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Energy Vampire Sucking You Dry? Here's How To Spot & Confront Draining Relationships

Have you ever spent an extended amount of time around someone, and after returning to your own space, you realize, “Wow, I’m drained”? Or maybe there’s a friend that can’t help but rehash the same situation, sucking the life out of your time together. From our family to co-workers and even friends, we can find ourselves in dynamics with people who seem to zap the emotional or mental energy out of those around us. And if you can relate, you may have come across an "energy vampire."


What Is an “Energy Vampire"? 

Individuals who exhibit behaviors such as constant complaining, negativity, or an insatiable need for attention, are typically associated with the term energy vampires.

“An energy vampire is a person who tends to leave the people they come across and interact with feeling emotionally drained after said interaction, often due to a consistently expressed, perhaps overly pessimistic perspective,” Dr. Byron Young, a Child, Adolescent & Adult Psychiatrist and Selfmade Mental Health Expert tells xoNecole.

“These people not only have a very ‘woe-is-me’ attitude but often share it and ask those around them to engage with that pessimistic or heavy attitude,” he adds.

When identifying the traits of an energy vampire, you may find yourself feeling the effects of their presence before actually identifying them as such. “They sometimes look to others to hold their emotional baggage or to offer a kinder perspective than the one they have, placing their emotional healing work on the shoulders of others,” Dr. Young says.

What Causes Energy Vampire Behavior?

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It may be easy to label a person exhibiting energy-draining behavior as “intentionally self-centered” or self-victimizing, but recognizing the complexity of their backgrounds from a place of empathy could be an effective approach.

“These individuals often want folks to join them in their difficult perspective or are reaching for others to give empathy and sympathy as a way to feel cared for,” Dr. Young shares. “These folks can often struggle with self-esteem, depression, and anxiety.”

While Dr. Young doesn’t fully agree with the terminology around the term “vampire” due to it being “somewhat dehumanizing language,” he emphasizes that a more nuanced understanding of those displaying these characteristics may be more appropriate.

“There is an underlying emotional health or boundary-setting issue in the folks being drained by said vampire, as things like anxiety or deep introversion are common reasons people might feel drained by another person, energy vampire or not,” he says. “I think those who struggle with setting boundaries with others due to a myriad of reasons may be more susceptible to creating energy vampire situations where they may not have to.”

He also notes that individuals exhibiting energy vampire tendencies may have underlying personality pathology.

“At the most extreme levels, many of these individuals may suffer from personality pathology. Particularly disorders like Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder,” he says.

How To Spot the Signs of an Energy Vampire

It’s safe to say that being in the presence of an energy vampire can be draining, which can result in emotional and mental exhaustion from prolonged interactions. While these individuals may not necessarily be aware of their impact on others, noticing the behavior can be a productive first step in confronting it.

“I think the first step is reflecting and scanning how you feel after spending time with a person like that,” he says, “Asking yourself, 'Is this pattern a way I often feel after interacting with people in general?’ can highlight if there is perhaps some self-work to be done.”

How To Protect Your Energy From Energy Vampires

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If consistent patterns of emotional heaviness or a sense of being emotionally drained emerge after interacting with a specific individual, it may be time to set boundaries, practice self-care, and foster open communication to deal with energy vampires in personal and professional dynamics. Dr. Young recommends the following:

1. Prioritize Your Emotional Well-Being:

“Making sure that you are taking care of yourself emotionally and working on your own self-esteem or anxiety struggles is key. The airplane analogy of ‘putting your mask on before others’ is so often a helpful framework to live by.”

2. Set Healthy Boundaries: 

“Unfortunately, our society often rewards those who impede on boundaries. There is such a fear or setting that are reinforced for a myriad of reasons, including the patriarchy, and that truly has to change. Setting boundaries has to be a way we value our own humanity, dignity, and self-respect.”

3. Create Healthy Distance: 

“If our boundaries and expression of our needs in any relationship are not met, we must have the courage to create healthy distance from those relationships that don’t serve us or are deleterious to our own sense of wellness, no matter who the person is.”

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Feature image by Peter Griffith/ Getty Images

 

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