How to protect yourself from [Emotional] Vampires

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And I’m not talking about the ones that sparkle (drive a Volvo) and live in Forks Washington.

I’m talking about emotional vampires. 

Albert Bernstein, Ph.D., coined this term, and used this descriptive phrase for people who drain other people dry.

In his book “Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry,” [Afilliate link] talks about how to identify the antisocial, obsessive-compulsive, histrionic, narcissistic, or paranoid vampire – before you get bitten. 

And who, you may ask, are the people they tend to drain dry? 

The short answer is the empath.  

For those familiar with diagnosis, you may have noticed there are a “few” Cluster B disorders in here.  And offering practical ways to navigate when dealing with the emotional vampires that are in your life.  Because, let’s face it, you may not be able to ward off all of them. 

I do want to take a moment and point out that we all have our moments of vampirism.  We all have had our moments where we have sucked energy from someone as we vent about a bad day we were having. 

The difference for most of us is that we are consciously aware of the times that we’ve done this. And have made conscious efforts not to continue to do this.  It’s one thing to vent once in a while but another thing entirely to do it to the point where you suck someone dry. 

Typically, venting is expressing a problem and being open to solutions.  Whereas sucking some dry – is sucking someone dry and leaving them drained.   

If you feel that you might struggle with emotional vampirism and youu would benefit from therapy, then take a look at and you can use my link to receive a 20% discount [affiliate link]. It’s my belief that everyone should be able to have access to mental health resources and if you feel that you would benefit from therapy then I encourage you to give it a try.

How emotional vampires get their name

Not because they are true bloodsuckers but because they do drain the people in their lives.  They feed on your willingness to listen and care for them.  They drain you of your emotional and psychological energy, leaving you exhausted, overwhelmed, and well… drained.  Whether or not they feed on others for their own emotional energy to make them feel better or add to their long list of woes depends on the vampire. 

As society is becoming more aware of the coined term “emotional vampire,” we are becoming more aware that many of these vampires are not always aware of how they are perceived.  Or how they are experienced.  They tend to be exhausting, in constant need of attention, and are in constant crisis.  They tend to be savvy at eliciting emotional responses in their emotional “donor” and do not seem to discriminate between positive or negative emotional reactions just as long as they get a response.       

There is a lot of information out there that talks about how to identify the emotional vampire.  And the consensus is they all appear to struggle with the following three characteristics.

Emotional Vampires

1. They struggle with low self–worth. 

Emotional vampires have an excessive need for validation from others because they are not able to do this for themselves.  These vampires typically believe that they are at the mercy of the world around them.  Because of this these vampires will latch onto and consume those in their life that are willing to listen, offer sympathy, or validate them. 

These vampires may also be recognized by their victim/martyr mentality.  They tend to convey thoughts and feelings of worthlessness, and the more you try and help, the more you get, “yes – but.”  

The victim/martyr does not want to take responsibility for their life or decisions.  They want you to take control of the situation.  And want you to fix their problems for them.  Why?  Because they do not want the responsibility to fix their own problems.  Perhaps because if they do, they fear that you won’t stick around and continue to provide them a sympathetic ear and validation.    

They love to be the victim and perhaps want you to be the savior.  So now you feel responsible.  Now you want them to succeed – more than they want to.  And now they have sunk their fangs into you. 

How to protect yourself and ward off the martyr/victim vampire. 

First, it helps to recognize when you are dealing with a victim/martyr vampire. 

How do you recognize them? 

These are the individuals that when their name pops up on your phone, you make an involuntary noise (and not an excited one).  These are the individuals that you have to steel yourself in preparation for them.  Perhaps, they even require a few deep breaths and maybe a pep-talk. 

You then need to set firm boundaries with them and, more importantly, with yourself.  This type of vampire draws you into their world.  You need to recognize when you are taking on their problems and are putting in more effort to fixing their problems than they are.  Because guess what?  They aren’t going to listen to you anyhow. 

