If you feel drained after every encounter with a particular person, you may be dealing with an energy vampire. While there are several types of energy vampires, the one thing they have in common is the exhausting and disheartening effect they have on others. If you feel a relationship is continually siphoning off your emotional reserves and leaving you empty, there are ways to break this cycle.
What Is an Energy Vampire?
Energy vampires are people who prey on the good will of others and suck out all of the positive energy in a relationship. While healthy relationships involve a give-and-take of both tangible and intangible resources, energy vampires mostly take. Although some energy vampires are unaware of the effects their behavior has on others, they can be just as draining.
Examples of Energy Vampires
There are a variety of ways that energy vampires show up in life to drain your emotional energy. Not only do they take different forms, but they can be anyone–from family members to coworkers, even your own friends. Energy vampires are always seeking their next victim. If they drain one person dry, they simply lay in wait for their next target.
Common examples of energy vampires include:
- The Minimizer: This is a person who always has to put others down to build themselves up. No matter what positive things might happen in your life, the minimizing energy vampire will find a reason to make you feel bad about your accomplishments. This energy vampire not only makes you feel bad about yourself, but they also drain you by puncturing your self-esteem.
- The Victim: Victims will always play up any slight, real or imagined, that would encourage others to feel sympathy towards them. Victims are exhausting to be around, not only because they demand your attention, but their perpetual focus on the negative side of life brings everyone down.
- The Dependent: This is a person who is always asking others for reassurance and support. They are helpless in making decisions for themselves and can drain others by their constant need for guidance and direction.
- The Narcissist: This vampire always needs to be the most important person in the room. They will be tenacious in their efforts to get the attention of others and are always seeking the admiration of others. They wear you out through the consistent praise they expect you to deliver.
- The Manipulator: This person will artfully convince you to do what they want you to do, while also convincing you this is what you wanted to do all along. Manipulating vampires are able to use persuasion and gaslighting to get their own way, leaving their victims confused and exhausted.
- The Controller: This vampire is a polar opposite to the Dependent type. The controlling vampire has all of the answers and wants to tell everyone else what to do. They try to take charge of every situation and will exhaust you with their forceful, controlling manner.
- The Hot-or-Cold Vampire: This person runs either all hot or all cold, depending on the day. You’re never sure how this person will present. Not only do they keep you guessing from meet-up to meet-up, their “all or nothing” attitude leaves you on an emotional rollercoaster that they operate.
10 Signs of an Energy Vampire
There are several common signs that someone is likely to be an energy vampire who will drain your energy if you let them in. Learning these can help you identify negative behaviors as they occur and take necessary steps to address them.
Here are 10 signs of an energy vampire:
1. They Love Drama
Some energy vampires thrive on creating drama wherever they go. Just as narcissists need their narcissistic supply, many energy vampires feed on the emotional drama they generate in others. The messier a situation becomes, the more satisfied they feel.
2. They Bring You Down
The value of friendships and healthy relationships is that spending time with these people makes us feel better about life, not worse. However, energy vampires create just the opposite effect. They will either directly or indirectly criticize your choices, your behaviors, and other people in your life. They may share how much they need you in their life, but make you feel bad about who you are. This is a form of emotional abuse in that they may make you feel like they’re your best friend while undermining your self-esteem.
3. They Exude Charisma
Energy vampires may sometimes have a lot of charm and exhibit strong persuasion skills. Through this, they are able to win people over to their side, which is how they gain the attention and trust of others. Charisma is a highly attractive quality, but energy vampires do not have any significant level of emotional depth to offer people once their charisma has drawn them in.
4. They Guilt Trip You
Energy vampires use manipulation to get others to do what they want. One method of manipulation is guilt-tripping others. They will make you feel bad if you don’t give them what they want–whether it’s time, attention, or assistance.
5. They Prey on Your Kindness
It is human nature to want to help others and we especially enjoy helping people in distress. Energy vampires may approach life with a victim mentality in which they play out the victim role. In turn, this means you have to constantly play the hero role, which can become exhausting.
6. They Minimize Your Problems
Energy vampires have no room to offer anyone the level of assistance they expect from others. They will make light of your struggles in order to magnify their own issues. Their focus is on getting their own needs met. They will try to minimize and downplay others’ problems in order to keep the focus on themselves.
7. They’re Codependent
People who are codependent in relationships can make you feel needed and necessary. But, the one-sided nature of these relationships can grow tiresome as you feel your energy being drained in efforts to help meet their needs.
8. They One-Up You
When something significant happens in your life, energy vampires are incapable of allowing you to share your story without one-upping you. If you share a story of overcoming a challenge, they will rebuttal with a story of how they successfully overcame an even bigger challenge. If you share about a disappointment in your life, they will be waiting for their opportunity to tell you how much worse they’ve had it. Not only do you feel that your own experience is not worthy of attention, but they also drain your energy further by expecting a large reaction from you to their own stories.
