HSPs have plenty of empathy to “feed” on, which makes them prone to “energy vampires.”
If you’ve ever read Bram Stoker’s Dracula or seen the fantastic movie Let the Right One In, you know that vampires must ask before they can enter someone’s house. Only when the ignorant main character invites the vampire into their home do they seal their fate. Once the vampire has been invited inside, they can come and go as they please.
Highly sensitive people (HSPs), too, must be careful about letting a real-life ghoul into their hearts and minds: the energy vampire. Much like Dracula, energy vampires will use an invitation of kindness to their advantage, draining others of their emotional energy. And although they don’t have fangs or burn in sunlight, energy vampires are very dangerous to HSPs.
There are a few reasons why HSPs are especially vulnerable to the hazards of energy vampires. But first, let’s talk about energy vampires and how you can recognize one before it’s too late.
What Is an ‘Energy Vampire’?
Energy vampires are those who “feed” off of other peoples’ attention and empathy. They leave you exhausted — and maybe even depressed — after you finally say “goodbye.”
With most people, there’s a give and take in a relationship. Each party provides a degree of emotional support, a balance between listening and speaking. We’ve all unintentionally talked about ourselves too much in a conversation, but energy vampires take it a step further.
In an energy vampire’s mind, everything is about them, and that’s why they love spending time with people who put others first (as HSPs tend to do). They sense when someone is willing to listen and care, and they take advantage of that, whether it’s intentional or unintentional.
These types of people also tend to be emotionally immature. Anything negative that happens in their life is always happening to them. It’s always someone else’s fault. Unfortunately, they will complain about each issue in their life instead of ever taking action to find a solution.
Does this make you think of people you’ve come across in life? If you’re a highly sensitive person, you’ll want to be extra cautious about energy vampires. They can take advantage of the traits that make HSPs so caring, generous, and empathetic — and there are a few reasons why the nature of energy vampires is threatening to HSPs.
3 Reasons Why HSPs Are Extra Affected by Energy Vampires
1. HSPs have plenty of empathy to “feed” on.
HSPs are naturally very empathetic because they can easily picture themselves in others’ positions. They enjoy helping other people feel better and are likely to listen carefully when someone is having a hard time. While this is a positive trait within a healthy relationship, it quickly becomes toxic with energy vampires.
People who seek an unhealthy amount of care and validation can often sense when someone is extra receptive to giving those things. Energy vampires often latch onto HSPs because they know they’ve found someone who will listen to their woes and empathize with them longer than other people.
2. Negative emotions can cling to HSPs.
Sensitive people are highly aware of others’ moods and can even take on others’ emotions as their own. As a result, HSPs will feel the impacts of energy vampires more profoundly. Being around someone who is constantly upset about something will take its toll quickly.
HSP brains also continue processing, even when they’re “at rest.” They need time to quietly think about the thoughts and interactions they have throughout each day.
So, after an energy vampire finishes venting to the HSP about their latest griefs, the HSP must deal with everything they’ve heard. And because the brain has a negativity bias, negative thoughts and emotions will stick around longer. A highly sensitive person might feel anxious, depressed, or emotionally exhausted for hours (or sometimes days) afterward.
Since HSPs are so receptive to others, they are at a heightened risk of getting dragged down to the energy vampire’s level.
3. It’s harder for HSPs to say “no.”
Fictional vampires have to ask for permission to enter your house, but real-life energy vampires can enter an HSP’s world without so much as a knock.
Because sensitive people have such a great deal of empathy, they can put themselves in others’ shoes. They’ve probably taken the time to listen to the energy vampire’s issues, and they’ve tried their best to understand why they need attention.
The HSP might know the other person is not good for them, but they’ll get into a spiral of “but what about”-isms:
- What if I didn’t try hard enough to help them?
- What if they can’t get out of their negative situation because of [insert excuse]?
- What will they do if I’m not there to listen?
- How about if I sacrifice this or that in my life to be there for them?
While non-HSPs might have an easier time cutting the person off, ignoring their texts, and making sure the person doesn’t occupy their mind, it’s not that straightforward for HSPs.
Being so empathetic can make it incredibly hard for an HSP to get rid of a toxic person. HSPs have a tough time saying “no” because they don’t like disappointing people. As an HSP myself, putting myself first can sometimes make me feel worse because I’m so worried about how the other person feels.
Thankfully, HSPs can ward off energy vampires by staying extra aware of a few things.
