Emotional vampires specialize in sucking up your energy, joy, and inner peace. At their core, emotional vampires are empty, and their self-centered behaviors take a toll on your mental and emotional well-being. Yet with solid awareness and healthy boundaries, you’ll be able to spot emotional vampires and keep them from negatively impacting your life. As emotional vampires lack psychological boundaries and emotional intelligence, we’ll explore the importance of embracing healthy boundaries and good self-care as you break free from their toxic dynamics.
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Emotional Vampires: How to Detect Them and Keep Yourself Safe from Their Energy-Draining Ways!
Discover the Key Steps to Protecting Yourself from Emotional Vampires!
Emotional vampires specialize in sucking your energy, joy, and peace. At their core, emotional vampires are empty, and their self-centered behaviors take a heavy toll on emotional and mental well-being. With solid awareness and healthy boundaries, you’ll be able to spot emotional vampires and keep them from negatively impacting your life.
In this episode, we’ll focus on this reader’s real-life questions, “I think one of my new friends is an emotional vampire. Every time I’m around her, I feel drained and worse about myself. She always talks about what’s going on for her. She dumps and vents, then she leaves without asking anything about me. Should I stop talking to her? Do you think she’s an emotional vampire?” with those questions, as the focus of this episode.
As we explore the reader’s questions for this episode, let’s first have a background about the world of emotional vampires. First, please note that I’ll be discussing emotional vampires in very general terms and with a dose of humor. It’s a serious topic given the potentially negative impact on your mental and emotional well-being. There are variations on the emotional vampire theme, so please note that I’m operating from my unique framework as a clinical psychologist.
Also, take note that emotional vampires have different techniques and different degrees of how their characteristics are present. Remember, there can be a very slight degree of emotional vampire or an almost diabolical degree of an emotional vampire. Some are very subtle in their maneuvers and others can be overly toxic. We’ll talk more about these characteristics and many more in a moment.Emotional vampires specialize in sucking your energy, joy, and inner peace. At their core, emotional vampires are empty, and their self-centered behaviors take a toll on your mental and emotional well-being. Join Dr. Carla to discover the red flag… Click To Tweet
What Is a Vampire?
First, what is a vampire? Tales of blood-drinking entities date back in history to ancient Persia. Many vampires also arose in the Medieval period where there was a lot of darkness and fear. There was a surge of talk about vampires in the 17th and 18th centuries, and those led to our current depictions and fears of vampires. In more recent folklore, vampires are generally seen as creatures that use the actual blood of other people to remain alive. Without taking other’s blood, they simply can’t survive.
These creatures can also not bear daylight. They come out at night. Symbolically, when we look at this, this means that their darkness is hidden. It doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny of the greater world. It doesn’t stand up to the reflection of daylight. Now, vampires tend to work behind the scenes to do their damage because it’s that type of work and artificial way of being that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. People can’t tolerate it and don’t want to tolerate it. It’s the same with real-life emotional vampires. They do their emotionally draining work often in dark covert ways.
What is an emotional vampire? An emotional vampire is similar in many ways to the vampires of folklore, but they’re human. They can often act in very dark ways that make them seem almost inhuman because of their self-centered behavior. Like the vampires of legend, they do not concern themselves with the effects on other people. Whether it’s vampires of legend or emotional vampire, they’re more concerned about themselves than about the effects on other people.Emotional vampires drain others due to poor psychological boundaries and low emotional intelligence! Join Dr. Carla to explore the importance of embracing healthy boundaries and good self-care as you break free from their toxic dynamics! Click To Tweet
The Emotional Vampire
The emotional vampire is, at the core, a highly selfish individual who feeds on other people, their emotional energy, physical energy, and mental energy but largely emotional energy. Now, the vampires of folklore would steal the blood but the emotional vampire steals the life essence of another human being to feel that inner void, which by the way, is a pit. It can’t be filled, which is why they keep draining because there’s never enough from other people to satiate them. Again, no concern or empathy for the victim.
It’s not that they’re always particularly mean or hateful people, but as they interact with you, you can feel that you’re getting lower and more drained. You may feel as if they steal your joy, dissect your optimism, rob you of your inner peace, or they simply drain your energy. What causes someone to be an emotional vampire? Although the term emotional vampire is not a clinical psychological term or certainly not a diagnosis, the personality traits that we see in emotional vampires tend to be associated with mental health disorders, such as narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder.