Time boundaries are essential.  The victim/martyr vampire can talk endlessly about themselves and their problems without developing awareness or insight.  This is their game of seeing how many times they can get sympathy or validation from you.  And your responses may continue to feed into their game.  So, identify what your time boundary will be and hold firm to it. 

Here is an interesting fact about this specific type of vampire.  When you implement these steps and hold firm to them, you may discover that they no longer “need” you like they once used to.  It appears that as soon as you are no longer a “viable donor,” they will move on to someone else.      


2. They don’t take accountability and blame everyone.  

Energy vampires can be charismatic and charming.  This type of vampire may be crafty and exceptionally good at pinning their problems onto others.  Their problems are not actually their problems, the real blame lies with those around them to include the world.  If something goes wrong, it is the fault of someone else or the universe.  They are exceptionally good at telling you how you should feel about your own problems and have an opinion about everything.  They tend to begin sentences by telling you what you need to do and how to go about doing it.  And if something goes wrong, they will readily let you know “I knew that would happen.”          

These vampires may also be recognized by their narcissistic/controlling mentality.  They tend to convey thoughts and feelings of self-importance, entitlement, and “ME first, YOU second.”  They need, hunger, and expect you to feed their egos and will invalidate you when you don’t.  To be in the spotlight and receive the admiration or recognition that they are right.  And the more you try and help them see the “other side of the coin” or a different perspective, the more the narcissistic/controller vampire will talk over you and “prove” their point. 

Entire conversations may pass without you being able to mutter more than a handful of words or possibly anything at all. This is because the narcissistic/controller vampire typically is not able to hear anything that you have to say.  And they typically won’t try and hide this from you before they shift the conversation back to them. 

This vampire loves to be admired and should be in their point of view.  They are, after all, the ones with all the answers, the ideas, they know better than you do and quite frankly – the best thing since sliced bread. 

You know this vampire when you can go an entire conversation without uttering a word, and they take no notice.  Or if you do get the opportunity to speak, you know they didn’t hear anything.  They were too busy redirecting the conversation back to what they were talking about – themselves.     

How to protect yourself and ward off the narcissistic/controller vampire. 

First of all, it helps to recognize when you are dealing with a narcissistic/controller vampire. 

How do you recognize them? 

These are the individuals that when their name pops up on your phone, you make an involuntary noise (and not an excited one).  You know that this phone call will be laden with how everyone else sucks and how wonderful or unappreciated they are.  These are the individuals that you have to steel yourself in preparation for them.  Perhaps, they even require a few deep breaths and maybe a pep-talk to get through the disempowerment you feel. 

Do not get too attached even if they seem charming.  You need to recognize and accept that this type of vampire does not give you much thought other than what you can do for them. 

Limit emotional contact and do not confide too much in this vampire.  Odds are, you may find yourself feeling hurt by how callous this vampire is with your disclosure.  Too much information can be dangerous for this type of vampire because you may not know when you become their next target.  They are astute at knowing which buttons to press to control you.  They have a nose for fear and intimidation, and you may find yourself left holding guilt and all of the blame they can hurl at you with lightning speed and eerie accuracy. 

Limit contact when you can.  And when you can’t, some minor ego-stroking should help keep you out of their crosshairs for a while, at least.  This seems counter-intuitive when dealing with this type of vampire.  This is not an escape route, but it can be used as a coping mechanism should you need to avoid a conflict or confrontation or until you can make your exit.  


3. Signs of exaggeration and the one upper.

Emotional vampires typically could care less about what is going on in another’s person life.  Because it is their life that is in a constant state of extremes.  And your life’s problems are quite trivial when they are engrossed in off–the–chart dramas every time they turn around. 