9. They Don’t Take Responsibility
While energy vampires may be draining you dry of emotional energy, they refuse to be there for anyone else or shoulder their share of responsibility in life. They will push blame off on others and use people for material and intangible gain. They emotionally manipulate people in such a way that they are free from any sense of responsibility for their own actions. They will leave others to clean up the messes they make with no sense of guilt or shame.
10. They Can’t Enjoy the Moment
Energy vampires are constantly looking at life through a negative perspective and are unable to be present and content in life. They tend to seek out and dwell on problems in life and drain the energy of those who try to help them. They see the flaws in everything. If you praise another person or if you are just expressing happiness about the weather, they will say or do something to put a damper on things. They revel in their own suffering as they use it to draw in the concern and attention of others.
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How to Deal With Energy Vampires
Dealing with an energy vampire can be challenging, and leave you questioning your own self-worth and value in life. Luckily, there are numerous ways that you can either call out their behavior or take steps to bolster your self-esteem in order to avoid their tactics.
Below are some ways to deal with energy vampires:
- Don’t internalize their criticisms: Don’t measure yourself against the inappropriate standards set for you by an energy vampire. Remind yourself that criticism from others tells you more about them than it does about yourself.
- Set clear boundaries: Healthy boundaries are essential to ensuring stable relationships. When you set a boundary, you are creating limits on what others can ask of you and what you’re willing to give.
- Don’t expect them to be something they are not: The only person we can change is ourselves. Don’t waste time trying to force the energy vampire to change. Instead, spend time taking care of your own needs.
- Prioritize self-care: Energy vampires will drain you dry, so prioritizing care of yourself is essential to refilling your tank. Take time to meditate, practice mindfulness exercises, and engage in activities that fill your emotional tank.
- Be upfront and direct: When someone is taking advantage of your kindness or goodwill, it is important to practice assertiveness and call out the bad behavior. The longer you allow the draining behavior to continue, the harder it will be to stop.
- Don’t feed them by overreacting: Energy vampires feed on the chaos or drama they stir up–it’s what fuels their behavior. By refusing to give them what they want, you are shutting down the cycle that leaves you drained and keeps them charged up.
- Don’t feel guilty for shutting them out: Guilting people is one way that energy vampires fulfill their needs. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for taking control of your own life and making choices that are healthier for you.
How to Stop Being an Energy Vampire
If you think you may be an energy vampire, there are many ways you can work to change your behaviors and start developing healthy, mutually beneficial relationships.
Below are some tips for addressing energy vampire behavior:
- Manage stressors: Stress management is a skill that everyone benefits from. When you constantly ask others to help you manage life, you may find fewer and fewer people willing to assist you. Learning these skills may help you maintain healthy relationships with people you care about.
- Increase self-awareness: Step into the metaphorical shoes of another and imagine how it would feel to be needed by you to the extent that you are relying on others. Sometimes we don’t realize what we’re asking of others, so recognizing this can limit the drain we are on others.
- Begin expressing appreciation to others: It’s important to begin acknowledging the weight that you may have been placing on friends and family members. Let them know that you appreciate all that they do for you and make a point of expressing gratitude.
- Recognize the good things in your own life: If you tend to look for reasons to complain about your life, you will find plenty. However, if you begin looking for things that are going well, you can find an abundance of these, as well.
- Fill your life with enjoyable activities: Once you’re able to satisfy your own needs for engagement, entertainment, and satisfaction, you won’t have to demand as much from others. It’s important that each of us find ways to enjoy our lives.
Can Therapy Help?
If you feel overwhelmed by meeting the needs of others, seeking professional help can be the best option for your emotional wellbeing. Therapists can provide a more objective perspective on what is creating your stress and offer guidance as to how to deal with problematic relationships.
If you think you may be an energy vampire or are too needy, working with a professional can help you find new ways to fulfill your needs on your own. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you make sense of your reactions to others and gain control of your responses. Group therapy is also helpful, as it can provide a space for you to share your experiences with others and explore potential solutions to relational challenges.
There are many ways to find a therapist who is a good fit for your needs. These include pursuing an online therapist directory, asking your doctor for a referral, or asking family members or close friends for referrals.
In relationships that drain us, it is important to recognize the role that we are playing with others. We should acknowledge the worth of our own time and resources, while remaining thoughtful in how we share these with others. It can feel nice to be “needed,” but when we find ourselves prioritizing others to our own detriment, we need to rethink our boundaries. Setting, communicating, and maintaining healthy boundaries can be an excellent first step to stopping energy vampires from draining you dry.
For Further Reading
- Dodging Energy Vampires: An Empath’s Guide to Evading Relationships That Drain You and Restoring Your Health and Power, by Christiane Northrup, MD.
- Mental Health America
- National Alliance on Mental Illness