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How to Defend Against Five Emotional Vampires

Emotional vampires wear many different disguises–from workplace bullies to needy relatives to poor-me complainers. Intentionally or not, these people can make us feel depressed, overwhelmed, defensive, wiped out, and angry.

Without effective self-defense strategies to keep them at bay, victims of emotional vampires sometimes develop unhealthy behaviors and symptoms, such as overeating, isolating, mood swings, or feeling fatigued. They also get drawn into unhealthy relationships.

Here are five common types of emotional vampires we often encounter, adapted from the book The Ecstasy of Surrender, along with some “silver bullet” tips for fending them off.

Type #1: The Passive-Aggressive Person. This type of vampire expresses anger with a smile or exaggerated concern–but always maintains their cool. They are experts at sugar-coating hostility.

Self-Defense Tips: Let go of self-doubt and trust your gut reactions. Tell yourself that you deserve to be treated more lovingly. Address their behavior. In a calm, firm tone you might say, “I would greatly appreciate it if you can be on time when we go out to dinner.” If nothing changes, keep setting limits with this person and scale back on the time you spend with them.

Type #2: The Narcissist. For this vampire, everything is about them. They are ego-centric, self-important, and starved for admiration and attention. They may be charming and intelligent–until their guru status is threatened.

Self-defense Tips: Enjoy their good qualities, but have realistic expectations. Their motto is “me-first,” so getting angry or stating your needs won’t have any effect on them. Beware of this type, because narcissists lack empathy and are incapable of unconditional love. You may be able to get their cooperation, however, by appealing to their self-interest and showing them how your request will benefit them.

Type #3: The Anger Addict. This vampire deals with conflict by accusing, attacking, humiliating, or criticizing. Some anger addicts withhold things, or resort to using the silent treatment to punish you.

Self-defense Tips: Don’t let their anger wear down your self-esteem. Pause when agitated. Take a few slow breaths to relax, and do not respond until you are in a centered place. Try to stay neutral and balanced, and disarm the person by agreeing with them or acknowledging their position. Then state your case. It’s also useful to empathize with anger addicts. Ask yourself what pain or inadequacy makes them so angry.

Type #4: The Guilt Tripper. These types are world-class blamers, martyrs, and drama queens. They know how to make you feel bad about something by pressing your insecurity buttons.

Self-defense Tips: Let go of the notion that you have to be perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. If you feel really guilty, find a private place and let yourself cry. You can also reply with a positive statement such as, “I can see your point of view. But when you say ___, my feelings are hurt. I’d be grateful if you didn’t keep repeating it.”

Type #5: The Gossip. These busybodies delight in talking about others behind their backs, putting them down, and spreading catty rumors. When they do this, everyone around them feels slimed.

Self-defense Tips: Don’t worry about what this person thinks about you, and don’t take gossip personally. Rise to a higher place and ignore it. However, you may be able to get them to stop by saying, “Your comments are hurtful. How would you like it if others talked about you like that? Please stop saying these things about me.” If you’re in a group, change the subject. Also, never share information with a gossip.


Judith Orloff MD is a psychiatrist, intuitive healer, and NY Times bestselling author. Her latest book is The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life, upon which this article is based. Dr. Orloff, an assistant clinical professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, Oprah Magazine and USA Today.