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How To Ward Off Emotional Vampires: Studio 5

Spot an emotional vampire before it bites! Therapist, Julie Hanks, has tips to protect yourself from people who want to bring you down.


I became aware of the term “emotional vampires” after reading a book review of Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life by Judith Orloff, MD. She has excellent strategies for identifying and dealing with people who emotionally drain you.

In her book, Dr. Orloff identified these 5 signs that you’ve encountered an emotional vampire:

1) Your eyelids are heavy—you’re ready for a nap

2) Your mood takes a nosedive                                   

3) You want to binge on carbs or comfort foods

4) You feel anxious, depressed, or negative

5) You feel put down, sniped at, or slimed

#1 The Narcissist

Has “Me first” attitude
Has limited capacity for empathy
Becomes cold, withholding, or punishing when they don’t get their way

Kurt Bestor “I have a friend who I have given the secret name “The Consumer” because, while he is my friend, he consumes my time, my creative energy, and sometimes – patience. Everything always seems to slant his way and he’s usually asking for me to do something for him, which takes my time, my money, and my energy. The “give and take” necessary for a true friendship is lacking which is why I never seem to pick up the phone when he calls. The biggest problem – he has no clue that he acts this way.”

How to Protect Yourself

Keep your expectations realistic and don’t expect reciprocity
Don’t depend on their approval for your self-worth
Lead with how they will benefit from something

#2 The Victim

Has a “poor me” attitude
Blames everyone and everything else for misery
When you offer advice they respond “yes, but…”

Amanda “I have someone in my life who is almost constantly complaining about something…but is too codependent to move on, accept what they can change and change it—they just try to convince you to feel sorry for them.”

How to Protect Yourself

Don’t take on their baggage
Set kind yet firm limits in conversation length and topic
Reinforce your limits with body language and action

#3 The Controller

Tells you how to feel and behave
Invalidates your feelings
Leaves you feeling “less than”

Anonymous: “I was given a church music assignment where I had someone over me that tried to control every detail even to the point of telling me where I should stand, what songs to teach, and what visual aids to use. It seemed like so many silly details, but it literally killed me & my spirit to be that controlled over something that initially inspired creativity.”

How to Protect Yourself

Confidently assert yourself
Focus on important issues
Don’t try to tell them what to do

#4 The Splitter

Views you as either “all good” or “all bad”
Feeds off of anger
Pits people against each other

Anonymous: “I have a family member who suffers from many, many problems. Unfortunately, most people in the family have had to cut her off because she is so caustic. I came to a point in which I felt I had to make a decision between my family member and my sanity – I needed to have enough energy for my own husband and children. Is it ever ok to cut off a family member?”

How to Protect Yourself

Remain emotionally neutral
Set limits and stick to them
Avoid taking sides

References & Resources:

Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life

Dr Judith Orloff website

Combating Emotional Vampires Online Course by Dr. Judith Orloff

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