The Emotional Vampire’s Target
They’re often substance abuse issues, but an emotional vampire is not a diagnosis. We’re looking in a humorous way at people who are very self-centered. Who does an emotional vampire target? Generally, emotional vampires will target anyone who will be receptive to them, but they often prey on people who are either sensitive or highly sensitive and people who have poor boundaries, where they can invade the space and the other person will think, “What can I do? I don’t have any power here.”Discover the inner world of emotional vampires with Dr. Carla. Explore the red flag characteristics and maladaptive behaviors that make emotional vampires so toxic and draining. Discover healthy strategies for keeping emotional vampires at bay! Click To Tweet
They also tend to go after people who are people-pleasing because they know that that person won’t have strong boundaries and say, “I need to take care of myself here.” The other thing about emotional vampires is that they get often a conscious or unconscious pleasure because they’re interacting in a way that makes them feel better about themselves. They’re either offloading a lot or gaining attention something that is giving them a sense of power.
If you look at an emotional vampire targeting another emotional vampire, it doesn’t generally happen because it’s too draining on both of them. They don’t have enough to give to other emotional vampires and they don’t want to give. It’s more like getting blood from a rock and they can’t get it from another emotional vampire.
Another piece is that emotional vampires will target anyone who seems like an easy target. This includes children, parents, siblings, or individuals in romantic settings, dating, marriage, and other long-term relationships. Emotional vampires don’t know any limits, so they will go after people in the work realm, parties, and social settings. Anything. Emotional vampires will often target people that they call friends. That takes us to the question, where the writer is saying, she’s asking two questions, “Should I end this relationship or this friendship? Is this an emotional vampire?”Emotional vampires don't know any limits. They will go after people in the workplace, at parties, and in social settings. Click To Tweet
Although, we don’t have enough details to know if it’s an emotional vampire, the dumping, venting, the all about me, self-centered behavior, and the leaving before the other person can share are all hallmark traits of emotional vampires. That answers one part of the question. In the next part, we will get to it in a little bit. Should she leave the relationship? Is that a wise idea? We’ll get to that in just a moment.
Types of Emotional Vampires
Let us look a little bit more at emotional vampires. I believe that there are two types of emotional vampires, the unintentional unaware type and the intentional goal-directed type. In the unintentional type, they’re draining actions often result from low emotional awareness and a selfish core that they don’t realize is there. There’s not really an intention to do harm.
This person, generally, has not been told or at least not soaked in or received therapy for their self-centered ways. They’re more bumbling around, trying to get someone to listen, somebody to hear about their trauma, or their sadness, or their depression. They truly don’t realize the negative impact it has on other people. They may not realize that keeps people moving away from them.
That differs from the intentional goal-directed type. These are people who are much more active in causing harm to others. They may see that the person they’re talking to has zoned out or that they might even be making the person cry or have a bad reaction and they don’t care. They are going and going. They have often been told that they have self-centered or narcissistic characteristics. They may have been advised to go to therapy, but they don’t care. What they are after is getting that energy from other people getting that fixed, so to speak, that blood.
This intentional goal-directed type can be harmful in over ways because, even if you try and talk to them, they tend to return to their old vampire-like ways. Their selfishness is so strong that they can be actively toxic more than just draining. They can suck that blood out of you, your spirit, your joy, and always at your expense, but they get almost a charge out of it. You can see that they’re getting something from that interaction. That’s the intentional goal-directed type. Very scary type.
Active and Passive Parts of an Emotional Vampire
We also can look at the passive and active parts of emotional vampires. They can have one key style or go between both styles, depending on what suits them. We have the past of the emotional vampires. These are the ones that walk into a room and you feel that draining energy. It’s more passive. It’s like there’s a dark cloud around them. It’s murky. Often, their conversations are self-focused and have an absence of boundaries. They can be closed down and gloomy, but the energy drain is palpable. They tend to not add to whatever the situation is.
They are sucking. They often don’t realize it. Simply being in their presence, whether it’s negative moods, emotional instability, or that selfish self-focused part can feel toxic. Their lack of empathy, support, and consideration, are all draining. The non-vampire, the person who’s receiving this energy, often carries the emotional weight of the relationship and feels drained by that load. This sounds somewhat like what’s happening to the reader’s question.
Although some of it is active, it sounds like there’s a passive drain going on as well. The person who is a non-vampire tends to feel heavy, anxious, depressed, and often confused after being in proximity to the vampire because they’re thinking, “What happened? Was that interchange me or did some dark cloud pass through the room?”
The active emotional vampire, which is more of the energy and the reader’s question, these people tends to actively have toxic emotions and behaviors and is very self-centered. Although they can be careful charismatic, and even kind at times, at the root, they’re very egocentric and sometimes very angry, resentful, and difficult personalities, but they’re always self-focused. They can be sometimes very reactive, rude, and sarcastic, especially if they’re not getting their way. That can make them feel more draining.Emotional vampires are self-focused, and they can sometimes be very reactive, very rude, and very sarcastic because they're not getting their way. Click To Tweet
They can be highly taxing because they don’t want to do their emotional work. Both styles tend to not do their emotional work. They actively push their negative energy onto other people. That’s the important piece to know about the emotional vampire. It’s their undone stuff inside and those empty holes and all of those emotions, their moving around, feelings, and thoughts. They’re there. They’re not working on them and not trying to heal them. They might be vomiting on other people and draining them.
