Science Confirms That Some People Consume Your Energy

Vampires exist, but not as literature and cinema portray.
Science Confirms That Some People Consume Your Energy
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

We often refer to them as 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 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, instead, they’re always complaining. 

When you’re with this person, despite almost constantly asking yourself “Why am I even listening to them?”. You can’t avoid feeling 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 feel burned out.

However, the phenomenon of the rotten apple or the emotional vampire encompasses more contexts and demonstrates 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 is programmed to understand sociability and contact with others not only as something positive, but necessary. Moreover, in order to increase their chances of survival, our ancestors formed nuclei of several individuals.

As such, you need other people to help you feel good, relate to each other, and create meaningful bonds. When you do these things, your brain releases oxytocin. However, when you fail to bond with someone and they treat you with hostility or mistrust, your brain releases cortisol, the stress hormone. When this happens, a specific sensation will inhabit your mind: 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 can infect you with the same emotional states as those around you. Scientists claim that some people are more sensitive than others to this kind of impregnation. As a result, a poisonous cocktail gradually forms which affects your own health and psychological balance.

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

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

How 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-

To learn more about this subject and delve into relevant scientific studies, you can read the book, Emotional Contagion. Studies in Emotion and Social Interaction by Elaine Hatfield. In this book, the author explains how to be ‘impervious’ to these types of interactions in order to safeguard one’s physical and emotional well-being.

We also suggest you reflect on some of the following ideas.

woman holding roof shaped umbrella

Three keys to help you conserve your energy

  • You have defense mechanisms to control the effect that these people have on you. One effective way to train yourself is by ‘deactivating’ the impact they have on you. For example, you can 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 only talking about negative things and how life treats them badly. One way to stop them from doing this 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.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.