Jennifer Wilber works as an ESL instructor, substitute teacher, and freelance writer. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and English.
What is an Emotional Vampire?
When you think of vampires, you typically think of cheesy movie monsters from horror films or bad Halloween costumes. Vampires are typically thought of as fantasy creatures from Halloween movies and scary stories, but vampires are all too real, though perhaps not in the way you might think.
Emotional vampires are those people in your life who seem to suck the life force out of you. Do you know someone who seems to drain your energy just by being in the same room as you? Is there someone in your life who seems to spread negativity wherever they go? Do you feel emotionally drained after spending time with a particular family member or coworker? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you just may have an emotional vampire in your life.
Though real-life emotional vampires may not physically suck your blood, they do suck your happiness, energy, and in extreme cases your will to live. Emotional vampires feed on negativity. It is nearly impossible to be happy around these people. Emotional vampires are those people who are never happy unless the other people around them are miserable, whether consciously or subconsciously. Emotional vampires can wear down even the most positive person.
If you think that you may be the victim of an emotional vampire, it is important for you to protect yourself from them before they wear you down. There are different types of emotional vampires, so it is important to understand what type you are dealing with to develop the best emotional self-defense strategy for your situation.
The Most Common Types of Emotional Vampires
Emotional vampires can take many forms. The five most common types of emotional vampires, identified by UCLA psychiatrist Judith Orloff in her book Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life, are the “Narcissistic” type, the “Victim” type, the “Criticizing” type, the “Controlling” type, and the “Splitter” type. These categories may sometimes overlap, so someone may fit into more than one category. There may also be other types of emotional vampires who do not fit into a category, as anyone who drains you emotionally on a regular basis may be considered an emotional vampire.
The “Narcissistic” Type
"Narcissistic" type emotional vampires are those people who think that the world revolves around them. They often put themselves ahead of all others and never stop to see anything from anyone else's perspective. They don’t take responsibility for their own actions but criticize others for any minor indiscretion. Narcissistic type emotional vampires are often grandiose, self-important, attention seeking, attention hogging, and hungry for admiration. They can be charming and intelligent, especially when you first meet them, but they will turn on you the second you don’t give them the attention or recognition they crave.
The Silver Bullet: Realize that the “Narcissistic” emotional vampire will never put your needs first before their own. Keep your expectations about this type of emotional vampire realistic. If working with a “Narcissistic” emotional vampire is unavoidable, you must show them how your requests will benefit them. It is nearly impossible to get this type to cooperate without some benefit for themselves.
The “Victim” Type
The "Victim" type emotional vampires are the people who constantly act as though the world is against them. They do not take responsibility for anything that happens to them and assume that everyone is out to get them. These emotional vampires continually try to make themselves seem like the victim in order to gain sympathy. They often insist that others must take the responsibility to rescue them from situations that they create for themselves. If someone won’t step in to rescue them from any perceived injustice, they think that they are being further victimized.
The Silver Bullet: Don’t give in to the “Victim” type emotional vampire’s cries for attention. This emotional vampire will do everything they can to drag you down into their drama. It is best to limit your interactions with this type of emotional vampire to avoid becoming involved in their self-pity.
The “Criticizing” Type
The "Criticizing" type emotional vampire is someone who constantly puts down others for any reason. Nothing is ever good enough for the “Criticizing” type emotional vampire. These emotional vampires never see the good in anyone or anything but are quick to point out any perceived negative. They attempt to boost their own ego by judging, belittling, and putting others down. They see nothing but negatives in others, while only seeing the positive in themselves.
The Silver Bullet: Dealing with this type of emotional vampire can be difficult. It is important to remember not to take things that the “Criticizing” type emotional vampire says seriously. Don’t get defensive, as this type of emotional vampire feeds on a defensive reaction. Instead, address any misplaced criticism directly, and express gratitude for any useful criticism. Respond with extra kindness to this emotional vampire, as difficult as that may be.
The “Controlling” Type
The "Controlling" type emotional vampire is that person who must always be in control of everyone and of every situation. These emotional vampires think that they know what is best for everyone at all times. “Controlling” type emotional vampires are often overbearing. The “Controlling” type emotional vampire always has an opinion about everything, and always think they know what’s best for everyone. They appear to have a rigid sense of right and wrong and a need to dominate every situation. This often takes the form of an overly controlling parent or spouse.
The Silver Bullet: When dealing with a “Controlling” type emotional vampire, it is important to speak up and be confident about your opinions and needs. Try not to get caught up in arguing over small details. Be sure to assert your own needs when dealing with this type of emotional vampire. Don’t be afraid to agree to disagree. This emotional vampire will do everything in their power to control the situation, so don’t feel guilty if you need to cut them out of your life, at least temporarily.
The “Splitter” Type
The “Splitter” type emotional vampire is someone who acts like your best friend one day and your worst enemy the next. They will act like your friend when you are useful to them, then instantly turn on you over any perceived slight. These emotional vampires often have anger issues and can go from calm to full-blown anger almost instantly, with no apparent reasonable trigger. Dealing with “Splitter” type emotional vampires often feels like walking on eggshells.
The Silver Bullet: It is important to establish boundaries with this type of emotional vampire. Stay solution-oriented when dealing with this type. Try to avoid fights if you must deal with this emotional vampire and try not to take sides. Avoid eye-contact when they are in a full-blown rage episode. With this type of emotional vampire, it is usually best to avoid them altogether if at all possible.
More Advice for Dealing with Emotional Vampires
Just like the vampires in the movies, emotional vampires are always seeking out new victims. If you spend too much time around one of these people, they may just suck the life and positive energy right out of you, turning you into one of them. If you aren't careful, it is entirely possible to become as cold and callous as the emotional vampire, becoming one yourself. If at all possible, try to limit contact with these toxic people, or cut them out of your life completely. Form emotionally healthy relationships with more stable people and surround yourself with positive influences instead. Life is too short to waste time on people who suck you dry emotionally. Don't let emotional vampires bring your down to their level.
Questions & Answers
Question: Are there people who become emotional vampires when under stress, but not when feeling relaxed and confident--Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde types?
Answer: "Splitter" type emotional vampires are the most similar to what you have described. The "Splitter" type can appear calm and collected one minute, and seem to be a pleasant person to be around, but you have to watch out. Their mood can change quickly, and before you know what happened, they can become emotionally abusive. They are truly real-life Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hydes.
Victims of this type of emotional vampire often feel like they are walking on eggshells around this type of person. Since you never know what you're going to get with a "Splitter" type emotional vampire, it is difficult to feel relaxed around them, even when they themselves appear relaxed. Their demeanor can change in an instant, and you will be subjected to their anger issues and rage.
© 2018 Jennifer Wilber