Conquering Emotional Vampires: Simple Steps to Setting Healthy Boundaries

demanding girl looking at exhausted guy - setting healthy boundaries with emotional vampires

We thrive on our relationships. But, what if our relationships leave us exhausted and drained? Did someone immediately come to mind? Most of us can think of someone in our lives that although we love, we still walk away from a little weaker. This is what can be referred to as an Emotional Vampire. When we take a step back and evaluate this relationship, we’re left with no choice but to make a change. Let’s explore what it means to have a relationship with an Emotional Vampire and some simple steps to creating healthy boundaries.

Importance of Setting Healthy Boundaries

As a clinical psychotherapist, I’ve had the pleasure of working with celebrities, pro athletes, semi-pro athletes, and executives on peak performance and emotional management. Like any determined athlete, high performers in business, entertainment or entrepreneurship, we seek to develop best practices to compete in our demanding society. Oftentimes, I find that a common underlining challenge for many professionals originates from their inability to say, “no” or set healthy boundaries in their relationships.

Personally, I learned this important skill set as I traveled the world during my fashion career developing healthy (and some very unhealthy) relationships along the way. When I decided to “cut away the fat” and remove certain people from my life, I intentionally said “yes” to life and “no” to negative, draining relationships.

Just as I have draining relationships, you do as well. The best way to protect yourself from negative, draining relationships is to identify them.

What are Emotional Vampires?

These are types of relationships that drain us of our emotional currency and leaves us emotionally bankrupt. It’s the girlfriend that constantly reminds you that you drive a subpar vehicle. It’s the sibling that continually highlights your high school failures. It’s the coworker who steals the limelight when you succeed. Or the parent who accuses you of victimizing them every time you have a disagreement. Emotional vampires are everywhere. Can you identify yours?

According to Judith Orloff, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, there are 5 Emotional Vampires (and I’ve added two additional according to my studies on self-concept).

two men arguing and disturbing their coworkers - setting healthy boundaries with emotional vampires

7 Common Types of Emotional Vampires and the Best Ways to Set Healthy Boundaries:

The Narcissist:

Like most symptoms of any narcissist, grandiosity is at the core. The self-seeking approach to connecting with others can drain the emotional life out of any relationship. He thrives on attention and visibility. He wants all of your emotional currency and more.

The best way to set healthy boundaries with The Narcissist is to minimize your expectation. You may enjoy his company or love him because he’s your brother; nevertheless, establish your relationship based on his ability to deposit positive currency into your emotional bank. His ability is limited, so do not allow him to drain you because your expectations are higher than his ability to deliver.

The Victim:

You will never win. No matter what you do to encourage her to be strong, she will always believe the world is against her—including you. She will bate you into rescuing her over and over again.

The best way to set a healthy boundary with the victim is to refuse to buy into her pity party. Reserve your emotional currency for yourself because she will drain you with each encounter.

The Controller:

He dominates you. He dominates others. He wants to regulate your decisions, your thoughts, and your emotions. By the time you leave his presence, you will have second-guessed your abilities, your confidence and maybe your existence. You are helpless to the controller because you are not as wise or as confident.

The best way to set a healthy boundary with the controller is to stand your ground. You must know who you are and what you want. Set your expectations according to who you are versus who he is. Establish your voice and set your limits with him. Do not allow him to cross the boundary without a consequence.

The Criticizer:

She is better than you—at least, that is what she believes. She does not have a problem letting you know that you are not as good. As a matter of fact, she uses your flaws against you every time you expose your vulnerabilities.

The best way to set a healthy boundary with the criticizer is to close your emotional bank. She cannot make an emotional withdrawal or a deposit without your approval. Refuse to let the projection of her negative advances get under your skin. Remember, it’s not personal, it’s just who she is. Take it with a grain of salt and protect your emotional bank.

The Splitter:

He is emotionally unstable; up one minute and down the next. He thrives on keeping you off balance. His emotions may appear to blow with the wind. His emotional instability keeps you guessing and provokes joy followed by intense fear.

The best way to set healthy boundaries with the splitter is to limit your interactions and learn to manage your own emotions as opposed to allowing him to take you on a roller-coaster ride. Protect your emotional wellness through meditation, reframing or guided imagery.

The Manipulator:

She flatters you and sings your praise. She knows your weaknesses and what makes you tick. The manipulator intentionally strategizes to accomplish a personal agenda. To manipulate you means she will ultimately get what she wants at your expense. She is crafty and smart.

So, the best way to establish a healthy boundary is to acknowledge your needs and find a healthier way to fulfill them. Don’t fall for the false adoration. Knowing yourself is half the battle. Remember, you are continuously manipulated because of low self-concept.

The Addict:

Emotional addictions are just as powerful as eating and substance addictions. The emotional addict is addicted to the feelings stimulated by certain relationships. The Addict will pursue you to get a fix. He does not know how to self-soothe or manage healthy emotions. Instead, he finds stimulation by provoking reactions, engagements or experiences.

The best way to set healthy boundaries with an emotional addict is to become aware of your own emotional addition. What sets you off? What triggers feelings of self-doubt or unworthiness? Know yourself. Once you become aware, you will see the red flags in others.


Emotional Vampires are often our best friends, our coworkers, and our family members. We can’t get away from them, but we can set emotional boundaries. A boundary is a limit. Establish your limits with Emotional Vampires and your emotional health will thrive.

About the Author

Author, Counselor, and Talk Show Host Jada Jackson is known for her transparent, practical style of communicating and training. Her ultimate goal is to guide her clients into a meaningful and purposeful living, particularly in the areas of personal and professional development, emotion management, and behavioral modification. Jada is the President of Total Life Counseling Center – Dallas. She is a graduate of Regent University and has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Professional Communication and a Master of Arts Degree in Human Services Counseling. Jada also has a Master of Science Degree in Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Mental Health from Palm Beach Atlantic University and a doctorate degree from Argosy University in Counselor Education and Supervision. Jada is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the state of Florida and a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Texas.
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