Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

On Halloween: 5 Emotional Vampires — and How to Combat Them


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.


Judith Orloff, MD (, is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA. Her new book, upon which these tips are based, is “Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life.”

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  • l-carnitine

    Um, the vampires in Twilight are pretty emotional… combat them with hugs?
    No but seriously, I’m pretty sure my best friend is a splitter, and I’ve tried a number of things in the past, but I find that calling them on their clear cut cognitive dissonance issues, often makes them reflect a little more about the congruence of their day to day behaviour.

  • Mother Grieving

    Hi Therese!
    I like this post so much, that with you permission, I would love to use it as a post (with all due credit to you of course) on my Thursday’s Therapy for my blog Mother Grieving Loss of Child. I thank you for your research that discovered this handling-difficult-people subject and ways to combat their particular potentially-toxic idiosyncrasies all within a clever Halloween theme!
    Thank you so much,
    Angie B. Prince

  • Heather Whistler

    It’s interesting to think about how these vampire personality types play off each other and engender unhealthy attitudes in others.
    I grew up with a Controller (my dad), and I turned into a Victim (until I learned how to take my power back). If you’re interested, here’s a little more background:

  • jinxedmathie

    Have you ever thought that these “vampires” are people too? I live with the diagnosis “narcissistic personality disorder”. I didn’t ask to be who I am. I’m working on changing those parts of me that don’t work so well. But change is never easy even if you hate what you are.
    I once told a therapist that I felt intrinsically deformed and detestable. She asked me what I knew about personality disorders. I dared her to find me something to read about being a narcissistic mother that could let me feel good about myself. She came up empty handed.
    tt’s ironic: I’m vilified in the very blogs that I read to help me deal with my mental health problems. Maybe this attitude is “me first”: I don’t know. Right now I’m hurting too badly.

  • Betsy

    The last time I saw my mother we had had “words”..and on the way home I told my brother I didnt care to see her anymore and I called her an Emotional Vampire. I swore next time I saw her I would come out and just ask her if she could forgive me for “whatever” & it would be over. Well it turns out the last time I saw her WAS the LAST TIME I saw her. We buried her last week. My advice is always give a second chance or a third or a millionth chance. If you have to have the last word..let it be SORRY..followed by I LOVE YOU You always feel like a child when your parents are alive but when they are gone you feel more alone. Now I am a 60 year old orphan..a motherless child. Think long and hard before calling anyone is the time to discuss it God Bless All

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