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You’ll Need More than Garlic: How to Spot — and Stop — an Energy Vampire

By Laura Lambert ; Updated October 17, 2017

Energy vampires are all around you. The weird, judge-y parent at the park. The sibling who just won’t let you off the phone. Your long-suffering friend from childhood. The dolt at work who can’t take a hint. They don’t have fangs, but they can suck you dry, emotionally speaking.

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While the phrase might be new to you, the concept dates back to the 1930s. Dion Fortune, a famed British mystic, called them psychic vampires in her book, Psychic Self-Defense. And she promised to help people fend off their “paranormal attacks.”

Fastforward to today and energy vampires have gone from the occult to almost mainstream. And Dr. Judith Orloff, assistant professor of psychiatry at UCLA and author of Emotional Freedom, describes them in more recognizable personality types. The Narcissist; The Victim; The Controller; The Criticizer; The Charmer; The Drama Queen. The list goes on.

We’ve all done time with these types — and can usually steer clear of them. But sometimes they’re incredibly hard to spot. As Orloff explains, sometimes you can only identify the vampire by his or her effect on you. Are you tightening up? Feeling suddenly fatigued. Are you feeling confused? Do you feeling like you’ve been “slimed”? And when they’re gone, it’s all better?

That’s an energy vampire.

Identifying them is one thing; doing something about them in the moment is another. The advice here runs the gamut, but at heart, it’s about you protecting yourself, not about changing them. Remember, you can’t win a battle with an energy vampire — but you can leave them to starve.

Put your relationship in context. Is this someone you can simply drop or avoid in the future? If so, it’s simple — just literally or figuratively walk away. But if circumstances dictate otherwise, it’s time to develop some basic coping skills.

Put their actions in perspective. An energy vampire is just doing what’s in her nature. For whatever dark or sad reason, this person can’t subsist on her energy alone. Re-frame the words and actions. Disengage. This isn’t about you; it’s about them. If you’re feeling really centered and generous and full of love, you might even empathize at bit.

Put yourself first. Protect yourself by not reacting and remaining as neutral as possible. Don’t feed the black hole with the energy it craves, like anger or defensiveness. Instead, focus on building yourself up. Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Dr. Bruce Goldberg regularly helps patients deal with energy vampires and his Rx calls for spiritual growth — and access to your higher self. “Train yourself to access your super-conscious mind,” he explains. “It’s like an energy immune system that makes you immune to issues you were previously susceptible to.”

How do you know when you’re susceptible? Says Orloff, trust yourself. “If your intuition says that you’re being drained, you have to trust that. A lot of my patients talk themselves out of it — oh, I’m just being neurotic. You have to learn to trust yourself, your own intuition and take action with how you want to deal with them.”

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About the Author

Laura Lambert is an Los Angeles-based writer and editor who covers women's health, parenting and lifestyle. She writes for the Penguin Random House blog Brightly and her work has also appeared on mom.me, babble.com, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

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