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How to Defend Against Emotional Vampires

By Judith Orloff, MD

In my book, The Empath's Survival Guide, I discuss how emotional vampires can wear many different disguises -- from workplace bullies to needy relatives to poor-me complainers. Intentionally or not, these people can make us feel depressed, overwhelmed, defensive, wiped out and angry.

Without effective self-defense strategies to keep them at bay, victims of emotional vampires sometimes develop unhealthy behaviors and symptoms, such as overeating, isolating, mood swings or feeling fatigued.

Here are five common types of emotional vampires we often encounter, along with some "silver bullet" tips for fending them off. Note: These emotional vampires can be either gender.

Type #1: The "Poor Me" Victim.

This vampire believes the world is against her, and demands that others rescue her, listen to her complaints, and feel sorry for her.
Self-defense tips: It's not your job to be her therapist. Nor should you waste your energy advising her to buck up. Limit your interactions by politely excusing yourself or cutting the conversation short -- and don't get involved in her self-pity.

Type #2: The Narcissist.

For this vampire, everything is about him. He is ego-centric, self-important and starved for admiration and attention. He may be charming and intelligent -- until his guru status is threatened.
Self-defense tips: Enjoy his good qualities, but have realistic expectations. His motto is "me-first," so getting angry or stating your needs won't have any effect on him. To get his cooperation, appeal to his self-interest and show him how your request will benefit him.

Type #3: The Human Rollercoaster.

This vampire may treat you like her very best friend and confidante in the morning, and then launch a rageaholic attack against you in the afternoon. She's often threatening and keeps everyone around her walking on eggshells.
Self-defense tips: With such an unpredictable and volatile person, it's wise to establish firm boundaries and be solution-oriented when dealing with her. Avoid confronting her, refuse to take sides, and when she's raging at you, avoid eye contact. It's helpful to visualize a protective shield around you when you're being emotionally attacked.

Type #4: The Control Freak.

This vampire has an opinion about everything, thinks he knows what's best for you and everyone else, has a rigid sense of right and wrong, and needs to be the alpha male.
Self-defense tips: Don't be intimidated or bowled over. Be confident and speak up. It's a trap to get caught up in arguing over the small stuff; the control freak will wear you out if you do. Simply assert your needs, and then agree to disagree.

Type #5: The Criticizer.

This vampire feels perfectly entitled to judge you, belittle you and bolster her own ego by making you feel small, ashamed and inferior.
Self-defense tips: The first thing you should know about the critic is that her need to put others down has nothing to do with you, so don't take what she says personally. Instead, address her misplaced criticism directly. Don't get defensive, but express appreciation for any parts of what she says that may be useful. Send some love and kindness her way; she needs it.

* * * * *

Judith Orloff, M.D., is the New York Times bestselling author of the new book, The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, and offers an invaluable resource to help empathic people survive in an often insensitive world. She is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty and synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting-edge knowledge of intuition and energy medicine and spirituality. She has a Facebook Empath Support Community with more than 6,000 members. Learn more at drjudithorloff.com.

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