Characteristics of Emotional Vampires
It’s a strange process where they can vent trauma dump and then drain the energy. It’s a very toxic feeling. If you’ve ever experienced an emotional vampire, you’ll know what I’m talking about. What are some of the characteristics? Emotional vampires may seem ordinary and even appealing at first glance. That’s why you can get blindsided by them because if they weren’t, like vampires in legend, they draw you in with something, and all of a sudden, they have their teeth in you.
Beneath their superficial often light, sometimes melancholy, but often there’s this light side, is this dark side. They can flip to that dark world very quickly. They will take advantage of people who they see as susceptible. These can be people who are recovering people pleasers who are learning to have strong boundaries. It can be someone who has trauma of their own, a highly sensitive person, or even a moderately sensitive person.
With the emotional vampire, they have no desire to change or to do their inner work. Unlike your regular person, who all have light and shadow characteristics, we all have a little bit of each of what I’m about to list because I’m going to give you a nice long list. Those are normal, but it’s the degree and the chronic nature of them then the quick flip from the light to the dark. That is the hallmark of that emotional vampire.
Some of them will stay in that dark side, that more melancholic side, but others can do a flip. Again, what you’re looking at is that the emotional vampire doesn’t engage in any form of self-work or healing that would allow them to not suck other people’s emotional energy and mental energy. Here are the red flags. They do switch between the light and dark characteristics that I’m going to list. You want to be on the lookout for at least five of these characteristics, because it’s quite a list, that is present more often than not.
Note that these characteristics can ebb and flow over time, depending upon the emotional vampire’s goals. There may be more light at times, but you’ll notice that the dark is generally there. The light is the superficial part of that type of person and the dark is the more character-logical trait. That’s what makes them so oppressive and toxic. That’s where they live most of the time, in that dark world. I’ll list each of these. I’ll do the light then I’ll do the corresponding dark.
For each one, you can keep a tally of how many of these show up in the person that you believe is an emotional vampire. The light side is they are humorous. The dark side is that they’re sarcastic and often critical. The light side is charismatic. The dark side is temperamental and easy to anger. The light side is witty. The dark side is rude. The light side is captivating. The dark side is deeply self-absorbed and deeply selfish. The light side light might appear pleasing and flexible. The dark side will be bullying and selfish.
The light side can show some awareness. The dark side will be calculating and not other or self-aware. The light side can have a nice story to tell. The dark side can be very deceptive and dishonest. The light side may appear confident. The dark side can be extremely superficial and internally empty. The light side can be independent. The dark side is insecure or overly hyper-independent out of fear.
The light side can seem casual. The dark side could be intensely jealous and very selfish, where they may appear casual but it’s this selfishness underneath this deep need to have everything their way. The light side may be willing. The dark side can be manipulative. The light side can be sweet and it can flip to the dark of viciousness.
The light side can be flexible. The dark side can be very rigid. The light side can be easygoing. The dark side is demanding. The light side is open and receptive, almost looks like they’re open to you, and the dark side is closed down and all about them. The light side can seem like there’s healthy, emotional EQ. They can show snippets of it, and the dark side is very low emotional intelligence.
The light side can seem playful. The dark side can have very little or no maternal, paternal, or nurturing instinct. No care for others. That’s where there’s no empathy. The light side can be given. The dark side can be miserly and given only for personal gain. When you’re looking at these and thinking about them, we want to emphasize that piece that the empathy is there or is not present.
Effects of Emotional Vampires
There will be an overall lack of empathy because any empathy that’s shown on the light side is countered by the true lack of empathy, that true deep self-centeredness. That’s the overarching piece here, the overarching lack of empathy and self-centeredness. What are the effects of emotional vampires? 1) If you’re someone who’s wondering if you have an emotional vampire in your life, notice that they can be interesting and even fun, but you may feel constantly on edge waiting for the next attack or draining interaction. 2) You bear the emotional burden of the relationship, so it’s caring for that emotional load in the relationship.
3) You feel that the relationship feels very one-sided. 4) The emotional vampire is very willing to take from you. In many ways, it might be emotionally, mentally, physically, or financially, but they have great difficulty. Giving reciprocity is not their forte. 5) You may feel physically and energetically drained after short or long interactions. 6) Gas lighting is so common. Emotional vampires can leave you questioning your reality. They are terrific at making you question yourself and doubt yourself. That’s part of what they do.Emotional vampires have great difficulty giving. Reciprocity is not their forte. Click To Tweet
7) You may become confused by the two phases, the light and the dark that shape-shifting quality. 8) You may try to make the worst relationship work but they don’t do their part. 9) There is little ability or desire to see you as a human being and to see what’s going on in your world. 10) They have a low level of heartfelt interest in your life. 11) Little or no emotional availability. 12) Low EQ. 13) No empathy. 14) You find yourself consciously and/or unconsciously avoiding them. Those are some of the effects that you might notice, some of the hallmark pieces.
