There might be affiliate links on this page, which means we get a small commission of anything you buy. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Please do your own research before making any online purchase.
After about 20 minutes of listening to your “best” friend at work tell you in detail about their holiday and the fights they had with their family, they seem totally rejuvenated… while you feel utterly exhausted. Before you can even share a shorthand account of your holiday, they’ve rushed off, apparently with something better to do.
You’ve just been sucked dry by an emotionally draining person. The signs of an emotionally draining person can be missed at first (they don’t want to scare you off), but once you see how they simply use you to vent, cheer them on, or support them, you can’t unsee it.
They demanded your attention, dominated the conversation, and gobbled up all the energy you had for the day. Once they’ve had their fill, they move on, offering nothing in return. Being sucked into their “me, myself, and I” world is like having an oversized baby that constantly screams for attention, leaving no life for you to live.
Are you dealing with an emotionally draining person?
Here are the signs to watch out for and how to avoid getting sucked into their games.
What Does “Emotionally Draining” Mean?
To be emotionally draining means you are high maintenance in your relationships, always demanding that people notice you, speak to you, listen to you, and fuss over you. With an emotionally draining person, their dramas always take precedence over whatever else is going on around them.
An emotionally draining person doesn’t know how to give support to those around them, instead they just take and take, and take some more. The result is that you are left feeling a deep and numbing frustration with the person – like you want to shake them out of their self-obsessed stupor.
You are tired, but they will still ask for more and demand that you sacrifice more time, caring, and energy on their lives. If you are honest, you will feel your body warn you whenever these people come near you.
In a kind of psychosomatic warning system, your body will scream that you should run away when you spend too much time with an emotionally draining person. You will notice aches and pains, physical exhaustion, anxiety, loss of focus, an inability to concentrate, and emotional numbness.
When an emotionally draining person has left your company, you feel like you are shell-shocked. It’s like your whole world is still in shock of their draining presence. Your ears may hurt, and you may feel disoriented.
Why Someone Becomes an Emotional Drain
Of course, an emotionally draining person isn’t always a stranger to you. They may be your own family, a partner, your child, or a close friend. Perhaps they didn’t always drain the life from you as soon as they opened their mouths to speak.
So what happened?
People become emotionally draining when their own energy levels have been exhausted, and ironically, they end up doing the same to you. Emotionally draining people begin to vibrate with negative energy, and since all of life is about balance, they can only find peace and replenish their own energy levels by feeding off yours.
Something may have happened that precipitated the emotional drain, such as the tragic loss of a family member, a personal injury, or a social upset, but the person has learned to cope by dominating others, stealing their willpower and their energy, and thriving on the attention they get.
By paying attention to someone who is emotionally draining you, you are feeding their need to be seen, which makes the cycle repeat. For an emotionally draining person, there is never a point where they’ve had enough attention, and like a ravenous vampire, they can never be sated, which is why they are often called energy vampires.
The Effects of Being around an Emotionally Draining Person
Being near an emotionally draining person can have serious consequences if you don’t realize just what this person does and how it impacts you. They want your undivided attention, and they will drain every last drop of your emotional energy, leaving you without inspiration, hope, and patience.
Some other effects of being around an emotionally draining person include:
When someone is emotionally draining you, it causes emotional exhaustion, which means (like the famous meme) sleep doesn’t help when it’s your soul that’s tired. You become drained and totally spent.
Whatever emotional currency you had is totally bankrupt because of having invested it all in the bad proposition of listening to an emotionally draining person.
Being utterly tired, you soon become irritable. It’s natural to feel robbed and not being able to take it out on the emotionally draining person (since they’ve already moved on and seem to have the mentality of a child), you lash out at those around you.
Most of life is about give and take, so when someone emotionally drains you and then moves on before you can at least offload too, it leaves you with confusion.
You could end up feeling as if you’re not good enough to be listened to since the other person sucked you dry and then moved on without any reciprocity.
Professional therapists and counselors all know how stressful it can be to listen to someone’s personal tragedies and be their sounding board. However, they have been trained how to release that negative energy… and you haven’t been.
