Attack of the Emotional Vampires

emotional vampire

Do encounters with certain people leave you feeling completely drained? Does the thought of having to spend time with a particular person make you feel edgy, anxious and downright exhausted? Do you sometimes feel like you need to binge on comfort food and take a nap after you've been in someone's presence? Is there a person in your life that has the uncanny ability to kick your upbeat mood right in the crotch, and leave you limping away dazed and confused?

If you find yourself nodding your head or answering "yes" to any of these questions....then you, my friend, have been the victim of an emotional vampire attack!

Emotional Vampires (sometimes referred to as Energy Vampires or Emotional Muggers), are the people in our lives who suck the life energy right out of us! They leave us with our guts in a knot, feeling deflated, tired, tense, and generally just plain, icky. In the worst cases, they may even rob us of our self-esteem, and make us feel like there is something seriously wrong with us.

Emotional Vampires take many forms. Here are a few examples of their many incarnations:

  • A co-worker who constantly greets you in the morning to share her latest personal melodrama
  • The grocery clerk who is forever 'the victim'....the world is out to get her and nothing ever goes right in her life
  • Your friend who calls you to 'catch up' and then spends hours monopolizing the conversation
  • The parent who is perpetually criticizing you and your choices, or taking backhanded jabs at you
  • A family member who is all compliments and sunshine when you are bending over backward to please them, and acts like Linda Blair, from The Exorcist, when you're not

Having an exchange with an Emotional Vampire is a rather unpleasant experience. In fact, it can ruin your whole damn day, or worse! So, what can you do to protect yourself from these energy sucking entities? Here are a few suggestions to help you defend yourself against future attacks:

  1. Notice when you are under attack. Learn to recognize the signs. Take note of the behaviour patterns of others, and how you react to them. Pay attention to how your body feels when you are in the company of certain people. Does your jaw clench, tummy turn, and heart pound? Are you looking for the nearest exit? Do you find yourself snapping at your spouse or children after you have had an encounter with a specific individual?
  2. Realize that Emotional Vampires are people with issues....usually fairly significant ones. They may have very low self-esteem, be filled with guilt/anger/ fear/sadness over something that has occurred in their life that they have never learned to cope with, or they may even be mentally ill. The thing is, you can, and should, feel compassion for these people. But this doesn't mean it's your job to be their whipping post, or their therapist.
  3. If you really care about them and feel like it's appropriate, you can try to guide them in the direction of a potential solution to their problems. Say something like, "You know, I understand that this is a bad situation you're in, but what can you do to make it better?" Then brainstorm some actions they could take to move forward ...(apply for a new job, leave the deadbeat boyfriend, quit spending money they don't have on scratch tickets and expensive make up, move out of their parents' basement....whatever). NOTE: If you have tried this once or twice and it hasn't worked......give it up.....quit banging your head against the yourself and step away! Tell your vampire kindly, that since they are not willing to do anything to change the situation they are in; you just don't have the time or energy to continue being their sounding board. When they are ready to try solutions, you will be ready to listen.
  4. Learn to set healthy boundaries. Limit the time you spend with these folks. For example, the next time that friend calls you to 'chat', or you run into them at the bookstore, tell them kindly that you don't have time to talk right now, or that you only have 10 minutes. Then, mean it! When the time is up, tell them you have to go, bid them a friendly 'adieu', and hang up. If you are physically in the same place, back away, as a signal that you really do have to go. Say, 'enjoy the rest of your day' and be gone!
  5. Refuse to react! This really is for your own self preservation and sometimes it's bloody hard to do.  You see.....Emotional Vampires are looking for some sort of pay off through their interactions with others. They are looking to feel valued, in control, validated, important, or any number of emotions. Heck, who doesn't want that? But, Emotional Vampires will suck energy from you in order to get what they feel they need. So the secret is....don't let them have it! The next time your mother-in-law criticizes your parenting (for example), instead of getting all flustered and going in the bathroom to sob and make faces at her behind the door, just take a deep breath and say with a smile on your face..."Thanks, I'll take that under advisement"....then just do whatever the hell you want anyhow. Or tell her, 'I value your advice, and if I want it, I won't hesitate to ask you for it, but I don't need your help on this particular issue.' Remember what Eleanor Roosevelt said..."Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent". Just don't let them sink their fangs into you!

In the end, the important thing about vampires of any kind is that they have to be 'invited' in. If you don't want them in your life, turn them away. You are ultimately in control...stay strong! If you feel like you have no choice but to let them in, because the person is 'a little too close to home', then use the aforementioned strategies like you would garlic, or holy water, to protect yourself from attack.

If you don't have peace of mind, you don't have anything
I listened and I listened
It's time you flapped your wings
My energy is gone
I'm sick in my soul
Never invite a vampire into your home

- From the song, Vampire, by Bap Kennedy

For more help on dealing with Emotional Vampires, check out Dr. Judith Orloff's book, Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life & This awesome Facebook Live Video from Martha Beck.


+2 # Pat Skene 2014-04-20 16:16
This is an excellent post Lara, and one I'm sure everyone[censor ed]n identify with. The worst emotional vampires I've had in my life were always terrible bosses. One was an alcoholic with terrible on the job mood swings and the other was an egomaniac. Both always left me feeling drained and rather useless. You are spot on with your observations and advice. Well done.
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