What To Do
What to do if you have an emotional vampire in your life? This goes to the second piece of the reader’s question, “Should I break things off? Should I end this relationship?” What we want to look at is the emotional vampires in our lives. Is that a family member we want to stay in contact? Is it a dear friend we want to stay in contact with? Is it a new friend, that’s in this case, and we might want to step back from the situation altogether? Is it a co-worker and we have to work with them, but we want to create distance? Is it a romantic partner and we’re looking at, “I never heard of this concept before and now it makes so much sense?”
You get to choose based on your situation and the actions that are going to work best for you. First, realize that you are either a highly sensitive person, very sensitive, or a moderately sensitive person. That’s why the emotional vampire is going to realize too. It might be that your boundaries are not very strong, so you might want to work on creating healthier boundaries. Also realize that if you’re a people pleaser, you might be the person who you know doesn’t use their boundaries because you want to be a nice person.
You want to care about other people. You want to show interest and you are afraid of causing harm. None of these things are necessarily bad. Realize that if it’s causing you distress, you want to work on the awareness and creating those stronger boundaries so you can take good care of yourself because your emotional health and mental health are paramount. What’s another thing you can do after realizing your degree of sensitivity, so you understand more about the dynamics?
You might consult with a psychotherapist, a support group, or a trusted mentor. You might start journaling about the interactions so you can create more awareness of how you can step back and how you can notice emotional vampires better in the future. You might want to work on your boundaries, being able to say, “No,” or, “Thank you for sharing but I’ve got to go now,” or, “Thank you for sharing. Let’s change the topic,” or, “I appreciate that you have a lot to say. Let’s make some space for me to share,” all of these ways that you can use your boundaries and healthy ways.
Next, do yourself work. Pay attention to anything that’s getting triggered in you that can help you become a stronger human being. Set stronger boundaries so you can take care of yourself. If things are getting triggered, engage in good self-care and good self-reflection so you can use whatever you’re learning to become a stronger and more empowered human being. If you are in a close relationship with the person and you want to stay in the relationship, you can ask them to do their work, whether you suggest that they see a therapist or go to joint therapy or you simply refer them to a good self-help book.
You can let them know that you would appreciate it if they worked on their stuff. Don’t be Velcro. What I mean by that is when we’re sensitive, it’s easy for us to take on other people’s energy. Work at being more like wax paper. Work it stepping back and saying, “This is your stuff. This is your energy. This is your negativity and I don’t want that. Thank you. I think you need to go on work on that yourself.”
That way, we become more like wax paper. What I mean by wax paper is we become stronger in ourselves and aware so that we’re not taking on other people’s stuff or taking on ours and we’re working with ours. When somebody else is to drain us or be toxic to us, we’re able to give it back. This is different from compartmentalization, which is its own topic.
Next, and this is a joke, cover your neck and eat garlic. Those are old tips for people who want to avoid vampires. In this world, instead of covering our necks and eating garlic, it simply means limiting your opportunity for contact with the emotional vampire. Limit it. Create that nice distance or that barrier so that when and if you choose to be around them, you’re able to prepare in advance and you’re able to do some good self-care afterward, which is often what we need after we’ve encountered emotional vampires.
Last, work to see the red flags that we’ve talked about and continue to create the emotional awareness that will help you notice different types of people that aren’t healthy for you, including emotional vampires, and create more of that lovely emotional barrier that allows you to take good care of yourself and be your best self without feeling as though you’re harming other people because you don’t want to ghost someone and harm them. It’s okay to say, “I don’t think this friendship is going anywhere. I’m in a place where I need something else. I want to move away from the relationship. I wish you every good thing in life, but this relationship is not good for me now or maybe ever.”
Should you Break Things Off?
This goes to the reader for this episode, should she break it off? I can’t tell anybody whether to keep a relationship or not keep a relationship. What I can say is to just notice. If it’s not good for you, if you always feel awful after leaving your encounter with another person, it’s okay to let that person know in the gentlest, kindest, and most respectful way possible, “I’m not going to be communicating anymore with you. I have things that I need to tend to in my own life, and I wish you well,” something like that makes you feel as though you’re coming from a place of authenticity without causing harm to the other person.
We can’t control how they’re going to respond to that break in a relationship. That’s up to them, but as long as you were doing your part to be kind and respectful, then the balance is on them. Always make sure you’re safe. Always make sure that you are in a safe place, emotionally and physically when you are asking someone not to communicate with you anymore if that is the route you go with an emotional vampire. Thank you so much for exploring this very interesting topic with me.
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