behavior comes from having mommy issues, and then learn how to not judge others. Learn to be more self-aware, live in the moment, practice gratitude, embrace positive thinking, and question your assumptions.

Step 6: Step away from toxic relationships

It’s possible that you attract toxic people and relationships because of your mommy issues since you don’t believe you are worthy of more or better.

You are worthy of healthy relationships. So, release these toxic people from your life and focus on your well-being for a change.

Step 7: Put yourself first

You don’t believe you are (good) enough, and you may over-care, over-support, and over-love others in your life, most likely to try and fill the void left by your mother.

Stop pleasing people, putting others first, and sacrificing more of you for them. And no, that isn’t selfish behavior.

You need to take care of yourself, and prioritizing your well-being is an important step in getting over your mommy issues. Do a self-care activity every day, practice self-kindness, and love yourself.

Here's a great video on mindfulness habit that can help you have a mindful life and take good care of yourself:

Step 8: Use positive affirmations

To help you self-love and work on your self-confidence so you can heal from your mommy issues, include positive affirmations in your morning or nightly ritual.

When you are aware of your “bad mommy issues” behavior, use positive self-affirmations to counter that behavior. Affirmations also help tackle negative self-talk, which destroys your self-esteem.

If you are highly critical of yourself, use positive affirmations like “I work hard and I try my best every day,” “I am worthy. I’m enough. I’m loved,” and “I’m a wonderful wife/girlfriend.”

Step 9: Seek therapy

A last step to overcome mommy issues is seeking therapy. These issues are deeply rooted in your childhood and impact your life now that you are an adult.

You may need to work with a mental health professional to process your emotions, learn about healthy relationships, and develop other tools and skills to unlearn behavior that isn’t helping you thrive and help you heal from your mommy issues.

Final Thoughts on Mommy Issues in Women

Having mommy issues can have a heartbreaking impact on you, and these personal challenges come all the way from your childhood and the unhealthy relationship you had (and still have) with your mom or another notable female figure.

Mommy issues in women may manifest as being highly critical, judgmental, controlling, or people-pleasing, or you are very insecure, have trust issues, and struggle with being affectionate.

Fortunately, you can heal from mommy issues and move past the hurt of your childhood to thrive, maintain healthy and safe relationships, and love yourself.

We have a detailed guide if you are looking for more steps to deal and cope with a toxic mother. Also, check out this article on the 15 signs that your mother is toxic.

And if you're looking for more articles about familial relationships, be sure to check out these blog posts:

  • 7 Strategies for Parenting a Highly Sensitive Child
  • 17 Sad Signs Your Daughter Has Become A Toxic Person
  • I Hate My Mom: 11 Steps for a Better Relationship with Your Mother
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17 Revealing Signs of Mommy Issues in a Woman (2024)
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