The result is that you will feel stressed, like you’ve eaten so much you could burst, but there’s no way to get rid of or purge that heavy load imposed on you.
An emotionally draining person doesn’t add to your cup – they empty it. When you’ve been drained, you feel demotivated and depressed. You just don’t have a single step left in you to walk, much less carry more – and an emotionally draining person often doesn’t know when to stop.
We all have only so much empathy we can extend to others. When that threshold is breached, we end up developing a sense of apathy. Sadly, this apathy isn’t just toward the person who drains you emotionally; it also becomes how you behave toward all people.
With all the stress and loss of empathy, you struggle to let go of all that has been dumped on you. Feeling tired, you want to sleep, but you may find you can’t because the conversations that you had to listen to keep replaying in your head like watching a car wreck happen over and over. Insomnia results from your mind not being settled.
As you can imagine, having to listen to someone else’s life, their stress, experiences, and everything else that they dump on you can lead to serious health challenges. You may start to experience indigestion, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, and even develop stress-related diabetes.
Now you know what signs in yourself to look for when you’ve been dealing with an emotionally draining person, let’s look for signs that someone is an emotionally draining person.
13 Signs of an Emotionally Draining Person
When we come down to it, the signs someone is emotionally draining are pretty obvious, and usually, these signs escalate as they get more comfortable with abusing your time and kindness.
1. They’re Neurotic by Nature
An emotionally draining person is neurotic in their world view. They are always suspicious of others, and they will see you talk with someone else, only to become nervous, anxious, envious, and convinced you’re gossiping about them. When people talk, the emotionally draining person is convinced these people are talking about them.
Deal with It: Don’t entertain neuroticism from these people. Instead, call them out on their neurotic behavior. Ask them if they honestly think other people would spend so much time talking about them.
2. Jealousy Is Habitual
Neuroticism and jealousy run hand in hand, and the emotionally draining person will use jealousy as their default. If you spend time with others, you’ll find they become jealous and punish you with their attention-seeking behavior.
Deal with It: Don’t let them manipulate you into apologizing when you’ve done nothing wrong. You are not responsible for their jealous feelings.
3. It’s Everyone Else’s Fault since they’re not Self-Aware
Emotionally draining people are unable to see themselves, and they lack self-awareness. Because they can’t see what they do wrong, they dive into the same drama again and again.
Deal with It: Remind them they can choose to participate in drama or not. Point out when they cause drama.
4. Join the Emotional Rollercoaster
While you may have four seasons in one day (weather or emotion wise), the emotionally draining person has multiple emotional highs and lows in a day.
It’s like being on an energy destructive rollercoaster with them, and you never know what you will get from one moment to the next.
Deal with It: Notice when the emotionally draining person is about to dive into a downhill, and be cautious of their sudden uphills. You don’t have to be on the coaster with them. Understand that what you do will not make them calm down and be still.
5. “Everybody Hates Me”
Emotionally draining people love to play the victim, and they may initially convince you they are the victim, but the more you know them, the more you’ll realize they engineer their own disasters. They always play the victim card so they don’t have to be responsible and they thrive on the drama.
Deal with It: When they play the victim, don’t express concern or sympathy as it fuels this kind of behavior.
6. They Verbal Vomit
If you feel like cringing because you know someone is about to hurl all their drama and conflict on you (again), then you are dealing with an emotionally draining person. A dead giveaway is when they do it over and over, but they never do anything to improve their supposedly tragic circumstances.
Deal with It: When they verbally vomit on you, there will be a moment when they have to breathe, and this is when you should ask them what they are going to do about their drama. They may try to side-step and keep talking about the drama, but keep directing them back to what they can do. Don’t give suggestions – they need to figure it out.
7. You Don’t Feature
Ever have a conversation that was so one-sided it’s a monologue? When the person who is dumping on you doesn’t even try to ask about you and your day, you are dealing with an emotionally draining person.
Deal with It: When people don’t even care to hear about you and your day, it’s a sign they’re not your tribe. You don’t have to listen to them. They thrive (or feed) on your sense of being polite and kind. Walk away.
