Is there someone in your life who makes you feel emotionally exhausted just by being around them? Do you know anyone who leaves you feeling upset, anxious, or stressed out whenever you spend time with them? If there is, then you should watch out! That person might be an energy vampire!
Energy vampires aren’t at all like those people who you dislike or sometimes disagree with. It’s not a matter of you simply finding it hard to get along with them. In fact, most energy vampires tend to be close friends or family members, already exploiting you and zapping away your energy without you knowing it. They are stubborn, manipulative, entitled, and self-absorbed people who want to have you at their beck and call or use you as a psychological punching bag to feel good about themselves.
If this sounds unsettlingly familiar to you or you want to avoid being in a situation like this at all costs, here are 6 warning signs of an energy vampire you need to watch out for:
1. They Like to Play the Victim
A common characteristic of a lot of energy vampires is that they usually don’t take responsibility for their mistakes. They can’t hold themselves accountable for the part they play when things go bad, and instead, blame everyone else for what happens to them.
They constantly guilt trip you into feeling sorry for them and doing favors for them, manipulating you into staying by their side. This is because people like this often struggle with extremely low self-esteem and seek constant validation from others as a coping mechanism (Lobel & Taiber, 1994). Thus, they come off as needy, clingy, and sometimes even codependent on those around them.\
2. They are Narcissistic
Energy vampires are known to be highly self-absorbed, so if you ever find yourself dealing with someone who constantly only ever wants to talk about themselves and never listen to anything you have to say, be wary of them. People like this are often charismatic and smooth-talking, which makes it harder to stay away from them (Pistole, 1995).
Oftentimes, they have little to no capacity for empathy, and will usually only pretend to care about you when all they really care about is themselves. They might expect you to always put them first and be upset with you when you don’t give in to their demands for attention or praise.
3. They Want to Dominate You
Do you know someone who’s loud-mouthed and loves to feel superior over others? Chances are, individuals like this are actually deeply insecure about themselves. They’re afraid of appearing weak or foolish, and so they overcompensate by intimidating others and exerting their dominance over those around them.
Someone like this will likely need to put you down first in order to feel good about themselves. They find it hard to be happy for you and feel insecure about your success or achievements, because they fear being outdone. They are highly competitive and likely to be Type A personalities (Nagy & Davis, 1985) who have a neurotic need to beat others.
4. They Create Unnecessary Drama
Chaos can be exhilarating for an energy vampire, as long as they’re at the center of attention. Aside from their narcissistic tendencies, these people also tend to have an exaggerated sense of self-importance. They thrive in crises and love to create problems, either for themselves or others, making mountains out of molehills because they enjoy playing the sympathy of others.
They go to great lengths just to feel intense emotions (even if they are negative) and need constant drama to distract themselves from the emptiness they feel. Simply put, people like this have nothing better to do with their lives, so they gossip and make trouble wherever they go.
5. They Constantly Criticize You
Another easy way to spot an energy vampire is in the way that they treat you. If someone constantly criticizes you and makes you feel bad about yourself, they might be toxic to your mental health. Aside from exerting their dominance over someone else, a person can also be an energy vampire if they prey on your insecurities and emotionally manipulate you.
While it seems obvious enough, sometimes it can be difficult to recognize this behavior in others, especially if they’re someone close to you, because people like this often seem friendly on the outside, when in fact, deep down inside, they might already be harboring malicious intentions towards you.
6. They Exploit Your Kindness
Unfortunately, if ever you’ve come into contact with an energy vampire and shown them any sympathy or understanding, they are likely to use your good nature against you. Compassionate and caring people are prime targets for their abuse (Grosz, Dufner, Back, & Denissen, 2015), so be careful not to fall into their trap.
Common ways that toxic people like this like to take advantage of others is by monopolizing their time, making their friends and family feel guilty about not being there for them, and coercing them into doing things they don’t want to do. These people will demand much, much more than you can give, and though you might want to save them or change them, they might simply be exploiting your kindness for their personal gain.
With that said, it’s incredibly important that you learn to establish healthy boundaries and adaptive coping behaviors against such toxic people. You should know when someone is already weighing you down and taking a toll on your emotional well-being for you to assess whether or not this certain person is worth keeping in your life. Too much company with an emotional vampire can be detrimental to your mental health, so recognize the signs, know your limitations, and try to keep your distance.
- de Vries, M. F. K. (2014). Are you a victim of the victim syndrome?. In Mindful Leadership Coaching (pp. 68-86). Palgrave Macmillan, London.
- Lobel, T. E., & Teiber, A. (1994). Effects of self-esteem and need for approval on affective and cognitive reactions: Defensive and true self-esteem. Personality and Individual Differences, 16(2), 315-321.
- Pistole, M. C. (1995). Adult attachment style and narcissistic vulnerability. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 12(1), 115.
- Nagy, S., & Davis, L. G. (1985). Burnout: A comparative analysis of personality and environmental variables. Psychological Reports, 57(3_suppl), 1319-1326.
- Grosz, M. P., Dufner, M., Back, M. D., & Denissen, J. J. (2015). Who is open to a narcissistic romantic partner? The roles of sensation seeking, trait anxiety, and similarity. Journal of Research in Personality, 58, 84-95.