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5 signs your friend is an energy vampire, even if you're lifelong besties

Julia Pugachevsky   

5 signs your friend is an energy vampire, even if you're lifelong besties
  • It's normal for one friend to need more support sometimes if they're struggling.
  • But if it's a consistent pattern, they might be an energy vampire, a psychologist said.

You see your friend's name pop up on your phone, but you avoid picking it up. You know from the last six times you spoke that they'll just analyze a new person they're dating or vent about their boss the whole time. At no point will they ask you a question about your life, or if they do, they'll inevitably switch the conversation back to themselves.

Aptly referred to as an "energy vampire," this type of friend "depletes your internal resources," Jill Weber, a psychologist in Washington, DC, told Business Insider.

While there's no such thing as a perfectly 50/50 relationship, and a friend might temporarily need more from you if they're going through a tough time, an energy vampire never seems to get past that breakup or dissatisfying job. Even when things are looking up for them, they still don't know how to redirect their attention to you for a change.

"They're people who kind of take and they don't give, or they're kind of filling the whole space with things that are really toxic or negative or judgmental," Weber said.

It's not always easy to notice — or admit — that a friend is deeply unpleasant, especially when the way forward isn't clear.

Weber shared some key signs your friend could be an energy vampire — and what to do if you're not ready to fully call it quits.

1. You rarely feel good after you talk

Weber said one of the most immediate signs of serious imbalance in a relationship is how you feel after hanging out or chatting on the phone.

"You walk away feeling worse or less energetic, or there's something kind of nagging at you," Weber said. "Negative feelings come up as a result of that interaction." You might start to feel long-term mental-health changes from spending so much time together.

Weber said that, by contrast, in a mutually reciprocal relationship, "you usually walk away feeling kind of restored, like a little bounce in your step," even if you had a serious or difficult conversation.

2. They treat you like an emotional garbage can

While the word "vampire" may conjure the image of a friend sucking the life out of you, Weber said energy vampires drain you by doing the opposite and bombarding you with "one rant after another."

"You kind of feel like you're an emotional receptacle," she said. "Someone's just kind of throwing up at you."

While friendship-communication styles can differ where one person generally shares more than the other, an energy vampire won't notice if you have your own problems or haven't had a turn to speak.

3. They generally lack self-awareness

Weber said that often, energy vampires don't realize how their emotionally immature behavior affects their relationships.

"Even to be talking to your friend repeatedly in that emotional-receptacle way, that lack of self-awareness usually translates to their work environment, to their family relationships, to romantic relationships," she said. You might notice that they don't really show up for their other friends, either.

4. They have frequent drama in their lives

An energy vampire's lack of self-awareness can also create the very drama they complain about, Weber said. They might unload all their problems onto a new partner, eventually leading to a breakup. Or they might only see their side of things at work, contributing to constant tension with their coworkers.

"That's why the list of what's going on seems to never end, because of that lack of insight of how they're acting in ways that are self-defeating or sabotaging," she said.

5. They often don't take feedback well

If you've wanted to tell the energy vampire in your life how you feel but hesitated, Weber said the instinct to hold back isn't unfounded.

"Usually folks with very little insight do not respond well when they're confronted," she said. "They really struggle to take in that information, get very defensive, will turn the tables on you."

Weber said the situation can be "really tricky," but at the same time, it doesn't mean you have to tolerate it.

One option is to set appropriate boundaries, such as how much time you spend on the phone with them. If you feel comfortable being open about your reasoning, you can say something along the lines of, "I'm noticing that after our past two conversations that I felt really depleted, so I think I'm going to have to shift out of this."

Sometimes, a friend might be going through a rough patch and not realize they've commandeered the conversation.

But if you've tried this and it didn't go well, or if you realize that your friend has always been like this, it might just be a sign you've outgrown the friendship.


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