Have you ever wondered what causes a narcissist to hoover?

If so, others are too. In fact, a group inside of our community recently asked, “What makes a narcissist want to hoover people?”

It’s a great question. So, I looked into it, and here’s what I found.

A narcissist will attempt to hoover you when they:

  • Want to boost their self-esteem.
  • Fear losing control over you.
  • Need something from you.
  • Want to protect their public image.
  • Want to stop you from moving on.
  • Want to feel powerful.

In this post, I’ll unpack each of these reasons to help you understand what makes a narcissist want to hoover people.

If you have or currently are experiencing narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse for help.

1. They Want to Boost Their Self-Esteem

A narcissist may hoover when they’re seeking to boost their self-esteem.1 

For them, the world operates as a mirror, reflecting their worth back at them through the reactions and responses of others. 

When this reflection dims—perhaps due to a breakup, a period of isolation, or simply not receiving enough attention—they may reach out to someone they’ve previously had a relationship with.

Contacting you and receiving a positive or negative response reassures them of their ability to influence and matter to others.

It’s a way for them to temporarily elevate their self-esteem by proving to themselves that they can still elicit a reaction.

2. They Fear Losing Control

When a narcissist senses they’re losing control over someone, it can trigger an intense need to reassert their dominance.2 

This isn’t just about maintaining a relationship; it’s about reaffirming their power and influence. 

A narcissist views relationships as extensions of their own will, so when you begin to move away, it’s as if a piece of their kingdom is revolting. 

The act of hoovering in this context is a strategic move to reestablish their grip on your life. 

By attempting to draw you back in through promises, manipulation, or even negative attention, they’re not merely seeking your companionship but rather trying to restore the balance of power in their favor. 

A narcissist gaslighting someone while trying to hoover them.

This fear of losing control is a powerful motivator, driving them to employ whatever tactics are necessary to ensure their continued control.

Suggested Reading: 7 Things Narcissists Fear Most

3. They Need Something from You

A trigger for a narcissist to engage in hoovering can be as straightforward as needing something from you.3 

Whether it’s a favor, access to your network, or even emotional support, they recognize your value in fulfilling a specific need of theirs. 

Despite any past mistreatment or disregard for your boundaries, they’ll reach out with charm or feigned humility when they’ve identified a way you can be of use to them again. 

This approach is often marked by a sudden warmth or interest in your life, seemingly out of nowhere. 

However, it’s driven by the narcissist’s underlying motive to extract what they need. 

The interaction is transactional, with the narcissist’s temporary engagement designed to secure their desired outcome before potentially reverting to previous patterns of behavior.

4. They Want to Protect Their Public Image

Hoovering can also be a tactic used by narcissists to protect or salvage their public image.4 

If their reputation is at risk—perhaps due to the fallout of your relationship or if you possess information that could damage their image—they might reach out to re-establish a connection or offer reconciliation. 

A narcissist hoovering a past partner.

This effort isn’t about mending the relationship genuinely but about managing how they’re perceived by others. 

By drawing you back into their circle, even momentarily, they aim to demonstrate their supposed ability to maintain positive relationships or to suggest that any allegations against them are unfounded. 

This maneuver is especially prevalent in situations where the narcissist feels their social standing or credibility is threatened, prompting them to act swiftly to preserve their image through manipulation and charm.

Suggested Reading: How Do Narcissists Act In Public?

5. They Want to Stop You from Moving On

Narcissists may hoover with the specific intention of preventing you from moving on.5 

Seeing you gain independence, build new relationships, or simply thrive without them challenges their sense of control and superiority. 

By reinserting themselves into your life, they aim to disrupt your progress and make you doubt your ability to establish an entirely independent life.

A woman doubting herself because of the narcissist in her life.

This tactic is often deployed when they notice signs of your recovery and growth—perhaps through mutual acquaintances or social media. 

They’re trying to send the underlying message that you are still within their orbit, influenced by their actions and decisions. 

This maneuver is not about wanting to reconcile for the sake of the relationship but rather about ensuring you remain tethered to them.

Suggested Reading: Will a Narcissist Let You Move On?

6. They Want to Feel Powerful

Another reason a narcissist engages in hoovering is to reaffirm their sense of power by playing mind games

This psychological manipulation is a way for them to derive satisfaction from seeing how their actions can affect you, testing their ability to influence your emotions and decisions even after a period of separation.

They might use a mix of affectionate gestures, promises of change, or even provocations designed to elicit a response from you. 

Each interaction is a move in their game, with your reactions providing them with the gratification of knowing they still have an impact on you. 

This behavior is driven by their need for dominance and control, viewing the emotional turmoil they create as a testament to their enduring influence over you.6 

It’s a power play, with the narcissist relishing in the confusion and emotional conflict their actions provoke, reaffirming their perceived superiority and control.

If you are ready to be more than a victim of narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.


Thank you so much for reading; I hope you found this article helpful.

Now, I’d love to hear from you!

Have you ever been on the receiving end of hoovering by a narcissist? 

How did you recognize it, and what steps did you take to protect yourself?

What advice would you give to someone who suspects a narcissist in their life is currently hoovering them?

Or perhaps you’re seeking more information on effectively handling or responding to hoovering tactics.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.

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About the Author

Hey, I’m Elijah.

I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years. 

I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.

Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.

Unfilteredd has strict sourcing guidelines and only uses high-quality sources to support the facts within our content. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, actionable, inclusive, and trustworthy by reading our editorial process.

  1. Sanjana Gupta. (2023. December, 7). The Manipulative Tactics of Narcissists: Hoovering Explained. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/narcissistic-hoovering-8407338 ↩︎
  2. Anna Drescher. (2024. January, 23). How Does A Narcissist React When They Can’t Control You? Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/when-a-narcissist-loses-control.html ↩︎
  3. Cleveland Clinic. (2023. September, 21). What Is Hoovering? 7 Signs and How To Handle It. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/hoovering ↩︎
  4. Nicole Arzt. (2022. September, 26). What Is Hoovering? 10 Signs & Why Narcissists Do It. Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/hoovering/ ↩︎
  5. Eleesha Lockett. (2023. August, 25). Hoovering: What Is It? Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/relationships/hoovering ↩︎
  6. Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Ali Mohammad Beigi Dehaghi, “Narcissism and psychological needs for social status, power, and belonging,” Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 210, 2023. ↩︎

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