What Are Psychic Vampires? Plus How to Keep Them Out of Your Life

Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand Goop is known for selling some, um, controversial health products (see vaginal jade eggs). The latest item to come under scrutiny: Psychic Vampire Repellent.

Yep, you read that right.

According to Goop.com, the “spray-able elixir,” which retails for $30 a bottle, “uses a combination of gem healing and deeply aromatic therapeutic oils” to protect you from bad vibes, and the people who cause them. To use: spray generously around your head.

If you think that sounds like a tall order for some aromatherapy, you’re not alone: “There’s no science to support any product repelling [any] kind of person,” says Gail Saltz, MD, Health’s contributing psychology editor.

But the concept of psychic vampires isn’t actually as woo-woo as it sounds: A psychic vampire is someone you might describe as “toxic.” It’s a friend, family member, or colleague who drains you of emotional energy; and if you’re not careful, she can suck you dry. 

These toxic individuals may be intensely narcissistic, paranoid, overly jealous, or possessive, says Dr. Saltz. “They might feel like everything you do is a potential slight, or that everything needs to be about them.” Of course we all have days when we’re consumed by what’s going on in our own lives. But among psychic vamp-types, this mentality tends to be constant, she adds.

“If you leave a friend feeling anxious about the next time you have to see them, or feel tense leading up to your plans with them, you may be dealing with a toxic person,” says Dr. Saltz.

If it’s a relationship you’re committed to working on (say, with your bestie from childhood), try gently bringing up your concerns, suggests Dr. Saltz: “You can say something like, ‘I feel like we spend a lot of our time talking about you, and I’m happy to, but there needs to be some give and take here.’” If the person isn’t receptive or capable of changing, however, you may need to reevaluate how important she is to you.

But what if the bearer of bad vibes is more firmly implanted in your life? Maybe it’s a difficult sibling, or the father of your children, for example. In that case, you may need to reframe your expectations of the relationship, says Dr. Saltz. “Acknowledge that you probably aren’t going to get what you need from that person, and try to limit your time together as much as you can.”

So while we wish a protection mist made from reiki-charged crystals could ward off toxic people (and the damage they do), your best bet is speaking up for yourself, setting boundaries, and knowing when it’s time to cut your ties.