Energy vampires are people who — sometimes intentionally — drain your emotional energy. They feed on your willingness to listen and care for them, leaving you exhausted and overwhelmed. Here’s what to do.

Energy vampires can be anywhere and anyone. They are the people you encounter who leave you feeling drained and exhausted. They can be your spouse or your best friend. They can be your cubicle mate or your neighbor.

Learning how to identify and respond to this toxic behavior can help you preserve your energy and protect yourself from a great deal of emotional — and physical — distress.

Read on to learn more about how an energy vampire acts and what you can do next.

Energy vampires are often charismatic. They may slink out of trouble when problems arise because of this charm.

They’re crafty and may pin problems on someone else in almost every situation.

They never accept culpability for their role in any disagreement or issue. You’re often left holding the guilt — and possibly the blame.

For example:

  • “I can’t believe no one could get this right. What an embarrassment!”
  • “I just sat there. He kept getting angry at me, and I still don’t know what I did.”

Energy vampires always find themselves in the middle of a catastrophe, flailing from target to target with their emotional and dramatic behavior.

When they’ve landed on you, they fling this drama onto you in hopes you’ll absorb it, fix it, and right their ship.

For example:

  • “Why am I always the one everyone gets mad at? I don’t deserve this.”
  • “I just can’t take this anymore. I didn’t do anything to Ellen, but she’s stopped talking to me. Why can’t everyone be as kind as you?”

An energy vampire never likes to be outdone, and they aren’t keen to share the spotlight. This is one of their many narcissistic tendencies.

They struggle to feel genuine happiness for another person. Instead, they prefer to pull energy to feed their emotional demands.

For example:

  • “That’s really good news. I actually applied for a new job today, too, and I really need some help with my resume. Do you mind looking it over?”
  • “So proud of you! Only three more certifications to go to catch up with me!”

Energy vampires feed off your emotional energy. And if you’re sad or upset, your energy supplies are dwindling.

To drain the most energy from you, energy vampires will shift the attention of the discussion to themselves, turning your dismay into their emotional buffet.

For example:

  • “I know your job doesn’t pay well, but at least your job is fun. You have to help me find a new one.”
  • “You’re super swamped at work, and I get it, but I really, really need to talk to you tonight about this issue with Mark.”

Energy vampires place their problems squarely on the shoulders of other people. They take no responsibility for their contributions to their difficulties.

What they’re seeking is emotional support to boost their self-esteem.

For example:

  • “He’s always so unreasonable. I do the best I can, but it’s just never enough.”
  • “This day started off bad and it only got worse.”

People who are sensitive and compassionate are prime targets for energy vampires. You offer a listening ear, a kind heart, and endless energy.

In that way, energy vampires use your very nature against you, draining you of your vitality.

For example:

  • They monopolize your time at every social occasion so they can have as much of your energy as they can get.
  • They know you’ll feel guilty turning them down for coffee or a dinner date, so they ask regularly.

Energy vampires often rely on guilt trips to get what they want. They know shame is a great weapon against people who are compassionate and caring.

Likewise, ultimatums are an effective way to capture a person’s attention and coerce them into doing something they otherwise may not want to do.

For example:

  • “I don’t know how you expect me to make it without you. I’ll fall apart.”
  • “If you really care for me, you’ll call him and tell him how much I love him.”

Codependency is a type of relationship where every action is designed to elicit a certain reaction from the other individual.

It’s a vicious cycle of behavior, but energy vampires rarely recognize that they’re in them.

They use these relationships — often romantic ones — to continue spinning a cycle of drama and emotional need.

For example:

  • “I know this isn’t a good relationship, but it’s so much better than trying to get over him and learn to date again.”
  • “If I just ignore him for a few days, he’ll totally beg for forgiveness and come crawling back.”

At their core, energy vampires are often insecure. They may use dehumanizing tactics and criticisms to keep their “prey” insecure, too.

In this state, you feel like you owe them your attention and should continue to work to stop the unwarranted attacks.

For example:

  • “I was too stupid to expect better from you. Everyone else treats me like garbage, so why not you?”
  • “You were in over your head from the beginning, and I told you that.”

One step removed from criticizing or bullying you, intimidation is a tool some energy vampires turn to when they need to stir up some emotional fodder.

Fear is a very strong emotional reaction. If an energy vampire can upset you, they can bolster their ego.

For example:

  • “I won’t tell you this again and again.”
  • “You don’t deserve a promotion. You don’t show that you even really want it.”

Energy vampires demand a lot from the people they target.

This continuous drain on your resources can have a noticeable effect on your well-being. Over time, excess stress can lead to anxiety, depression, heart disease, and more.

That’s why it’s important to recognize the behaviors and then work to remove them.

This may involve putting up walls to protect against an energy vampire’s efforts — or removing the person from your life entirely.

The ideas below may not work for everyone. Try them and mold your approach as you go until you’re able to feel in control and protected.

Establish boundaries

Although this may be easier said than done at first, you can and should develop areas of your life where you won’t allow an energy vampire to enter.

Don’t agree to social events like dinner or coffee dates. Avoid weekend trips and other extended events where they’ll be in attendance.

At work, you can limit interactions between the two of you by not agreeing to lunches and not stopping by their desk to chat.

You may need to start small, focusing on a few areas, and then expand.

Adjust your expectations

You can’t fix an energy vampire, but you can reshape your expectations about them.

This may involve shutting off your emotional valve and not offering advice when they vent their problems to you.

This may also mean you can’t use them as any type of emotional release either. They’ll want to reciprocate.

Don’t give them an inch

If the energy vampire calls, stops by, or texts, don’t give them the room.

Offer an excuse — “I’m too tired” or “I’m too busy” will do. You could say that you’ve got plans or don’t feel well.

When they keep interfacing with excuses and not getting the emotional energy they need, they’ll look elsewhere.

Guard your emotional capacity

Energy vampires use nonverbal cues to know when they have someone on the hook. Your facial expression, the way you lean in, how you clasp your hands — an energy vampire can take these as signs of your investment.

If you instead offer stone-faced responses and only offer short statement to their questions, you won’t open yourself up to their demands, and you can reserve your energy for you.

Cut them out entirely

In most cases, you have the freedom to excise this person from your life entirely. This may seem dramatic, but you have to remember that you’re protecting yourself in the end.

By recognizing these behaviors and trying to put an end to it, you’re protecting yourself, your health, and your overall well-being.

No one deserves to be mistreated or used in this manner. It’s certainly not your fault.

Some people refuse to accept responsibility for their own emotional maturity — and that isn’t your burden to bear.