Even though ‘energy vampire’ sounds like something out of a Twilight book, it’s a real-life term for the people in your life who suck up all your energy (you know, like vampires). An energy vampire doesn’t have to be an enemy at all—they might be your most fun friend. You can tell someone might be an energy vampire, though, if you feel drained after every interaction with them. They tend to be dramatic, needy and high maintenance. And according to author Dr. Judith Orloff in her book, The Empath’s Survival Guide, there are seven different kinds of energy vampires. Read on for how to identify each kind—plus how to keep them from impacting your life.
1. The Narcissist
According to Orloff, “Narcissists act as if the world revolves around them. They have an inflated sense of importance and entitlement. They need to be the center of attention and require endless praise. You must compliment them to get their approval.” They can be considered a type of energy vampire because textbook narcissists “are persuasive charmers who know exactly what to say to emotionally seduce you,” per Orloff. “There are always strings attached to the favors they bestow.”
How to Deal
- Lower your expectations of the narcissist’s emotional capabilities. As mentioned, narcissists are incredibly adept at making you think they’re emotionally stable and intelligent. The sooner you realize you might be being played, the better.
- Stroke the narcissist’s ego. Here’s what Orloff means: “Frame your request in terms of how it can benefit them. This is the only way you will get through to a narcissist.” For example, if you want to take a couple days off from work and your boss is a narcissist, tell them, “Taking this time off will make me a more productive employee in the long run,” rather than, “I just need a break.”
2. The Rageaholic
This energy vampire deals with conflict by accusing, attacking and controlling, and according to Orloff, they usually behave most poorly around their loved ones. They might say things in the heat of the moment that they’ll often regret later. This type of person can be especially be considered an energy vampire to empaths because, as Orloff notes, empaths often experience sensory overload around yelling, arguments, loud noises and loud personalities.
How to Deal
- Let the rageaholic know you hear them. Then, Orloff suggests, tell them that the issue can be worked out respectfully only if they calm down. She recommends saying something like, “I want to help you, but it’s hard for me to listen when you’re in this state.”
- Stay calm. Even though it can be really tempting to yell back when you’re yelled at, resist the urge. Orloff stresses, “Reacting impulsively will just drain you and aggravate the situation.”
- Leave the room. Or, better yet, ask the person to leave if they won’t stop yelling. Setting boundaries lets the energy vampire in your life know that you’re not going to stand for their behavior.
3. The Victim
You know those people who think the world is against them and find any and every opportunity to complain about how things never work out for them? Yeah, those are energy vampires with a victim mentality. These people often refuse to take responsibility for the problems that happen in their lives and expect their loved ones to swoop in every time something goes wrong. The thing is, we all have our own issues, so when someone is burdening you with their problems, it can feel incredibly draining.
How to Deal
- Set compassionate and clear boundaries. It’s not that you don’t want the people around you to be happy, it’s just that it’s not your job to be their therapist. If someone in your life consistently plays the victim, try to make it clear to them that while you’re on their side, you can’t always be there (again, you have your own life).
- Use the Three-Minute Phone Call. OK, so this is pretty genius. Orloff’s Three-Minute Phone Call goes like this: “Listen briefly, then tell your friend or family member, ‘I support you, but I can only listen for a few minutes if you keep rehashing the same issues. Perhaps you could benefit from finding a therapist to help you.’ Worth a try, no?
4. The Drama Queen or King
These types overloading you with nonstop dramas. Like the victim, they see their problems as more urgent than anyone else’s. Orloff says, “Drama is a kind of drug that some people become addicted to. Don’t enable that addiction.”
How to Deal
- Don’t ask these people how they are doing. OK, so obviously you can ask how they’re doing sometimes, but the point is, if you sense that your friend is calling you with some overblown story about a perceived slight, don’t engage. You have our full permission to “totally miss” their text or be too caught up with work to return their call(s).
- Don’t get caught up in their story. According to Orloff, drama queens and kings get energized energized by your reaction to their drama, but they don’t get rewarded when you remain calm. If you can breathe deeply and stay calm and collected when they start up, they’ll eventually lose interest and look for someone else who will feed their drama.
5. Control Freaks and Critics
“These energy vampires always offer their unsolicited opinions, such as, ‘You know what you should do…?’” says Orloff. “Then they proceed to tell you, whether or not you want to hear their advice. Or they continue to nitpick about the things that you’re ‘doing wrong.’” Constructive criticism is one thing, but if the comment is mean-spirited or just doesn’t make sense, it’s not helpful.
How to Deal
- Be assertive. But, Orloff warns, don’t tell these types what to do, because that will only make them defensive. “Instead, say to them, ‘I value your advice, but I want to think about how to approach this situation myself,’” she adds.
6. The Nonstop Talker
This person is an energy vampire simply because they don’t allow you time or space to breathe. Even if you’re an incredible listener, a nonstop talker can wear you down to the point that you’re completely drained. Orloff says that people pleasers in particular are susceptible to this kind of energy vampire, since you want more than anything to be a good friend and sounding board—sometimes to a fault.
How to Deal
- Interrupt them. This can be really hard to do (especially if you’re a people pleaser, as mentioned above), but Orloff stresses that nonstop talkers don’t respond to nonverbal cues like looking impatient or restless. To get your point across you have to firmly—but politely—interrupt.
- Use humor. This isn’t a tactic to pull out at a big meeting at work, but Orloff says that with people you know well, you can jokingly say something like, “The clock is ticking,” as a joke-y but serious way to convey that you’d like to get a word in.
7. Passive-Aggressive People
You know this type of person. The one who expresses their anger with a smile, seems sincere but isn’t dependable or says they’re fine when they’re clearly angry. They will promise you anything, but then do as they please. Passive-aggressive people are energy vampires because they refuse to admit what’s wrong, meaning you’re often left spending way too much time either trying to figure out what they’re really feeling or bending over backwards to make sure they’re happy.
How to Deal
- Trust your intuition. Just because their anger is hidden doesn’t mean it’s not real, meaning you shouldn’t question your response to a passive-aggressive person.
- If you can’t get a direct answer, ask the person to clarify their position. It’s important to address the behavior and find a solution, Orloff stresses, and being specific about what they’re thinking and feeling with someone who is passive aggressive will make them take a stand.