Whether friendly, romantic or family, all types of relationships have their ups and downs, but some interactions spiral southward more than others. You’ll occasionally be super mad at your S.O. from a normal fight, and now and then you’ll get a bite from the green monster and simply have to overcome that moment of jealousy. However, if you find these occurrences spilling over into your everyday life, you might have an emotional vampire on your hands. Annie Wright, a licensed psychotherapist in a private practice in Berkeley, CA, has some tips for how to spot vampires, and — more importantly — how to deal with them.

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What They Are

Emotional vampires don’t necessarily have the evil intentions of their storybook counterparts. While the term is rooted in the idea of a mythical creature that physically sustains itself by literally draining the life out of innocent victims, it translates to the idea of a person who emotionally sustains themself through the energy they receive (or take) from others.

“Clinically speaking, ‘energy vampires’ are those who lack the internalized, developmental ego strength to hold and maintain their own psychological boundaries and who disrespect and cross the psychological boundaries of others,” Annie explains. In simpler terms, we could say that they’re people whose own low self-esteem leads them to disrespect your space in an attempt to get what they’re missing from you.

A vampire could be a coworker who constantly seeks admiration and compliments from the boss or a friend who always puts others down to make themselves feel superior. Annie says that these people might not even be conscious of what they’re doing to those around them: “A vampire is likely someone who is trying to get a core emotional need of theirs met, but who has maladaptive ways of trying to do this.” They want to feel good about themselves, but somehow along the way they only learned hurtful methods for getting there.

How To Cope

Annie first encourages us to practice self-awareness when around potential emotional vampires. “Notice how you feel after spending time with people and whether you felt like your boundaries were subtly or overtly respected or disrespected by them,” she advises. Once you know how this person truly makes you feel, you can decide what to do about it.

This awareness should point to the kind of boundaries you should enforce with this person. In some cases — such as when the vampire is a coworker you have to see every day — you might want to have a conversation about the way the person is treating you. However, if you’re deeply affected by someone or if their behavior borders on abusive, it might be best to cut them out of your life completely.

Annie also recommends doing work within yourself to deal with the fallout that can come from a relationship with an emotional vampire. Whether you choose to go to therapy or simply chat with a loved one about the predicament, you deserve to walk away from the situation with clear boundaries intact.

How do you deal with emotional vampires? Let us know @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)