Cowritten by Sukhman Rekhi and Tchiki Davis
Contrary to what the name might suggest, energy vampires are not literally akin to the likes of Dracula, Edward Cullen, or the Salvatore Brothers. They weren’t born from a Bram Stoker novel, nor does their skin sparkle in the sun, and they definitely don’t suck all the blood out of you—even if it may sometimes feel like that. But they do walk among us, and maybe we can be energy vampires ourselves at times.
What Is an Energy Vampire?
Energy vampires are people who tend to prey on highly sensitive, empathetic, and happy people and feed off of their kindness and compassion until they leave them drained of their energy. Research also suggests that while the name sounds fun and somewhat harmless, energy vampires ought to be studied more as they could have similarities with folks who have antisocial, borderline, and/or narcissistic personality disorders (Northrup, 2018). However, energy vampires may also just have low self-awareness about their energy-zapping behaviors, and when made more aware of these tendencies, they may alter how their actions affect others.
Energy Vampire Signs and Traits
You may have grasped a solid sense of some signs and personality traits of energy vampires from the scenarios shown above. Below you will find a compiled but nonexhaustive list of signs and traits that may help clear up any queries you have about energy vampires (Northrup, 2018; Orloff, 2017).
- A lack of accountability. Someone with a lack of accountability will not own their responsibility and will find a way to blame an external situation or stressor for their actions.
- Feeling the need to one-up you. These people like to keep the limelight on themselves. They may often make you feel beneath them or dismiss your problems and guilt trip you by telling you their issues are way worse than yours.
- Being at the center of dramatic situations. Whether they’re the instigator of an issue or someone who took sides, an energy vampire may come to you to play the victim, receive your empathy, and even expect you to find ways to fix the problem.
- Dominating discussions. These talks are not healthy venting sessions but are more likely to be emotional dumping by the energy vampire onto you.
- Manipulative. Energy vampires take advantage of your kind or caring nature by trying to steal too much of your time away or make you feel guilty if you’re not spending time acknowledging them. They may also give you ultimatums.
- Bullying. Energy vampires tend to be bullies who try to make others feel small. This typically stems from their own insecurities and comes out in ways that dehumanize others so that you can feel just as miserable as them.
- Negative. Most energy vampires are looking to soak up your positive energy by killing the mood, criticizing you, or engaging in toxic or abusive behaviors.
- Needy. Energy vampires are always in need of validation, compliments, and reassurance from others. They also tend to be codependent in their relationships.
How to Deal With Energy Vampires
Once you notice an energy vampire sucking too much out of you, here are some ways to deal with the situation (Orloff, 2017; Rutherford et al., 2014).
- Set boundaries. If you keep them in your life, you may find it helpful to see them less frequently and set clear boundaries. Perhaps you even limit how quickly you respond to their messages or phone calls or say no to plans with them entirely.
- Adjust expectations. If you’ve known this person a while and are aware of their behaviors, expect less from them in terms of how much you want them to give their time and energy to you. You can’t change how they act, but you can modify how much emotional energy you’re giving them and your relationship.
- Stop being overly available. Energy vampires gravitate to those who are always ready to listen to them. Try focusing more energy on other relationships or yourself. The less available you are, the less likely they would come to you for sympathy or problem-solving.
- Be honest with them. If you find yourself being close enough to this energy vampire, you may want to engage in a healthy conversation about your relationship and how they make you feel. We may not be able to (or even want to) cut out these people from our lives, so if you feel comfortable having a conversation about their actions and how they impact your emotional well-being, it may be worthwhile to talk it out.
A version of this post also appears on The Berkeley Well-Being Institute website.
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