5 Signs of an Energy Vampire and How to Cope

Two people talking while both casting shadows, one of which is larger and appears to be draining the other's energy

Verywell / Dennis Madamba

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Energy vampires are people who sap your emotional energy, either intentionally or unconsciously. They could be friends, family members, partners, colleagues, or neighbors, who feed on your care and attention and can leave you feeling stressed, drained, exhausted, and overwhelmed.

Relationships with energy vampires are often toxic. They can cause you to feel physically and emotionally drained, particularly if you’re an empath and highly attuned to the emotions of the people around you.

This article explores the types of energy vampires, the signs and characteristics of energy vampires, and some strategies that can help you protect yourself.

What Are the Different Types of Energy Vampires?

Energy vampires can take different shapes and forms, such as:

  • The victim: Some people enjoy playing the victim card and are always ready with a new sob story about a perceived slight. They are innocent but the whole world is always against them. They tend to complain often and loudly about their problems.
  • The criticizer: Some people spend a lot of time and energy criticizing other people, things, and situations. Nothing is ever good enough for them and they can find fault with just about anything.
  • The dramatizer: Some people create and attract a lot of drama. They always seem to be in the midst of a major catastrophe and often need your help and support.
  • The manipulator: Some people are able to manipulate just about any situation to their advantage. They rarely say what they mean and usually have a hidden agenda.
  • The negative thinker: Some people always see the glass as half empty and have a very negative attitude toward life. They can always be counted on to point out the downside or potential risks, without leaving any room for hope or excitement.
  • The blamer: Some people are quick to place blame on others. They’re never at fault but always willing to hand out heaps of shame and guilt.

What Are Some Signs of an Energy Vampire?

These are some of the signs of an energy vampire.

They Always Want to Be the Center of Attention

Energy vampires are extremely self-centered and always want to be the center of attention. They dominate the conversation and ensure the focus is always on themselves. If someone else brings up a different topic, they find a way to one-up them and bring the attention back to themselves.

For instance, they might say:

  • “That sounds like a nice trip. It reminds me of the time I went to Hawaii. Nothing can compare to how beautiful it was, let me show you all the pictures.”
  • “I can’t believe you almost got mugged. Did I tell you about the time someone tried to shoot me in the subway?”

They Exaggerate Everything

Energy vampires tend to exaggerate every little thing that happens to them, making mountains out of molehills. They make everything sound much bigger, better, or worse than it actually is.

For instance, they might say:

  • “Everybody else caught tiny fish but mine was as big as a house.”
  • “My body temperature was 99°F last night, it was so bad I thought I was going to die.”

They Blame Others for Everything

Energy vampires are very good at playing the blame game. They're always manipulating situations so that they're never at fault. They’re quick to assign blame to everyone but themselves. The problem may be the weather, the train, the traffic, their loved ones, their colleagues, or even you, but never them.

For instance, they might say:

  • “I would have submitted this report on time but the accounts team didn’t send me the numbers till yesterday.”
  • “I would have invited you to my party but you’re always so busy that I didn’t think you’d be able to come.”

They Always Leave You Feeling Worn Out

Interacting with an energy vampire often elicits an unpleasant emotional reaction that leaves you feeling exhausted and worn out. You may experience negative emotions such as:

  • Distress
  • Worry
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Sadness 
  • Disappointment
  • Confusion

Negative emotions like these can contribute to mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and stress.

They Use People Without Giving Anything in Return

Energy vampires want all your attention, care, and emotional support but are never willing to give you anything in return. Even if you ask for their help with something, they will make an excuse and bring the attention back to themselves. They use you for their emotional needs without giving you anything in return.

For instance, they might say:

  • “I’m sorry you lost your job. I would love to help you with your resume but I’m so swamped with cleaning my home, my kids have made such a mess. Can you help me with the vacuuming?”
  • “I can’t believe you’re asking me for help with your resume when you know how upset I am about losing the bowling game. Can you bring me some tissues and ice cream?”

How Do You Protect Yourself If You Are an Empath?

These are some steps you can take to protect yourself against an energy vampire:

  • Adjust your expectations: If the energy vampire is someone close to you, you may find yourself feeling upset and disappointed when they fail to reciprocate the support you’ve shown them. It can help to adjust your expectations and understand that they’re never going to show up for you. Seeing them for who they are can help you take the steps required to protect yourself against them.
  • Limit your exposure to them: You can set boundaries in your relationship with the person to limit your exposure to them as much as possible. For instance, if they’re a colleague, you may have no choice but to work with them, but you can avoid eating lunch or getting coffee with them.
  • Protect your emotional energy: Energy vampires feed off your emotional energy. If you do happen to interact with them, try to avoid giving them the reaction they want to their dramatic statements and complaints. Keep a neutral expression and simply shrug them off as though they're not a big deal. If they don’t get the reaction they’re looking for, they will eventually lose interest and leave you alone.
  • Avoid arguing with them: You might find yourself feeling tempted to argue with the person’s twisted logic, negative outlook, and exaggerated claims. However, doing so will only make you the villain in their next story. Instead, stay neutral and walk away from them. No reaction is a bigger blow to them than a negative reaction.
  • Learn to say no: If the person is asking you for something, avoid getting sucked into their vortex and learn to say no. For instance, if they’re asking you to help them with a project, you can say: “I’m sorry, I can’t,” or “No, I’m busy.” 
  • Cut them out of your life: If possible, cut the person out of your life and avoid interacting with them altogether. If they’re a colleague or family member you can’t avoid, limit your interaction with them and distance yourself from them as much as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why are some people so draining?

    Some people are exceptionally self-centered and have a negative attitude toward everything. They use other people for attention, care, and emotional support. Being around them can be emotionally draining.

  • How do you know if someone drains your energy?

    If you’re trying to identify whether someone is an energy vampire who drains your energy, pay attention to the subtle cues in your responses to them. 

    Ask yourself whether you feel light and happy after you interact with them, or drained and exhausted? Do you find yourself walking on eggshells around them? Do you unconsciously try to avoid their calls? Do you dread bumping into them? Does it feel like every conversation with them is either super dramatic or very negative?

    These signs are subconscious signals that the person is draining your energy.

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Riess H. The science of empathy. J Patient Exp. 2017;4(2):74-77. doi:10.1177/2374373517699267

  2. Zhang Q, Miao L, He L, Wang H. The relationship between self-concept and negative emotion: a moderated mediation model. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022;19(16):10377. doi:10.3390/ijerph191610377

By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.