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5 Emotional Vampires & How to Combat Them

In the spirit of Halloween, I thought you’d all appreciate some vampire talk. In her new book, “Emotional Freedom,” UCLA psychiatrist Judith Orloff identifies five kinds of vampires that are lurking around and can zap our energy if we’re not careful. Here is an excerpt adapted from her book.

Emotional vampires are lurking everywhere and wear many different disguises — from needy relatives to workplace bullies. Whether they do so intentionally or not, these people can make us feel overwhelmed, depressed, defensive, angry, and wiped out.

Without the self-defense strategies to fend them off, victims of emotional vampires sometimes develop unhealthy behaviors and symptoms, such as overeating, isolating, mood swings, or feeling fatigued.

Here are five types of emotional vampires you’re likely to encounter, and some “silver bullet” tips for fending them off.

Vampire 1: The Narcissist. 

This vampire is grandiose, self-important, attention hogging, and hungry for admiration. She is often charming and intelligent–until her guru status is threatened.

Self-defense tips: Enjoy her good qualities, but keep your expectations realistic. Because her motto is “me-first,” getting angry or stating your needs won’t phase her. To get her cooperation, show how your request satisfies her self-interest.

Vampire 2: The Victim. 

This vampire thinks the world is against him, and demands that others rescue him.

Self-defense tips: Don’t be his therapist, and don’t tell him to buck up. Limit your interactions, and don’t get involved in his self-pity.

Vampire 3: The Controller. 

This vampire has an opinion about everything, thinks he knows what’s best for you, has a rigid sense of right and wrong, and needs to dominate.

Self-defense tips: Speak up and be confident. Don’t get caught up in bickering over the small stuff. Assert your needs, and then agree to disagree.

Vampire 4: The Criticizer. 

This vampire feels qualified to judge you, belittle you, and bolster her own ego by making you feel small and ashamed.

Self-defense tips: Don’t take what she says personally. Address a misplaced criticism directly. Don’t get defensive. Express appreciation for what’s useful. Bounce back with a massive dose of loving-kindness.

Vampire 5: The Splitter. 

This vampire may treat you like his BFF one day, and then mercilessly attack you the next day when he feels wronged. He is often a threatening rageaholic who revels in keeping others on an emotional rollercoaster.

Self-defense tips: Establish boundaries and be solution-oriented. Avoid skirmishes, refuse to take sides, and avoid eye contact when he’s raging at you. Visualize a protective shield around you when you’re being emotionally attacked.

Judith Orloff, MD, is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA. Her new book, upon which these tips are based, is “Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life.”

5 Emotional Vampires & How to Combat Them

This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on Oct 27, 2009.


Therese J. Borchard

Therese J. Borchard is a mental health writer and advocate. She is the founder of the online depression communities Project Hope & Beyond and Group Beyond Blue, and is the author of Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes and The Pocket Therapist. You can reach her at thereseborchard.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.


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APA Reference
Borchard, T. (2019). 5 Emotional Vampires & How to Combat Them. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 16, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/5-emotional-vampires-and-how-to-combat-them/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 24 May 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 24 May 2019
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