You an empath, like me?
Most of the time, I see it as a gift. But my sensitive nature also means I’m constantly attracting energy vampires into my life. They can’t get enough of me.
Narcissists stick to me like 🪰 to 💩.
Energy vampires—a.k.a. crazy-making people who drain the life force right out of you—feed on kindness, compassion, and exuberance (something empaths are often overflowing with).
I used to attract so many that my relationships made me physically ill.
By the end of the relationship, whether it was with a friend, a boss, or a partner, I’d be sick with chronic stress and thinking I was *nuts* because I couldn’t figure out what was causing it. The signs were so subtle and sneaky.
In fact, it wasn’t until I’d stop interacting with the person that I’d realise their toxic behaviour was the source.
Nowadays, I’m quick(er) at spotting energy vampires to prevent myself from getting tangled in their web.
So here are 9 red flags to look out for—and what to do to keep yourself sane.
1. They love-bomb you.
The first sign you’re dealing with an energy vampire is they lavish you with attention (at least in the beginning). They know exactly what you’ve always wanted to hear. You feel special, seen, and wanted.
Love-bombing is different to getting compliments. A compliment feels good, but a love-bomb is *intoxicating*. You can’t get enough of it. My ex-energy vampire boyfriend would constantly tell me how beautiful I was, how I was the only person for him, and introduce me to people as his ‘future wife’ before we’d even had our first date. I had low self-esteem, so I loved it. He was bad news.
Love-bombs get you hooked and feeling safe. They’re also deployed when you stand up for yourself or try to set boundaries to persuade you to feel good about the relationship again. 💣
2. They avoid taking responsibility.
Nothing is EVER the energy vampire’s fault. They blame everyone else for their problems, are rarely held accountable for their actions, and love to play the victim.
They don’t tend to reflect on their behaviour or recognise the part they play in their problems. My ex-energy vampire boss used to blame me for anything that went wrong, especially when the business was struggling. She’d even blame customers for their complaints. (Those customers never came back, of course.)
Nobody likes owning up when they’ve made a mistake. It’s not easy or fun to say, “that was my fault”. But energy vampires take the blame game to a whole new level.
3. They one-up you.
No matter what’s you’re dealing with, the energy vampire has dealt with worse. If you often hear, “that’s nothing, listen to what happened to me…”, you might have a vampire on your hands.
My ex-energy vampire friend used to one-up me a lot. If I achieved a goal, she bragged about what she’d done better. If I wasn’t doing so well, she lamented me with stories of her epic failures. My feelings, struggles, and celebrations didn’t seem valid to her.
Life isn’t a competition. When your experiences are constantly compared to theirs, it shows a lack of empathy and/or willingness to sit with, see, hear, and relate to you on a deeper level.
4. They criticise you.
Energy vampires use criticism to keep you feeling small. This tactic works to get you reliant on them, especially if you already feel insecure.
It’s as if they need to tear you down to make themselves feel better and gain a sense of power. One of my ex-energy vampire boyfriends would erode my confidence by telling me how ugly I looked when I wore certain kinds of make-up and say, “you’re not going out like THAT, are you?”. 🤢
The bottom line here is nobody deserves to be shamed, belittled, or bullied. Criticism is often used to manipulate you into working harder for the energy vampire’s attention.
5. They’re surrounded by drama.
Oh, energy vampires love a bit of drama. They always seem to be involved in a major personal crisis and are drawn to catastrophe like moths to a flame. 🔥
The problem is, they want *you* to help them deal with it. You’re called upon to be the counsellor, the rescuer, the shoulder to cry on. I could never understand how my friend found herself in such awful situations on a regular basis until I realised she thrived off the drama (as well as the attention I gave her when she needed consoling).
Of course, everybody needs support sometimes. But if someone in your life relies on you to fix their problems, that’s a red flag.
6. They regularly cross your boundaries.
Setting boundaries is hard enough as it is… it’s even harder when an energy vampire blatantly ignores them.
If you say ‘no’ and get consistent pushback, there’s a problem. This might look like the person not thinking you’re serious so they do whatever they want, aggressively questioning your reasons, or giving you the silent treatment. My boss used to text and call me morning ’til night *even when I wasn’t working* and I’d told her—multiple times—that I wouldn’t respond outside of office hours. Her consistent boundary violations were incredibly stressful. 📵🤯
Boundaries are what keep us sane and healthy. It’s not fair for you to be unable to express your needs because the other person refuses to listen.
7. They use guilt trips.
Guilt trips WORK. Energy vampires know they’re more likely to get their own way if they shame or love-bomb you into doing what they want.
This is a classic form of emotional manipulation. My boss used to guilt trip me into working more hours by saying she didn’t know how she’d cope if I didn’t and that the business would fall apart without me. She used a heavy mix of guilt tripping, boundary violations, and love-bombing to coerce me into overworking on a daily basis.
Compassionate, caring people don’t want to let people down or hurt anyone’s feelings. True energy vampires actively exploit this. ☠️
8. They threaten you with ultimatums.
Again, ultimatums—whether explicit or implicit—work. Energy vampires often use ultimatums as a weapon to keep you engaged in the relationship.
This can be a tricky one to spot because they might not come right out and say it. You might get the feeling there’s a veiled threat behind their words, and this can be hard to pin down. My friend used to say things like, “well if you don’t come out with me, I’ll just have to tell everyone about [this thing you said/did]”… then act affronted and say she was joking when I called her on it.
Being threatened with ultimatums is never okay and indicates a serious lack of trust in the relationship.
9. They take more than they give.
One-sided relationships are the energy vampire’s calling card. They’re masters at draining your physical and energetic resources, leaving you feeling utterly exhausted.
Empaths are a prime target for these relationships since we’re willing to offer a listening ear, an open heart, and emotional energy. We give and people take. For years, I’d listen to people’s problems, help them feel better, and give them advice. It was rarely reciprocated which eventually left me feeling angry and resentful.
Of course, I played a part in maintaining these relationships (and so do you).
What to do if you’re dealing with energy vampires
One word: BOUNDARIES.
Figure out what you will and won’t tolerate. Be clear about your expectations. Limit your interactions with this person or cut them out of your life.
Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it hurts. But it’s the only thing that’s kept me sane.
It’s also important to recognise your part in this.
Remember it’s not your responsibility to fix or rescue people. It’s also not your job to change them. Let them do the work they need to do to grow.
Your value isn’t based on how much you give to others. So give YOURSELF the gift of only solving *your own* problems.
P.S. I also highly recommend checking out Dr Christiane Northrup’s book Dodging Energy Vampires for more tips!