In scary movies there are always clear, if bizarre, ways to spot a vampire. No reflection, hates garlic, terrified of light, keeps a coffin in the house? Then run away. But how do you spot the type of vampire that feeds not on blood but on energy?  

We've all encountered this type of emotional vampires in our lives. They're the colleague that can't stop talking about themselves, the acquaintance who always leaves you exhausted after even a short meeting, or that guy at the next desk over who draws you into hour-long bitch-fests about every little annoyance in the office. They love the drama, but you just lose valuable time (and energy) you could put into making your company more successful.

As artist and author Austin Kleon has noted, you can definitively identify an emotional vampire with one simple test (no garlic or crosses required): "If after hanging out with someone, you feel worn out and depleted, that person is a vampire. If after hanging out with someone, you still feel full of energy, that person is not a vampire." 

So what do you do once you spot an emotional vampire sucking up too much of your time and energy? Self magazine recently spoke to a handful of therapists about the phenomenon of emotional vampires, and came away with this simple five-step plan for neutralizing their toxic effects. (Check out the complete article for much more on the psychology and motivations of emotional vampires.) 

1.Opt for empathy.

Your first impulse upon encountering an emotional vampire might be to just roll your eyes and walk away. That can work if the person is someone you never have to see again, but if it's a work colleague, the experts have another suggestion: Try a little empathy. Sure, their overdramatizing and self-absorption are annoying, but these behaviors often are just reactions to the same kind of insecurities and anxieties we all struggle with. Recognizing that is more likely to give you the insight (and stamina) you need to negotiate problematic relationships long-term.

2. Validate and redirect.

We all complain sometimes. The healthy way to do it involves laying out the problem and genuinely searching for solutions. The emotional vampire way to do it is just moan endlessly while looking for ever more validation. Which is why therapist Daryl Appleton suggests your best bet when confronted with an emotional vampire's endless rants is to gently guide them back to a better mode of complaining

"If your co-worker is complaining about a particular work struggle, for example, Dr. Appleton suggests saying something like, 'That sounds really difficult. Have you thought about what you're going to do?' Or maybe, 'Have you talked to [the person they are complaining about] directly about it? Did your manager have any advice?' This can remind them that they do have the option of taking action to change their situation," says Self. 

3. Don't feed the beast. 

You might think that vigorously agreeing with an emotional vampire might give them what they want so that they go away. Not so. Like the classic-blood sucking variety, emotional vampires have an endless thirst, only theirs is for drama. The more you give them, the more they'll demand. Do your best to stay emotionally blank when interacting with them (some call this the gray rock method, as in, try as much as possible to resemble a gray rock when interacting with toxic people).

This isn't rudeness, it's "teaching the energy vampire that you are not going to be a reliable source of energy," another therapist, Amber Samuels, tells Self

4. Set consistent boundaries. 

While empathy can give you the stamina to deal with unavoidable emotional vampires, that doesn't mean you should tolerate behavior that leaves you drained. Continue training your emotional vampire that you're useless as a victim by being firm with your boundaries. Tell them at the outset of a conversation, "I only have X minutes to talk," for instance, and stick to your guns.  

5. Focus on self-care. 

The goal of this whole process is to keep yourself sane (and your schedule on track). It's totally OK to outright tell an emotional vampire that as long as you do it nicely, according to the therapists Self spoke to. Go ahead and tell your drama queen colleagues that you're falling behind and really need to be heads-down for a while. Besides being true, it also encourages them to find more constructive ways to deal with their issues. 

Allow the emotional vampires prowling the halls of your office free rein and they'll drain you to a husk. Take the simple steps above and you should be able to preserve your energy for more useful tasks than feeding their egos and taming their anxieties.