Science Confirms That Some People Consume Your Energy

Vampires exist, but not as literature and cinema shows them to be.
Science Confirms That Some People Consume Your Energy

Last update: 25 April, 2022

We often call them emotional vampires. They’re people who infect you with their negative emotions, consume your energy, and leave you feeling fed up and exhausted. Scientists claim that these types of dynamics can completely undermine your psychological well-being due to the curious impact they have on your brain.

It’s interesting how popular psychology likes to make use of specific terminologies to describe certain behavioral processes. Calling these kinds of people ’emotional vampires’ is one such really effective metaphor.

“Don’t let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.” 

-Dalai Lama-

However, any expert on the subject will tell you that, in addition to consuming your energy, a fact that’s been scientifically proven, these people also infect you with their own emotions. Let’s take an example. Say a new colleague arrives at your workplace. As you get to know them, you realize that they never say anything positive about what’s happened to them, they’re just always complaining. 

When you’re with this person, despite almost constantly asking yourself “Why am I even listening to them?”, you can’t avoid getting infected with their negativism. In fact, it may even affect your own productivity at work. There’s an interesting study concerning these types of people, whom the authors describe as ‘bad apples’.

These kinds of people can be found in every work environment. Furthermore, their negative attitude, can ‘infect’ the entire workforce. Indeed, they manage to create authentic hostile environments where more than one worker might end up requesting sick leave because they literally feel ‘burned out’.

However, the phenomenon of the rotten apple or the emotional vampire encompasses many more contexts and displays many more dynamics.


What happens in your brain when others consume your energy?

To understand what happens when, day after day, you have to interact or be in close proximity to a victimizing, negative, or simply exhausting person, we’re going to take a trip back to our evolutionary past. Due to the process of natural selection, your brain has been programmed to understand sociability and contact with others not only as something positive, but necessary. Thus, in order to increase their chances of survival, our ancestors formed nuclei of several individuals.

Therefore, you need other people to feel good, to relate to each other, and create meaningful bonds. When you do so, your brain releases oxytocin. Nevertheless, when you fail to bond with someone and they treat you with hostility or mistrust, your brain releases cortisol, the stress hormone. In this way, a specific sensation will inhabit your mind: that of threat.

We must also consider what happens in the sophisticated network of interconnected cells that make up your mirror neuron system. This system is oriented to register and process each person’s facial expression or body language. It often makes you become infected with the same emotional states as those around you. Scientists claim that some are more sensitive than the rest to this kind of ‘impregnation’. Hence, gradually, a poisoned cocktail is formed that affects your own health and psychological balance.

The effect of chemical stress on your brain caused by a feeling of permanent threat combined with the contagion of negative emotions that you receive from others, makes you experience a single and persistent desire: to escape.

sad woman with bird in her hair exhausted by loss of energy

What to do to maintain good energy levels

We’d love to be able to tell you that to deal with emotional vampires or people who consume your energy, you just have to stay away from them, but this would be little more than wishful thinking. That’s because, if there’s one thing we all know, it’s that there are few of us who are able to leave our job just because there’s a ‘bad apple’ in the workplace. Furthermore, none of us can distance ourselves forever from a mother or sibling who takes away our feelings of desire, happiness, and energy every time we meet with them.

“The wicked envy and hate; it is their way of admiring.”

-Victor Hugo-

A good book to learn about the subject and to continue delving into relevant scientific studies is Emotional Contagion. Studies in Emotion and Social Interaction by Elaine Hatfield. In this book, the author explains that the best thing is to learn to be ‘impervious’ to these types of interactions in order to safeguard one’s physical and emotional well-being.

Next, we suggest you reflect on some ideas.

woman holding roof shaped umbrella

Three keys to help you conserve your energy

  • You have defense mechanisms to control these people. One effective way to train yourself is by ‘deactivating’ the impact they have on you. For example, don’t hesitate to repeat the following mantra to yourself: “They’ll only consume my energies as much as I allow them to”.
  • Rationalize. There are people who have the insistent habit of talking only about negative things and how badly life treats them. One way to stop them is to assertively rationalize with them. Tell them, “I’d like you to talk to me about positive things for once.”
  • Learn to say no. This strategy is both simple and effective. From now on, tell your emotional vampire that you don’t have time to listen to their criticism. Furthermore, explain that you won’t participate in their nasty rumors. Most importantly, tell them that you refuse to be mistreated in any way.

You must become aware of your own needs in order to prevent others from exploiting you and consuming your energy. Naturally, it’s not always possible for you to surround yourself with the kinds of people who bring you balance and happiness. For this reason, you need to learn how to handle those who bring you nothing but torment with respect and maturity, but also with the firmness that comes from knowing what you want.

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