Even if you haven't heard of an energy vampire, chances are you know one personally.
These are the people who drain emotional energy from those who love them, people who do not know how to act as their own support system and people who depend on other adults to parent them instead of learning how to take care of themselves.
If you're a sensitive person who derives real enjoyment from caring for others or you simply have poor boundary-setting skills, you're a natural magnet for these energy vampires.
Here are five signs your "friend" is actually sucking your life force away:
1. You feel guilt for no apparent reason.
If your friend is unconsciously relying on you to care for them as a parent would, that's a clear sign of codependency.
Other signs of codependency are feeling guilty when you tell them you can't hang out or when you can't text them back right away.
You may even feel guilty at the thought of telling them how you feel, and you may respond to that guilt by ignoring your own needs.
2. You feel uncomfortable around them and don't "know" why.
You may not consciously know why, but you intuitively do.
The last energy vampire I interacted with made me uncomfortable after telling me how much she liked me as a person.
To be clear, this isn't my normal reaction to someone telling me they like my personality, and I wasn't being defensive.
It was my intuition saying, "I don't trust where this is coming from." I didn't listen to it, and it ended up biting me in the ass.
If you sense, even in a vague way, that someone is showering you with love and attention in a way that feels like you're being groomed for something, know it's OK to withdraw from the interaction immediately.
3. You have nightmares about the person.
On paper, it seems pretty obvious that if you're having nightmares about your friends, they might not be great people for you. IRL, though, it's a little more complicated.
If you're having nightmares about someone whom you have a close relationship with, you may feel more confused than anything else. You might even share it with them, thinking it's silly or brushing it off.
After all, we don't really know what it means to have a nightmare about someone.
But it all comes down to one simple fact, which is obvious on paper.
You are having nightmares about one of your closest friends. WAKE. UP.
4. They take your feelings personally.
When you eventually come to the point of having to tell your friend how you feel, your words may get twisted in a way that makes it seem like your friend is being attacked.
I once had a friend who continually commented on my feelings like a therapist would. It felt invasive, and I asked my friend to stop.
That's when the friendship unraveled like a ball of yarn. Instead of acknowledging what I had asked for, my friend told me I was keeping him from being himself.
Don't fall for this. It's always OK to set boundaries.
When you stick to one, it may cause that codependent relationship to fall apart, but so be it.
5. You feel swept up in whatever they are going through.
You may not know exactly how, but when you are in this person's presence, you may feel like you lose your grip on yourself a bit.
You may say something to your friend and later ask yourself why you said it or where it came from, as if someone else was speaking through you.
There is a strong tendency to be swept up in whatever emotion the energy vampire is is going through because the pull of their negativity is extremely strong.
It's natural to want to help someone you care about, but there's a difference between caring and being a caretaker, just as there is a difference between being selfish and acting in self-interest.
Being a caretaker is doing something for someone that they cannot do for themselves. Before you do something for someone, ask yourself if they're really incapable of doing it, or if they just feel incapable of doing it.
Remember, it's important not to judge yourself for allowing this person into your life. Judging yourself will only make changing the behavior harder.
The good news is, there are multiple ways to remove the influence of an energy vampire from your life.
You can distance yourself from them, you can detach from them entirely (if possible) or you can set clear boundaries and be assertive about them.
Most importantly, you can recognize this is a learning experience for you as well.
Nobody comes into life with a handbook. We're all fumbling our way to greatness.