How to Identify (and Banish) an Energy Vampire
Ever had a friend who seems nice, but every time you hang out, you're left feeling like you need a nap? That person may even be a loved one: a spouse, parent or best friend who saps your emotional energy, often without trying.
There's a term for people who leave you feeling overwhelmed and mentally drained: an energy vampire.
What Is an Energy Vampire?
Energy vampires describe anyone who takes far more than they give, and rarely return the favor. Most of the time, energy vampires don't realize their behavior is toxic.
Learning to identify and address unhealthy relationship dynamics is the first step to banishing energy vampire vibes for good
Types of Energy Vampires
There are a myriad of ways that a person can drain your emotional energy. Some of them do so out of habit, while others are intentionally manipulative. Some of the most common energy vampires include:
One-Uppers: People who can't resist the urge to minimize your accomplishments by bringing attention to their own.
For example: Wow, you just got a raise? Maybe in a few years, you'll be making as much as I do.
Martyrs: People who take zero responsibility for their own lives. They often seek out emotional support to validate their feelings of helplessness.
For example: I do the best I can, but it seems like it's never enough. Nothing ever goes right for me.
Guilt Trippers: Those who intentionally make you feel bad to get you to do what they want.
For example: Busy again? I hardly see you anymore. Don't have time for an old friend, eh? What about tomorrow? You've still gotta eat, right?
Constant Critics: Insecure individuals who make themselves feel better by putting others down.
For example: I told you that would never work. I don't know why I listened to you.
Drama Queens: The people who leave a wake of chaos and messy relationships behind them, always in search of someone new to fix it.
For example: I have no idea why Becky's acting so cold all of a sudden. Did you hear what happened the other night?
Signs You're Dealing With One
Though there are many different types of emotional vampires, they tend to have a few things in common. Most energy vampires refuse to take accountability for the part they play in unhealthy relationships. When called out, they often get defensive, deflect blame, or try to make you seem like the hurtful one, justifying their unhealthy behavior.
Codependency is often part of the package. Someone who is codependent wraps their entire life around that of another. In this type of relationship, one person is often the giver while the other is the taker, relying entirely on the giver for support and doing anything necessary to get the attention they crave.
To simplify matters, if you're in a relationship, romantic or otherwise, in which the other person consistently:
- Tries to manipulate you, intimidate you or make you feel guilty when you don't do what they want
- Has "emergencies" requiring you to drop everything and give them your full attention
- Relies on you constantly for emotional support without returning the favor
- Plays upon your sympathies to get more attention or help
- Diminishes your problems and magnifies their own
In short, if someone is always taking more than they give, never noticing when you need a break, they're probably an energy vampire.
How to Address an Energy Vampire
Dealing with an energy vampire for an hour is annoying. Dealing with one daily, either at work, at home or in your personal life, is exhausting. It can lead to chronic stress, you know, the kind that can contribute to the development of depression, anxiety and even heart disease.
Solving an energy vampire issue isn't as easy as stocking up on garlic. To start, establish boundaries. Determine what you're comfortable with and make those boundaries clear. Whatever you do, don't give in to pressure. If you give an inch, the vampire will take a mile. Boundaries only work if you enforce them.
Secondly, evaluate your relationship with them and shift your expectations. Even if they were your best friend for years, they might no longer fit that role in your life. If venting to them now and again sets off a series of nonstop texts and calls, it's time to find a new buddy to blow off steam with.
At the end of the day, if they refuse to respect your boundaries and are taking a toll on your mental and emotional health, consider cutting them out of your life completely. You're not being cruel: You're protecting yourself from a relationship dynamic that's unhealthy, both for you and the vampire.
Looking Within: Could You Be More Toxic Than You Think?
Everyone has blind spots. It's totally possible to engage in some clingy, codependent, demanding behaviors without realizing you're doing it.
Fortunately, people are capable of growth. Assessing your relationships is helpful in more ways than one. In addition to identifying toxic behaviors in those around you, you may start noticing habits of your own that aren't so healthy, either.
While some patterns can be changed on your own, a good therapist is often a huge help. Therapy can help you pinpoint the origin of toxic behavior in your relationships and guide you to solutions that help you and those around you feel your best.
And bringing home a few slices of garlic bread now and again can't hurt.