An ‘energy vampire’ is a pop term for an individual who, intentionally or unintentionally, drains the energy and vitality of those around them. At first glance, this person may appear gracious and charming. However, as time passes, their impact on others becomes apparent.
According to research published in Psychoanalytic Psychology, the self-absorbed nature of these types of individuals is hidden behind a friendly demeanor, which can make it difficult to identify them. These individuals are often completely unaware of the impact they have on others, due to the fact that they are struggling with their own issues and emotions.
Nevertheless, the impact of their behavior is significant. It is important to recognize when you are in a relationship (platonic or non-platonic) with an individual who takes more than they give and that you take steps to protect your own psychological well-being.
Here are three ways to tell if you are suffering from the presence of an energy vampire in your life and what to do about it.
#1. You are on a constant guilt trip
Emotional manipulators tend to stronghold those around them into feeling sorry for them. They use this as a tactic to gain control. They may use guilt-tripping, emotional outbursts, or sob stories to elicit sympathy and compassion from others.
You may hear them say things like:
- “I can’t believe that I put in so much effort and others still messed it up.”
- “I don’t know what I did to deserve this anger.”’
- “I feel like I will fall apart if you’re not there. How can you expect me to do this without you?”
An article published in Personality and Individual Differences suggests that individuals with low self-esteem seek more approval externally to feel better about themselves. This makes them an easy target for energy vampires who show little capacity for empathy and seek to blame others for their own lack of responsibility and/or need for dependency.
If you find yourself trapped in their (self-inflicted) drama, working on your own self-worth can help you push back on their overbearing nature. Some things that may help are:
- Practicing self-compassion. Treat yourself with kindness and remind yourself that everyone, not just you, has flaws and imperfections.
- Surrounding yourself with positive people. Spend more time with friends and family who uplift you and avoid those who bring you down.
- Challenging negative self-talk. Call out your depressive thoughts and make an effort to reframe things in a more positive light. Focus on your strengths and accomplishments instead of letting someone dwell on your flaws or mistakes.
- Practicing gratitude. Take time to reflect on the positive aspects of your life and express gratitude for them to shift your focus away from negativity and increase your well-being.
It is important to recognize when you’re being manipulated and bring your focus inward to protect yourself from their harmful behavior.
#2. You feel put down
In an attempt to overcompensate for their own insecurities, energy vampires develop the neurotic need to exert dominance by becoming overly critical of others.
‘Dramatic’ personality types, often in their need to develop a more positive sense of self, achieve the same by trying to undermine others, shows research published in the American Academy of Psychoanalysis. Such traits are often found in narcissists.
To feed off of your energy, you may see them shifting the attention seamlessly to themselves by saying things like:
- “I know you are struggling in your relationship but at least you have one. I feel so lonely.”
- “I understand you have to work but I really need your help with this.”
- “You want to spend time at home and I get it, but you’re acting too old for your age.”
Their criticism can leave you feeling depleted. Although you may not get a positive response, you can try to be more assertive about your needs by saying:
- “I feel uncomfortable when you speak to me in that tone of voice.”
- “I cannot attend that event, but thank you for inviting me.”
- “I understand your position, but I am not interested and need to take a break.”
Ultimately, you need to learn to prioritize your own needs and avoid interactions with individuals who constantly put you down.
#3. You are easily taken advantage of
A study published in the Journal of Research in Personality found that people with high levels of anxiety, empathy, and compassion seek the company of those who are more dominant. In other words, they willingly submit themselves to fulfill the demands of others.
This makes them an easy target for energy vampires.
While it may be challenging, it is essential to draw strict boundaries that encircle your own well-being. A few ways to achieve this are:
- Be clear and specific. Clearly state the behavior that is unacceptable and what the consequences will be if the boundary is crossed.
- Prioritize your needs. Remember that it’s okay to prioritize your own happiness without feeling guilty for setting boundaries that protect your mental and emotional health.
- Learn to take space. It’s okay to say no to requests or invitations that don’t align with your needs or values.
Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries requires practice and consistency. It’s okay to seek support from trusted friends or a mental health professional to help you balance your desire to be nice and liked with your mental health priorities.