The 411 on Trauma Dumping

Who doesn’t love a good vent session? Not only is it healthy to get some of your emotions and feelings out, but it allows those close to you to give you emotional support. It also opens the floor for them to get some thoughts and feelings off their chest and, in return, get your support. Well, sometimes venting isn’t a give-and-take scenario. Instead, it can result in what’s known as “trauma dumping,” which can negatively impact a relationship, often without the person even knowing. Let’s talk about trauma dumping, how it can affect those around us, how to stop doing it, and more.

What Is Trauma Dumping?

Trauma dumping is the act of sharing a traumatic story in an inappropriate context without thinking about how it may affect others – or as a way to manipulate others. There are many reasons people trauma dump, including having no filter, lacking boundaries, or compartmentalizing certain events. Now, we aren’t saying you shouldn’t talk about hard things with people, but it is important to practice self-awareness and master the art of “reading the room.”

Signs of Trauma Dumping

If you aren’t sure whether you or someone you know is guilty of being a trauma dumper, here are a few signs to look for:

  • Telling the same story over and over again
  • Sharing graphic details about the drama
  • Bringing up past trauma frequently and during inappropriate times
  • Talking about traumatic events to people they just met
  • Not giving the other person a chance to speak up or share
  • Posting details on social media

What’s the Difference Between Venting and Trauma Dumping?

The first difference: Healthy venting typically includes letting off steam about a wide range of complaints about things that have happened recently. Trauma dumping includes intense stories from the past, where the person is looking for sympathy or a deeper connection.

During a healthy vent session, both people have the opportunity to talk and sort the problems out. Venting shouldn’t dominate the conversation, and both people should leave feeling better.

With trauma dumping, stories are usually shared at inappropriate times; the “dumper” tends to dominate the conversation; one or both parties may leave the conversation feeling drained; and the entire discussion is about the trauma.

How to Avoid Trauma Dumping

Here are a few ways to ensure you aren’t trauma dumping:

  • Talk to a professional: You should do your best not to hold onto trauma – talk to a professional who can help you process it.
  • Find a way to “get it out”: Bottling up your emotions isn’t good, so find a creative or fun way to get those feelings out. Think: drawing, journaling, working out, pottery, cooking, etc.
  • Take care of yourself: Make sure you’re eating foods that are good for your body, drinking water, and getting rest. And never underestimate the power of a hot shower.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help: Reach out to those around you and seek support.

Dealing With a Dumper

If you find that someone in your life is a “dumper,” here are some ways to deal.

  • Be there: Odds are, this is a person you love (though it could be someone you just met). Either way, this person may need someone to be present for a few minutes.
  • No judgment zone: The “dumper” feels comfortable enough to open up to you. Listen without judgment, and don’t offer “quick” fixes.
  • Set boundaries ASAP: You have to think about yourself, and if any subjects trigger you, voice those boundaries. Then, ask if you can help them find someone who can help.
  • Ask what you can do: For example, if the dumper is feeling overwhelmed by seemingly small things like cooking or cleaning at the moment, see if there’s a way you can help out.
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