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By Therese J. Borchard
October 27, 2009

In the spirit of Halloween, I thought you’d all appreciate some vampire talk. In her new book, “Emotional Freedom,” UCLA psychiatrist Judith Orloff identifies five kinds of vampires that are lurking around and can zap our energy if we’re not careful. Here is an excerpt adapted from her book.

Emotional vampires are lurking everywhere and wear many different disguises–from needy relatives to workplace bullies. Whether they do so intentionally or not, these people can make us feel overwhelmed, depressed, defensive, angry, and wiped out.

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.

Vampire 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.

Vampire 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.

Vampire 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.

Vampire 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.

Vampire 5: The Splitter.

This vampire may treat you like his BFF 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.


1. Azulejo left…

Monday, 9 November 2009 6:21 pm

This is useful information. My father fits into the “needy family member” category of Emotional Vampires…

He is a semi-retired asperger male who expects his two adult children to spend all their free time with him. He puts zero effort into making his own friends and will only spend time with the friends my mother made for them when she was alive.

I have to limit my time and interaction with him since he constantly talks and does not ever listen to me. My function is only to listen to his repetetive monologues. He provides no emotional support to me whatsoever but expects me to sympathize with him and he regularly “plays the victim – poor me…”

2. Julie left…

Tuesday, 10 November 2009 3:27 pm


My father used to present with this very same behaviour, though coupled with the essential ‘alone time’ at intervals to recharge. One day, he woke up to find he was totally alone. It wasn’t that no-one cared for him, but his behaviour had well and truly pushed everyone away. He became a bitter recluse for awhile, then realised that if he wanted any kind of genuine social contact, he would have to take the leap out into the unknown. He started going to dances once a fortnight. Something he’d greatly enjoyed in his youth. Made all the difference. It’s as though he has re-learned the give and take of conversation he’d managed earlier in his life(though minimally) in order to be a part of the dance environment he so enjoys. As a result, life is so much better now for him and family are gradually reconnecting with him, and with greater understanding of Autism/Aspergers. I know what it is to be on the receiving end of those monologues, and that ‘poor me’ attitude, etc, even to the point of being woken in the night to listen to a spiel. You’re doing well to self-preserve and maintain this relationship. Takes a lot of patience and understanding. Hope your father manages to find a life outside of the safety of what he currently knows, which can be a difficult step. He has to want and need it though. Have to say, many on the spectrum prefer the reclusive existence and are quite happy with minimal external contact. I learned to self-support on pretty much all levels from a young age. I hope you have found the emotional support you need, elsewhere.

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