What comes to mind when you think of an emotional vampire? Folklore and myth are mostly responsible for what we know about vampires. They’re frightful nocturnal creatures clad in Victorian-era formal wear, if not in red and black velvet cloaks, possessing protruding fangs and a single-minded determination to suck the blood and life out of mortals. Needless to say, nobody would dream of encountering a real-life vampire in their lives.

An emotional vampire, on the other hand, is a colloquial term used to label toxic people. It was Dr. Albert Bernstein, Ph.D., who originally coined the term, referring to people who drain others dry, sucking the positive energy out of those they encounter by their extremely negative demeanor. Emotional vampires come in different forms and maladaptive behaviors.

They can be extremely negative, complain incessantly, are very self-centered and narcissistic, and can often end up being very manipulative. While traditional vampires are mostly left on fiction pages, films, and to a figment of our imagination, emotional vampires are everywhere. They can be a friend, a co-worker, a family member, or it could also be you.

There is one way an emotional vampire affects the lives of the people around them; by draining other people’s positive energy in order to boost their ego and their deep need for attention. What’s worse is that they are often unaware of these toxic traits. Importantly, the people who are most vulnerable to the attacks of an emotional vampire are empaths.

Empaths are people who are not just highly sensitive, but they take on too much from their surroundings, including other people’s energies. Because not all empaths know how to protect themselves from much of the toxicity that’s around them, they can unknowingly take on too much emotional fallout. If an emotional vampire is particularly close to the empath, the latter can be severely affected.

Since a lot of empaths do not possess the innate skills and knowledge on how to use filters to protect themselves from toxic energy and people, they can too often become emotionally drained and carry the weight on their shoulders.

It is a must for empaths to understand how vulnerable they can be to almost everything around them. Because they are, they must learn the essential skill of protecting themselves. Practicing empathy and compassion with the people we care about, without necessarily becoming drained and too exhausted to function in the end, is possible.

Here are tips on how empaths can protect their energy and maintain peace even when dealing with emotional vampires in their lives.

Be More Aware of Your Relational Dynamics with Others

Start becoming more aware of how you relate to other people. Empaths can learn to identify and spot a potential emotional vampire by tuning in to how they feel after every encounter with a person. If someone consistently leaves you feeling exhausted, trapped, or even hurt at every encounter, they can be a huge source of emotional drain and are emotional vampires.

Learn How to Set Personal Boundaries

Once you’ve identified someone as an emotional vampire, it’s time to set personal boundaries. These can be as subtle as lessening the time you spend with that person, consciously reducing the attention and adoration you give them, or as extreme as blatantly confronting them about how they make you feel. The latter strategy can be effective in some scenarios, especially since honesty should be paramount in most close relationships. Whatever works best in each case is how you should protect yourself.

Learn Strategies to Center Yourself

You can minimize the effects of emotional vampires within yourself by practicing calming techniques. Mindlessly reacting to the emotional vampire at all times is silently affirming and even condoning their behavior. Instead, taking a deep breath to calm your nerves and practicing the pause can leave you feeling centered and more in control of yourself and your energy.

Take It All In Stride

It’s not always that easy to just shut emotional vampires off, especially if they’re people we’re closest with. But continuing with the pattern can be so unhealthy for empaths that they must find a way to shield themselves. Empaths may need to learn how to take it all in stride whilst maintaining their grace and composure.

They can do this by taking responsibility only for their own emotions, remaining mindful in their reactions and encounters, and keeping calm. Refrain from mirroring the other person’s moods and emotional intensity, and remain true to your own.

Practice Assertiveness

One of the best ways to protect yourself from emotional vampires is to practice asserting your boundaries. When vampires realize that they can’t easily feed on you, they’ll take a bit more caution in relating to you. For example, empaths can learn to guide the emotional vampire by demanding they seek solutions, instead of merely accepting their complaints at all times. Remind them that you are willing to help them tap into their available resources and options, but you can’t fix all their problems.