8. Glass Half-Empty All the Time
You know who I’m talking about here – the Negative Nates and Debbie Downers who always tell you how badly things are going for them. For an emotionally draining person, life is TERRIBLE. They have it the absolute worst, and they are negative about everything.
Deal with It: Keep pointing out the positive things in their life. Don’t sympathize with negative things they focus on – you just know that it’s never quite as bad as they make it out. The watermelon in their bed is actually a pea on several mattresses they stacked up.
9. Life Is a Soap Opera
An emotionally draining person always has conflict on the go. They always have someone who is out to get them, someone who is scheming against them, or (and more likely) they are scheming against someone.
Deal with It: Don’t get sucked into their constant conflict. Use boundaries to keep the drama off your own porch and insist they respect your boundaries.
10. It’s Never Enough
Even when good things happen to them, the emotionally draining person won’t be satisfied. Whatever happens, they always feel it’s not enough. The emotionally draining person doesn’t have any sense of gratitude.
Deal with It: Remind them to be grateful and point out all the great things they have in their life. Don’t let them make you hide your joy or believe you aren’t enough. Celebrate with gratitude, setting an example. Chances are the emotionally draining person will walk away since they can’t bear to see other people that happy.
11. They Make You Responsible for Their Joy
Ever had someone latch onto you like an emotional crustacean? Emotionally draining people can become so dug into your life they don’t exist on their own anymore, which places a heavy burden on you to make them happy.
Each of us is responsible for our own lives, and it’s not fair to make you feel like you have to make someone else happy.
Deal with It: If a relationship becomes too draining because you have to drive the relationship, the other person is merely letting you carry and entertain them. Or, they clearly state that you have to support them (because you’re the only one who understands them #sniff). You have to do what’s best for you and leave.
A true relationship is one between equals, where both people carry the load, and while you may carry each other through rough spots, it can’t be a case of you being the one doing all the heavy lifting.
12. They Don’t Get You
Not all people will understand you, but if you are emotionally supporting someone, that person should get you (at least, most of the time) or try to since it’s about reciprocity.
An emotionally draining person will not even put in the effort to try and understand you. Instead, the focus is always on them, and they’ll insist you work harder to help them. However, they do nothing for you.
Deal with It: Do some self-searching. Do you deserve to be with someone who gets you or tries to? Of course, you do! Identify some instances when the emotionally draining person really didn’t even try to understand you. These are all the reasons you need to walk away.
13. Mountains Out of Molehills
Emotionally draining people always have to go to the extreme. A small event is turned into a life-altering moment (as they tell it), when it was really nothing serious. And, as you’ve already realized, these earth-shifting events always happen to them.
If they were raised by a strict mother, they soon vilify her into an abusive and tyrannical mother. All of this is to get sympathy. They will soon begin to turn each word you say against you, confusing you and causing you stress. If you tell them they need to cheer up, you become a monster for making light of their suffering.
All of this is to condition you to give them what they want – sympathy and emotional energy.
Deal with It: Since they can mess with your mind and cause you to self-doubt, it’s important to keep a journal where you record your conversations and interactions with them. This is so you can go back and check what you said and if you really meant it like you did. Is it you? No, it’s usually them, seeking more attention, drama, and energy.
Remind them you are self-aware and don’t let them blame you for small things. Stand up for yourself or walk away.
Final Thoughts on Signs of an Emotionally Draining Person
Emotionally draining people are uniquely devious, and whether they do it consciously or subconsciously, they will first gain your trust and sympathy before really abusing your emotions and draining your energy. Take care not to let an emotionally draining person turn your life into their playground or your heart into their feeding ground.
When someone is beyond help (and it’s not your job to help everyone), it is time to make a serious decision about your life.
Are you going to let the emotionally draining person suck you utterly dry, or will you take a decision in favor of your own mental health? Knowing how to move forward can be difficult, but here are some quotes to help you move forward.
And if you're looking for more articles about relationships, be sure to check out these blog posts:
- 11 Steps to Deal with an Emotionally Unavailable Man
- 23 Emotional Abuse Red Flags in Your Relationship
- 13 Proven Ways to Emotionally Detach from Someone