Guard Against Energy Vampires and Zombies

a woman meditating in an office with stressful coworkers

Energy vampires and emotional zombies are real-life relatives, co-workers or neighbors who deplete your energy so dramatically that your health and sense of well-being suffer.

“If you surround yourself in emotional energy that is negative, that’s going to get into your physical energy and that can cause all types of sickness and disease” warns Caryn Bellews, a Massachusetts-based reiki master teacher and licensed massage therapist.

Chances are you’ve been “bitten” by an energy vampire if, after an interaction, you find yourself exhausted and wondering, “What just happened?” 

Do an Emotional Energy Audit 

Dr. Judith Orloff is assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA and bestselling author of Emotional Freedom. She recommends conducting an energy audit of the people in your life.

First, make a  a list of everyone, and then jot down how you feel while with them and afterward. Does any interaction make you sleepy? Do telephone conversations drain you? Do you come away from every conversation energized? How does your body respond? Do you get headaches or stomachaches or feel tightness in the chest?

Types of Energy Vampires

Bellew agrees that education is crucial and knowing how to identify the types of energy vampires in your life will help you use strategies specifically designed to minimize their negative impact on you.

  • The Narcissist

    First, there is the narcissist,” she says, “the energy hog who is always right and everything is about them. They are very, very toxic,” she says.

    The best way to deal with them is not to have them in your life. If that’s not possible, it helps to show them how their help or involvement in a project benefits them. Because they are so selfish, she says, they respond best to self-interest.

  • The Victim

    The victim is another type of energy vampire. “They are woe is me all of the time,” she says and have lots of problems. While you might think brainstorming or problem solving might help, “It’s a waste of energy” Bellew says. “You could give them 100 solutions and they’d have 1000 excuses.”

    She says the best tactic with victims is to limit the amount of time you listen to them. They will take as much time as you give them, so it is up to you to set time limits and boundaries when speaking with them. At the beginning of an interaction, say something like, “I only have five minutes.” Cut them off when their time is up so you don’t get sucked dry.

  • The Controller

    The controller is a vampire who feasts on your life, who tries to fix it and gives endless advice when you haven’t asked for any. These people need to “dominate all interactions,” says Bellew.

    With them, it is often easier to just concede on unimportant issues. “Let them have it,” she says if it's something you aren't invested in. If it’s an interpersonal issue or something important to you, be confident and clear and don’t expect compromise. The best outcome might be “agreeing to disagree” because they will see most exchanges as win/lose and the best you might get is a draw. With them, you want to keep energy neutral and contact minimal.

  • The Criticizer

    Criticizers are easy to recognize. They are the vampires who belittle you and point out your flaws and get joy from making you feel bad.

    With them, Bellew says, “Kill them with kindness"—an approach that disarms them. The criticizer is a bully. By refusing to get hurt or show it, you deflate them and they lose interest.

    Bellew is quick to point out that “hurt people hurt people” and most energy vampires aren’t injuring you with malicious intent. Usually, they are oblivious to the impact they have on others. In addition, conversation is rarely productive because they are not interested in changing or even aware they have an issue to address.

Are You a Vampire Magnet?

Both Bellew and Orloff believe that some people “attract” energy vampires. If you always have them in your life, you must look at yourself and determine if you need to set clearer boundaries that will protect your time, energy and health more.

Whether you are dealing with energy vampires occasionally or find them in your life more often, knowledge, awareness and the techniques below will help you strengthen your own life energy.

Energy Tools to Protect Against Vampires

Personally and professionally, Bellew uses meditation, visualization, deep breathing and positive self-talk on a daily basis. She suggests you close your eyes for a few moments each morning, take a few deep breaths, and visualize yourself being covered in a thick and protective bubble. If you know you will be with an energy vampire, you can imagine a mirror around you which will reflect away any negative energy that comes toward you.

During the day, Bellew advises being still, scanning your body, and regularly reminding yourself, “I am safe and protected.”

While the techniques might sound simple and easy, she says they are effective. So is stretching, wiggling the toes, and “sending breath to any part of the body that is tense” and encouraging the release of tension.

Body work such as massage or energy work can help release the energy stored in the body and Bellew recommends getting it regularly if you can.

What Are Zombies?

With a vampire, the emphasis is on protecting your energy. But with a zombie, it’s a little different.

Zombies don’t feed on your energy. Instead, they have a flat affect and being with them can make you feel numb, dulled, and tired.

Bellew says Zombies are usually “unfeeling, non-responsive, standoffish or cold.” With them you might notice yourself trying to wake them up or be a cheerleader to them but instead of them getting peppy you end up feeling like you hit a brick wall.

Resist the urge to energize them. “You lose your energy trying to motivate them and it’s not productive,” Bellew says.

Her advice for dealing with zombies is similar for guidance dealing with a resistant toddler. “Give them lots of choices. They resist ownership or follow through unless they are invested. Getting them to be engaged or to show enthusiasm is not always possible, but giving them choices offers the best chance of success.

You can’t always avoid zombies and vampires in the real world or know when you’ll be attacked. However, if someone comes to “suck your blood” you know one bite isn’t fatal and you can minimize the damage and replenish your energy. 

Click to See Our Sources

"What Is an Energy Vampire?

Personal Communication: Caryn Bellews, LMT, 7/13

"Energy Vampires" by Judith Orloff, MD, 


Christine "Cissy" White

After three decades as a lacto-ovo vegetarian, Christine "Cissy" White started eating fish. She is enjoying cooking new dishes with her daughter. White has been published in The Boston Globe, Ms. Magazine online, Elephant Journal, Adoption Today, Role Reboot & Literary Mama. Her website, is about mindful PTSD and living and parenting well.