5 Ways HSPs Can Protect Themselves From ‘Energy Vampires’
1. Recognize when someone is an energy vampire.
The first step is realizing when someone is an energy vampire. The greatest way to know is that you feel exhausted when you’re around them. According to Dr. Judith Orloff, author of The Empath’s Survival Guide, your body’s intuition gives you signs that this person is not emotionally healthy.
For example, you might feel completely drained after spending time with them, even if that visit is short. Or maybe you experience feelings of anxiety, guilt, or apprehension when you think about them. HSPs are sensitive to everyone’s energy, but energy vampires leave us with especially bad feelings.
2. Create boundaries and know your limits.
It’s a good idea to set firm boundaries with yourself regarding an energy vampire in your life. (I know — setting boundaries is not easy for us sensitive types!) You might be unable to cut them off completely, and you might not want to. So, you’ll need to take care of yourself by knowing your guidelines.
For example, maybe you’ll say “no” to invitations from this person unless it involves a group of people. This way, you can avoid getting drained if there are other people around to interact with the person, too, and a group outing might even take their mind off of their sorrows.
Another example could be asking the person, after they start complaining to you, if anything would help them feel better. If they don’t have solutions — or aren’t open to solutions and keep complaining — your boundary would be finding an excuse to leave the conversation.
Other boundaries could be not answering calls, texts, or online messages from the person after a specific time or on particular days. Or maybe you start to avoid bringing up topics that trigger the types of conversations that drain you. Only you can figure out what boundaries will work best for you, but setting some up is imperative when it comes to an energy vampire.
Like what you’re reading? Get our newsletter just for HSPs. One email, every Friday. Click here to subscribe!
3. Provide a listening ear, but remember your boundaries.
HSPs are exceptional listeners, a trait that their friends and loved ones value. In some cases, an active listener can actually help an energy vampire, but HSPs should still approach with caution.
Here’s a personal anecdote:
I once worked in a call center for a non-profit that provided services to people with cancer. One day, I got a call from a woman who was incredibly bitter and hostile from the get-go. She immediately turned down any resources I provided to her. I could see from her file that previous employees had had to hang up on her for being inappropriately rude.
Instead of hanging up this time, I asked questions about her needs and mirrored her answers back to her, hoping to show that I cared. She opened up gradually, finally telling me that she had been a pastor for most of her life, helping everyone around her. She never received that same kindness back when she fell ill and admitted she was incredibly bitter about it. Our call actually ended with a kind and appreciative conversation.
That day, listening helped an energy vampire break her negativity spiral and see things more positively. I do believe that can sometimes be the outcome, but at the same time, HSPs are not obligated to be informal therapists. I was feeling extra patient on that phone call — plus, it was my job.
If you give an energy vampire your time to listen, pay attention to your energy levels. If you notice yourself getting dragged down, you have every right to remove yourself.
4. Have a plan for decompression post-energy vampire.
Sensitive people’s kind and caring natures make them especially vulnerable to energy vampires. So, HSPs, remember to care for yourself after an interaction with a draining person. Create an HSP sanctuary where you can quietly relax, process, and do things that bring you joy.
This might mean sacrificing something else on your schedule or simply slowing things down more so that you remember to breathe. But whatever you do to decompress, have some ideas at the ready. Some grounding rituals to try include taking a walk, using a diffuser with your favorite essential oil in it for some aromatherapy, or simply enjoying your favorite hot beverage, like herbal tea.
5. Think big picture — disconnecting from the person may be best (for both of you).
The sad truth is that being there for an energy vampire will not help you or them. You’ll just end up perpetually drained, and they won’t get out of their negative mindset if they’re not willing to change.
It can become easier to distance yourself and decline invitations from an energy vampire if you recognize the relationship is not good on either side. You can still tap into your empathy while acknowledging that letting the person go (or setting firm boundaries) is the most loving thing to do.
In essence, always protect your energy by recognizing how other people make you feel. And save your valuable time for people who will appreciate it and return the favor, not those who will suck you dry without a second thought.
Want to get one-on-one help from a trained therapist? We’ve personally used and recommend BetterHelp for therapy with real benefits for HSPs. It’s private, affordable, and takes place online. As an HSR reader, you get 10% off your first month. Click here to learn more.
We receive compensation from BetterHelp when you use our referral link. We only recommend products when we believe in them.
You might like:
- 6 Tips for Highly Sensitive People and Empaths to Protect Their Energy
- You’re Not ‘Too Sensitive’ for Leaving a Toxic Situation
- 7 ‘Rules’ for Highly Sensitive People to Protect Their Energy
This article contains affiliate links. We only recommend products we truly believe in.