You can easily recognize this vampire as they have a flair for theatrics. For example, a simple cold will suddenly become a life–or–death struggle with the grim reaper breathing down their neck.  Or, after “listening” to you talk about your day, they will begin their sentence with “you think you got it bad, well let me tell you…” or something equally as dismissive.  Assuming you even got the opportunity to finish what you were saying as you paused to take a breath. 

These vampires are recognized by their insatiable need for drama and bragging, and it does not matter if it is positive or negative, just as long as it is there.  The drama queen/one upper vampire (or drama queen lite) hungers for attention that is fed upon as they put on their performance and play it up for all to see.  Everything is a show, and all they are waiting for is to exclaim, “Lights, Camera, ACTION!”  This results in interactions with this type of vampire feeling fake and scripted as you recite your lines delivered to you.  Because you know that if you don’t, this show will get a whole lot bigger as they pull in unsuspecting “members” of the audience onto the stage. 

They love this stage because it gives them an exaggerated sense of self–importance or other witnesses that can “attest” to their victimization as the show moves into its crescendo.  This show does a few things for them.  It reaffirms how they are feeling at that moment.  It keeps them in the center of attention and provides a form of external validation as all eyes and ears are tuned into their direction.  And the cycle continues to feed into itself.

A cycle that the drama queen/one upper vampire is oblivious to.  They don’t believe that what happens “to them” has anything to do with them – those are the fault of other people.                   

Drama Queen

How to protect yourself and ward off the drama queen/one upper (drama queen lite) vampire. 

It helps to recognize when you are dealing with a drama queen/ one upper vampire.  First of all, do not let the feminine use of the word “queen” fool you.  Not all drama queen vampires are females.  They can be males too.  So be mindful of the male drama queen in your life and know when you have a king in your midst. 

How do you recognize them?  When their mouths are open, these are the individuals that you find yourself on a rollercoaster of words and emotions and images. 

Recognize that the drama queen/one upper may be trying to control you through this form of passive aggression.  By drawing you into a drama – perhaps creating a way to evoke a fight, they can make you feel guilty for how you reacted to them.  Remember, this type of vampire is skilled at manipulation and may very well be feeding you your scripted lines. 

Stop being dragged into their dramas as the “fixer.”  Meaning you need to stop trying to step in and rescue them when they’re in trouble.  This is part of the feedback loop that this vampire creates.  You cannot “play” your role if you refuse to walk onto the drama set.  This also means that you don’t inquire about the drama either and keep that door firmly shut.   

Boundaries – recognize that while you may want to “fix” or help, this is not your problem or responsibility.  You need to face the reality of the situation.  These vampires thrive on the drama, attention, and pity of others.  If you “fix” their food source, they will create a new drama to feed on, leaving you exhausted, frustrated, and well… drained. 

Now that you are familiar with the different types of vampires out there, in addition to the ones that sparkle, drive a Volvo, and live in Forks, Washington.  Here are some additional final thoughts. 

How to protect yourself

Have compassion. 

I know that having one or more energy vampires in your life is exhausting, frustrating, and draining.  But not all of them have bad intentions and walk around rubbing their hands like Dracula (insert Transylvanian voice) and going, “mwahaha, I want to suck your energy.”  Sometimes these can be folks starved for attention, affection, validation and come across as overbearing.  These folks may not even be an energy vampire who enjoys it but does not know any other way to interact.   

Try not to overreact; remain cool, calm, collected, and firmly yet kindly set boundaries. 

Boundaries around how often they can call or during what times they can call.  If this person is sucking, you dry in the mornings before heading to work, then let them know that they cannot call in the mornings.  Or set a boundary around how many times you will listen to them talk about their dramas before you don’t want to talk about it anymore.  Just because their drama is what they want to talk about doesn’t mean that it is all that can be talked about. 

Perhaps by setting boundaries, you can help teach the vampire(s) in your life other ways in which they can interact with you and others. 

And if this doesn’t work, then it may be time to evaluate that relationship, and in the words of Elsa, “Let [them] go.”              


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