What Is Trauma Dumping?


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Sharing our stresses, anxieties, and worries with others always helps people process difficult emotions, which is always very alleviating. However, there comes a time when sharing frustrations with other people becomes “oversharing.”

Unfortunately, not many people fully grasp the difference between sharing (venting) and oversharing (trauma dumping). Talking to friends, family members, coworkers, or acquaintances about traumatic experiences may not always sound bad.

However, not fully grasping the severity or intensity of what you’re about to share can be damaging, even to loved ones. In a culture where society is encouraged to open up about their mental health, where exactly do people draw the line? When does sharing become oversharing? 

At Steps For Change, we utilize the latest evidence-based treatment techniques to help our patients with their behavioral health needs. Our specialists can help patients understand trauma dumping, its effects, and examples.

What Does Trauma Dumping Look Like?

Trauma dumping describes situations when someone uploads their traumatic experiences onto other people. Typically, trauma dumping can surprise unprepared friends and loved ones. In some cases, people might trauma dump on complete strangers. It becomes even more problematic when the traumatized person shares their experiences with people who are already vulnerable.

Discussing feelings based on trauma and other painful thoughts in an inappropriate environment also qualifies as trauma dumping. The perpetrators don’t usually realize what they are doing, but it’s inappropriate and usually unsolicited.

Some experts describe trauma dumping as “toxic” and “damaging.” This is because it does not always include or respect the victim’s consent and is often one-sided. It may look like a harmless release of energy at first but gradually digress into a breach of boundary. This is especially likely to happen at an inappropriate time or location or if the recipient is mentally unstable.

Trauma dumping is not only unproductive for both parties but also violating to the person on the receiving end.

Is Trauma Dumping Toxic?

Sharing traumas and other stresses with closest and dearest friends and family members can be hugely beneficial. Being open to those you trust can help toward healing and coping. However, knowing the difference between venting and trauma dumping can help save everyone a lot of trouble and hurt. When done at an inappropriate place and time, trauma dumping is problematic. 

Trauma dumping can be more toxic and painful for the listener than people realize. The listener often feels imprisoned by the sudden tidal wave of emotions. Talking about trauma should be done safely with a trained professional. 

Usually, the victims do not expect the person they are in conversation with to emotionally dump on them. Suddenly, a casual conversation takes a twist into much darker and deeper talks. This happens without the perpetrator considering the effect of the conversation on the listener.

It is always better to take trauma dumping to a professional. A specialist with the experience and ability to handle particular stressful situations can provide appropriate support. Therapists are also always well-prepared and expectant of such eventualities, making them the best people to talk to.

Trauma dumping on friends is particularly toxic and blatantly dangerous because some stories may come from something painful and unresolved. This makes the situation worse for unprepared, unequipped friends.

Some friends might find such stories difficult to listen to because they want only the best for you. They also do not have the necessary training to listen to something complicated. This is especially true if they also have strong or old feelings about the same issue.

Therefore, situational relevance is vital when sharing traumatic events with other people. It is also worth mentioning that friends are not therapists. So, do not treat them as such.

Trauma Dumping Vs. Venting

Knowing the difference between satisfaction and frustration when sharing traumatic experiences comes down to whether one is venting or trauma dumping. Human beings are naturally hard-wired to process their emotions with others. However, while this is a universally healthy habit, it is also important to know the difference between venting and trauma dumping.

This section highlights guidelines to follow when communicating with others in anger or frustration.

What Venting Looks Like

Venting (in a healthy way) is when one person engages someone else in an emotional dialogue. People do this to try and find some kind of resolution. Think of it in a way a friend can help the aggrieved who is having difficulty dealing with something.

These are the qualities of a person who is venting:

  • Self-focused
  • Self-reflective rather than reactive
  • Expressing themselves within a specified timeframe
  • Solution-focused
  • Aware of the listener’s and speaker’s emotional states
  • Accepting personal responsibility and integrity
  • Open to feedback and a different perspective

What Trauma Dumping Looks Like

Unlike venting, trauma dumping occurs when the speaker shares an emotionally damaging story or event unconsciously and inappropriately. They do this while hoping they receive a similar empathic response from the listener.

Below are the qualities of a person who is trauma dumping:

  • Defensive
  • Inconsiderate of the other person’s time, energy, or capacity
  • Not open to finding a resolution
  • Filled with blame
  • Resistant to feedback or a different perspective
  • Playing the victim
  • Avoidant of taking personal responsibility
  • Cyclically returns to the same problem repeatedly

Trauma Dumping Examples

Messaging or posting about personal tragedy online or to friends isn’t always an issue in itself. It’s okay to share messages about death in the family, historical childhood abuse, or a sexual assault. However, therapists consider sharing that happens unsolicited and unpreparedly a breach of the listener’s or reader’s space.

Trauma dumping can feel particularly triggering when it comes from an unknown person online. This segment discusses some common trauma dumping examples:

  1. The context is from a victim’s perspective
  2. No compromising or attempt to resolve the issue, only seeking validation
  3. Discussions happen at will. It does not occur on any specific schedule. The victim is caught unaware
  4. The problem can either be repetitive or dumping several issues on someone
  5. Consists more of blame and defensiveness, unlike healthy venting

There are many more trauma-dumping examples online and in person. Almost every person has likely been a victim of trauma dumping.

Get Help with Steps For Change

Steps For Change helps people suffering from trauma and other mental health conditions lead happy and fulfilling lives. Our team of professionals is dedicated to helping patients create change in their lives. We help patients handle their trauma through counseling and other specialized treatments. Our team aims to give them the ability to live through their traumas.

Trauma dumping does not have to be an issue. Book an appointment today or contact us for more information about trauma dumping and how to approach it.