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How to Keep 5 Emotional Vampires From Sapping Your Health

By Judith Orloff, MD

Emotional vampires–people who sap our energy and leave us feeling overwhelmed, depressed, defensive, angry, or wiped out–are lurking everywhere. Emotional vampires wear many different disguises. They could be a needy relative, bully boss, or catty friend. You’ll know when you come in contact with one, because instead of feeling upbeat, energized, and happy after you’ve spent time with them, you feel depleted.

Whether they do so intentionally or not, these people can affect our health in a negative way. Without the self-defense strategies to fend them off, victims of emotional vampires sometimes develop unhealthy behaviors and symptoms, such as overeating, isolating, mood swings, or feeling fatigued.

Here are five types of emotional vampires you’re likely to encounter, and some “silver bullet” tips for fending them off before they stress you out and sap your energy and vitality.

Type #1: The Narcissist. This vampire is grandiose, self-important, attention hogging, and hungry for admiration. She is often charming and intelligent–until her guru status is threatened.

Self-defense tips: Enjoy her good qualities, but keep your expectations realistic. Because her motto is “me-first,” getting angry or stating your needs won’t phase her. To get her cooperation, show how your request satisfies her self-interest.

Type #2: The Victim. This vampire thinks the world is against him, and demands that others rescue him.

Self-defense tips: Don’t be his therapist, and don’t tell him to buck up. Limit your interactions, and don’t get involved in his self-pity.

Type #3: The Controller. This vampire has an opinion about everything, thinks he knows what’s best for you, has a rigid sense of right and wrong, and needs to dominate.

Self-defense tips: Speak up and be confident. Don’t get caught up in bickering over the small stuff. Assert your needs, and then agree to disagree.

Type #4: The Criticizer. This vampire feels qualified to judge you, belittle you, and bolster her own ego by making you feel small and ashamed.

Self-defense tips: Don’t take what she says personally. Address a misplaced criticism directly. Don’t get defensive. Express appreciation for what’s useful. Bounce back with a massive dose of loving-kindness.

Type #5: The Splitter. This vampire may treat you like his best friend one day, and then mercilessly attack you the next day when he feels wronged. He is often a threatening rageaholic who revels in keeping others on an emotional rollercoaster.

Self-defense tips: Establish boundaries and be solution-oriented. Avoid skirmishes, refuse to take sides, and avoid eye contact when he’s raging at you. Visualize a protective shield around you when you’re being emotionally attacked.

Adapted from the book “Emotional Freedom”

VAMPIRES BY JUDITH ORLOFFJudith Orloff MD is a UCLA psychiatrist and author of several bestsellers, including Emotional Freedom and her new book, The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life. Dr. Orloff teaches workshops nationwide, has given a TED talk, and has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, Today, PBS, CNN, NPR, and many others. Learn more at www.drjudithorloff.com.



Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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