How to Spot and Deal With an Energy Vampire
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By: Stephanie Jade Wong for Shine
Do you ever hang out with a friend, get home, and realize they drained all the energy out of you — yet again? That person could be an energy vampire.
Yup, it’s a real thing. According to PsychCentral, energy vampires (or, energy vamps, if you will) tend to be emotionally immature, self-centered, and lack empathy. And they can suck your energy — whether they know it or not. Spending time with them can leave you feeling exhausted, irritable, angry, sad, overwhelmed, or anxious.
How Energy Vampires Make You Feel
Energy vampires can pop up anywhere. Maybe it’s that co-worker who targets you at the water cooler to talk about their drama every. single. day. Or, maybe it’s that best friend, who just takes and takes — unless she’s serving up copious amounts of guilt that falls on your shoulders.
Tracy Garraud (AKA Tracy G.), a SiriusXM on-air personality and audio vision board creator, knows the feeling. She’s personally dealt with a toxic friend and energy vampire. With this person, she told Shine it felt like she couldn’t show her authentic self.
“It was like walking through a revolving door,” Tracy G. says. “One version of me wasn’t good enough, so I would exit stage left. Another version of me would come through and that wasn’t good enough, so I would exit stage right. After a while, it’s like, ‘Why am I concealing my true self?’”
The 32-year-old Brooklynite says the friend didn’t seem comfortable cheering her on as her career progressed. “I felt like happiness was a foreign feeling for them unless it had to do with their own world,” she says.
To Tracy G., a win is not just her win — she wants to share it with the people closest to her and wave that victory flag together. “They have their fingerprints on that win (too) simply because their fingerprints are on me,” she says. And that toxic friend in her life just couldn’t get on board.
But it’s not always easy to spot an energy vampire. Sometimes you can spot a toxic friend from miles away, other times it’s a buildup of events that lead you to the conclusion.
Here, Tracy G. shares her tips for dealing with toxic friends and energy vampires.
1. Be an Observer
Collect toxic moments and store them in your “memory museum,” as Tracy G. calls it. Sure, all people are entitled to their moods and moments. But pay attention to see if your friend owns up to that moment — or brushes it off and keeps repeating the habit. “Mood swings happen,” Tracy G. says. “Wild, impulsive reactions happen — and it’s just a matter of if someone takes responsibility.”
Sometimes, all the puzzle pieces don’t seem to fit until you have just the right amount to see the full picture.
2. Move Past Assumption and Move Toward Facts
Once you’ve collected all those puzzle pieces, have a conversation. A friend is a friend because they’re there for you on a cloudy day and when skies are clear.
Even though it might feel uncomfortable, you need to check-in and see what that friend might be going through.
“Sometimes a sickness shows up with a rash,” Tracy G. explains. “You don’t check on it and now we have a full-blown type of disease. So you have to check on it early, and that check-up is a conversation.”
Tracy G. emphasizes that you shouldn’t go into that chat pointing fingers and making accusations. You could say:
“I’m not sure if you know this, and I’m 100% sure you’re not being intentional about this, but I’ve been feeling like lately _.”
“When I texted you, I was hoping your reaction would be more like _. I just wanted to check in on you to see how you are or if I was doing something that was making you uncomfortable.”
Your friend might hit you with the biggest apology ever, or they might just act aloof.
If your friend is making you feel like you’re insane for bringing up your concerns, maybe they have to see things in a different light.
“For some people, you give them a book and they don’t want to open the book,” Tracy G. says. “You have to give them a movie or a podcast. Or, they’ve just got to go out in life and let themselves get bit at the ankle.”
3. Bless Them With Your Absence
So your friend may be going through a bad week or bad month — that doesn’t mean you have to go through it with them every step of the way and let them knock you down.
Part of getting over a toxic friendship — or giving space for an energy vampire to check themselves — is changing your environment.
“Sometimes distance make the heart grow fonder — or fonder of distance,” Tracy G. said. “Either way, you will learn and they will learn.”
We can easily see breaking up with a friend as a “forever” thing, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Use the break as a litmus test to see if you want to keep working on the friendship.
“You guys could be in completely different seasons (now), but then you guys may sync again later in life,” Tracy G. said.
And, ultimately, if you find that closing the chapter on the friendship is the best option, you’ll know you did your due diligence.
Need help dealing with a toxic friend? Download Shine’s new iOS app and work through it with Tracy G. — she’ll ask what you’re going through and serve up specific advice.