I first learned of “emotional vampires” two years ago after being gifted a copy of Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry by Dr. Albert Bernstein. Though at first I rolled my eyes at the dramatic name, after reading the book I thought the term brilliantly described the types of people I will be discussing today. Dr. Bernstein coined the term after raising an interesting point that is often overlooked in society. An individual qualifies for an official mental illness diagnosis when they experience certain symptoms and act in ways that correspond to a disorder contained in the DSM. However, each individual’s health exists on a continuum, and can range from severe enough to require hospitalization to fairly normal, at least until subjected to enough stress. Emotion vampires (EV) are people who have traits associated with personality disorders, but do not necessarily have severe enough cases to warrant a diagnosis. (In Bernstein’s words, a mental disorder consists in driving oneself crazy. A personality disorder entails a person driving others crazy.) These are people who view the world differently than others. They want everyone’s undivided attention. They want love that demands nothing back. They are those friends who just love having fun and excitement, expecting others to clean up the mess and take care of anything difficult or boring. Or your boss who takes advantage of you, knowing well you have a hard time saying no.
There are five types of ‘vampires’ that are associated with a specific personality disorder: antisocial vampires, histrionic vampires, narcissistic vampires, obsessive-compulsive vampires, and paranoid vampires. Today I will discuss the common characteristics all EVs have, including a lack of maturity and social norms.
A lack of basic maturity is an easy way to identify emotional vampires. Bernstein argues that maturity and mental health are the same thing, and are made up of three components: First, the perception of control, or the notion that over time we learn from our mistakes and our choices get better. We develop a feeling that we have some sort of control over our fate that life's not out to get us. Second, a sense of connection and commitment, such that human connection gives meaning to our lives. As we grow up, we come to understand some basic social rules such as people have the right to deny you, you are not on a superior plane than others, what’s fair is fair, to mention a few. We learn to develop empathy and trust. Without a sense of connection, all we have is ourselves and our needs, which is a very limited and empty place. Third and finally, the Pursuit of Challenge: in order to grow we must face our fears and do things that are sometimes difficult. EVs lack all three of these parts.
In addition to discussing some of the social rules most people in society abide by, Bernstein came up with social rules that emotional vampires follow:
My needs are more important than yours: A person may be a fantastic coworker and friend up until your needs come in conflict with theirs.
The rules apply to others, not me (entitlement): EVs realize how much easier life is when they are the only ones not following the rules other people follow.
It’s not my fault, ever: This references EVs significant lack of responsibility, and the perception that the world is out to get them.
I want it now: The persistent need for immediate gratification. If you cannot provide them with what they want, when they want it, they will come at you.
If I don’t get my way, I throw a tantrum: As a followup to the previous point,f they don’t get their way, misery will follow.
These are just a few of the basic characteristics all EVs share. To avoid being emotionally drained by them, being aware of their differences from the rest of society is important. Next week I will be discussing the five types of emotional vampires- antisocial vampires, histrionic vampires, narcissistic vampires, obsessive-compulsive vampires, and paranoid vampires- and how to protect yourself from them.
- Emile Beniflah
Source: Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry by Albert J. Bernstein, Ph.D
LET ME HELP YOU IDENTIFY AND STAY AWAY FROM EMOTIONAL VAMPIRES: PART 2
In last week’s post I discussed emotion vampires (EV), people who have traits associated with personality disorders, but do not necessarily have severe enough cases to warrant a diagnosis. I talked about the basic characteristics they all share and their lack of maturity. As a follow up to that post, today I want to talk about the five types of emotional vampires- antisocial vampires, histrionic vampires, narcissistic vampires, obsessive-compulsive vampires, and paranoid vampires- and how to protect yourself from them.
First up and most importantly, we have the Antisocial vampire (associated with Antisocial personality disorder traits). These are people who are daredevils, addicted to excitement. Their primary purpose in life is to have a good time and experience immediate gratification for anything they desire. Though such people can be very appealing, desirable, and fun to be around, they will easily use or dump you in the blink of a second. This is the dad who is fun and full of promises one day, only to disappear the next. This is the charming boyfriend that is regularly cheating on his girlfriend and has all the explanations on why its ok. These are the master manipulators that will be great at scheming and lying. They are people who will argue with someone when in the wrong, and get the other person to feel like they screwed up. The way to protect yourself from antisocial vampires is to identify them, know their history and their intentions. Unfortunately it is unlikely that they will change, so remembering who they are and not giving into their charm and empty promises is key. It is critical to set boundaries with all vampires, especially with this type. Another helpful tool is to ignore their tantrums and emotional outbursts when they don’t get their way. Like infants, it is the most effective way to people to stop throwing tantrums.
Next up is the Histrionic Vampires (from Histrionic Personality disorder), which include individuals who live for attention and approval. They too can be charming and present themselves charismatically, but what you see is certainly not what you get. They are experts at hiding their true motivations from themselves, and believe they are just nice people trying to help. This type of vampire can come in many different forms including a passive aggressive type, an overly traumatic type, or a ‘gossipy’ type. All histrionic vampires get lost in the roles they play, and get desperate when people stop paying attention.
Narcissistic Vampires (from Narcissistic Personality disorder) live their own fantasy as the smartest, most brilliant, good looking and successful person in the world. They are some of the most famous emotional vampires, and the most hated. They are overly competitive (in something they know they will win), have a sense of grandiosity and entitlement. They will often visibly appear bored if the conversation is not revolving around them. They believe that what is good for them is all that exists. That is one of the most important things to understand and accept if trying to protect yourself from that one boss or family member. They are not concerned or thinking of you at all. Pick your battles and choose your words carefully when doing so, ignore their tantrums, and know your own limits when dealing with them.
Obsessive-Compulsive Vampires (from OCD Disorder) are fixated on a sense of safety which they believe they can achieve through meticulous attention to detail and control over everything. These people are no inherently out to hurt you, but they will hurt you if you threaten their sense of control. Do not get lost in their dark world of obsessive detail, and keep your mind on the big picture when working or talking to them.
Finally we have the Paranoid Vampires (from Paranoid Personality disorder). These vampires live in delusions of persecution. They live by concrete rules, and are constantly on the lookout for evidence of deviation, which they typically find. You can feel safe and secure around them, until you become a suspect. The problem is that this behavior is often what makes other people go after them. Your best bet is to tell the plain, honest truth, avoiding cross-examination. But easier said than done. Like all previous vampire types, it is important to know your limits and set boundaries with such people.
There are many theories and potential causes that surround personality disorders and the vampires that are extensively talked about in the psych world. What Bernstein emphasized in his book is that understanding a problem is not the same as trying to solve it, which is something many of us can get hung up on. And that it is far more important to comprehend the mechanics of human problems (how they operate and what to do about them) than to speculate what causes them. See you next week, Peace.