12 signs you’re dealing with an emotional vampire, according to psychology

In Bram Stoker’s famous 1897 novel Dracula, an English lawyer on a business trip ends up stuck in the castle of a bloodthirsty vampire with mysterious and terrifying abilities. 

The concept of a vampire, feeding on human blood and tied to the dark side of the occult has fascinated humanity for centuries, long before Stoker’s tour-de-force. 

And it will continue to fascinate us long after the novels of Anne Rice or the teen-oriented Twilight series. 

A new kind of vampire

In recent decades, vampirism has come to be seen in a new psychological light:

Those individuals who feed off the energy, positivity and help of others, slowly draining and destroying them. 

If this sounds scary, it should. Because it is scary. And if you are dealing with an emotional vampire in your life, it’s important to know the signs to watch out for and what to do about it. 

Let’s take a look: 

1) They constantly seek attention 

Emotional vampires often demand excessive attention and validation from others.

They watch to check if you laugh at their jokes. They frown and pout if you don’t agree with them. They ask if you like their new shirt. 

It’s all to stave off their own insecurities and self-doubt.

“People crave attention for a variety of reasons, including normal emotional development, low self-esteem, and, in some extreme cases, the presence of personality disorders,” notes psychologist Dr. Preeti Kocchar, adding that “this is commonly seen on social media nowadays.”

The problem is that the emotional vampire can never get enough. The more validation you give them the more they demand. 

2) They create and thrive on unnecessary drama

Emotional vampires thrive on drama and conflict, in fact they need it for their own sense of identity. 

They will often create or escalate situations to keep the attention focused on them and to come out with their opinions and solutions. 

They will then use their so-called solutions to gain more control over others and to manipulate and twist people (including people they are supposed to love). 

This makes them feel powerful and needed in a way they don’t feel inside.

Speaking of always needing a problem…

3) They manipulate your emotions

Emotional vampires are skilled at exploiting others’ emotions for their benefit.

They will often use emotional blackmail or complaining to keep others emotionally invested in them.

Complaining is like their second nature. They just can’t stop, and they keep going back to it and demanding you listen and give them attention, pity and comfort.

As psychology writer Allaya Cooks-Campbell notes:

“If something goes well in their life, they’ll minimize it or find something about it to complain about. 

If something is going poorly, it’s all you’ll hear about for days, weeks, or even months.”

4) They guilt trip and gaslight you 

They often use manipulation tactics such as guilt-tripping, gaslighting, or playing the victim to control you and get what they want. 

They make you feel like you don’t know what you’re talking about and even make you doubt your own memory.

They make you feel responsible for everything that goes wrong and take out their problems on you all the time in toxic and damaging ways. 

Psychologist Guy Winch Ph.D. has ideal advice on this:

“The best way to limit the damage guilt trips cause to our relationships is to set limits with the guilt inducer and ask them to change their habits…

Be prepared to have reminder discussions and to call them on future guilt trips when they happen (and they will).”

5) They make you feel responsible for their mood

Emotional vampires tend to exude negative energy, draining those around them with constant complaining and cynicism. 

They often make you feel like you’re responsible for cheering them up or giving them an audience and endless sympathy when they’re feeling down. 

This drains all your energy (not to mention your time), leaving you in a downward spiral of dealing with this person. 

The more attention and sympathy you give them, the more they want. If you say the wrong thing or don’t say enough? You’re to blame for making them feel worse!

It’s an absolute lose-lose situation. 

6) They’re emotionally codependent 

The emotional vampire tends to become overly dependent on others for emotional support.

They expect you to cater to their every need without them giving back anything. 

They do this to fill a void within themselves.

But it never ends up getting filled, only leaving them feeling weaker and more worthless. 

Being in a relationship or having close ties with such a person is incredibly draining. 

7) They only care about others if it fits their agenda

Not showing empathy 12 signs you’re dealing with an emotional vampire, according to psychology

The emotional vampire tends to show little empathy or concern for others’ feelings.

They are almost always focusing solely on their own needs and desires.

They also have a habit of very selective empathy, which is something all of us struggle with at times. 

As Dr. Elizabeth Segal, Ph.D. explains:

“Unfortunately, research has shown that it is hard to feel empathy for people who seem different. 

We are more inclined to experience empathy for people who are like us, and less likely for those who we see as different.”

The difference of an emotional vampire is they take it to the next level by intentionally using empathy to get control and manipulate people. 

8) They don’t respect the boundaries of other people

Emotional vampires often have poor boundaries and tend to intrude on others’ personal space, time, and emotions.

They don’t care much about your well-being.

They care about getting love, attention and validation for whatever they do and having you as an emotional punching bag and sounding board for whatever’s on their mind. 

It’s deeply exhausting as well as disempowering. 

9) They only care about their own needs 

Many emotional vampires display a range of narcissistic traits, such as grandiosity, entitlement, and the lack of empathy for others I mentioned above. 

This goes against their own happiness, leading in a self-destructive loop where they tend to become more and more selfish. 

They keep chasing one-sided relationships and keep feeling worse, but rarely learn the lesson from it. 

“To be happy, we need a network of people in our lives who like, love, and respect us, and to build such a network, we need to play fair. 

I therefore call engaging in one-sided transactions ‘bad selfishness’ because ultimately this behavior is bad for both the selfish person and the people victimized and exploited by the selfish person,” writes Psychology Professor Emeritus Dr. John A. Johnson Ph.D.

10) They’re frequently jealous and resentful of others

They often harbor feelings of jealousy towards others’ successes.

This makes it very hard to do business or be in a relationship with an emotional vampire. 

It’s almost impossible for them to be happy for the successes of others or pursue win-win cooperation, because they see the world as a zero-sum game in which they have to win. 

And their way of “winning” is to drag everyone else down. 

11) They leave you feeling completely drained

Interacting with an emotional vampire leaves you feeling mentally, emotionally, and physically drained.

It’s as if your life force has been bled out of you. 

This is because the emotional (or energy) vampire only sees other people as a source of validation, affection and reassurance. They have no real respect. 

“Energy vampires often view relationships in terms of what they can gain,” writes Dr. Chris Mosunic, Ph.D.

“They might manipulate situations to their advantage or take more from relationships than they give. Having a very unbalanced dynamic with a person can leave you feeling used and unappreciated, draining your emotional reserves.”

12) They always make it about them

Emotional vampires often struggle to maintain healthy relationships due to their self-centered behavior and inability to empathize with others’ needs.

Everything is about them, and they can’t see it any other way.

They are blinded by their own inner insecurity and unhealthy behavioral patterns and often need years of deep therapy or spiritual awakening to overcome it. 

As Cooks-Campbell writes:

“By controlling the narrative to keep themselves firmly at the center (and preferably, in the victim’s seat) they ensure that they’re never at fault. 

These people are experts at avoiding responsibility for their own actions and lives.”

Dealing with an emotional vampire  

Dealing with an emotional vampire is not easy, especially if they are a close family member, romantic partner or work colleague you see on a daily basis. 

This video from Beyond Blue has very helpful advice:

The key thing is to set clear boundaries on what you won’t tolerate from them, avoid getting emotionally dragged into their games and remain mindful of your own reactions and involvement. 

The emotional vampire thrives off drama, so the less drama you allow them to create the better. 

In certain cases you may have to take dramatic steps to walk away from them and involve therapists or even law enforcement if they will not respect your basic boundaries. 

Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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