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What is Trauma Dumping?

03/20/2023

Venting to a friend or family member after a rough day at work is normal and can often make people feel better. Talking through negative situations is a healthy way to process emotions, but when it becomes a regular occurrence or the details seem too heavy, harmless venting can turn into trauma dumping. There is a distinction, and it’s important to know what trauma dumping actually is.

Trauma dumping refers to the oversharing of difficult thoughts and emotions with other people during inappropriate times without permission. While trauma dumping may bring relief to the sharer, it can make the receiver feel frustrated, drained, or taken advantage of. If someone is trauma dumping, this may be a sign they’re struggling with a stressful home or work environment or a mental health disorder, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or depression.

Trauma Dumping Examples

How can a person tell if someone else is trauma dumping? One red flag is if the listener has no chance to communicate their own thoughts or feelings about the situation. They may feel trapped or helpless because they aren’t sure how to respond or given the opportunity to respond. Here are specific examples of what trauma dumping can look like:

  • A coworker sharing explicit details with other colleagues about a stressful divorce during lunch in the break room
  • A friend or family member treating you like their therapist for advice on a toxic relationship
  • A person on social media oversharing information to their followers about their experiences with abuse or assault
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How to Respond to Trauma Dumping

If someone is consistently on the receiving end of trauma dumping, it may be time to consider setting boundaries with the other person. People who are kind, patient, and compassionate may find themselves being dumped on because the sharer sees them as a safe and supportive person who won’t criticize or reject them.

However, if being subjected to someone else’s trauma dumping starts taking an emotional toll on the listener, it’s important they acknowledge limits to protect their mental health. There are a few tactics that can be used to handle trauma dumping:

  • Setting boundaries regarding what conversation topics are okay to engage in
  • Being open and honest with friends or family about how much help can reasonably be provided or if the listener is not in the right mindset to give advice
  • No longer offering solutions to a person’s problems so they learn to approach issues in a healthy manner
  • Shifting the conversation to a different topic if it starts to enter trauma dumping territory
  • Distancing from the person if they overshare often or don’t respect boundaries
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How to Stop Trauma Dumping

People who have a tendency to trauma dump can address the situation by being aware of their behavior and how they’re communicating with others. There are a few signs to look for to determine if someone is guilty of trauma dumping:

  • They repeatedly talk about the same traumatic issues without seeking healthy ways to cope or moving forward in the healing process
  • They don’t accept advice from others or let them share their own opinions about the problem
  • Their relationships with others tend to be one-sided because they frequently share their own problems and don’t give the other person space to share
  • They don’t ask others how they’re doing and what’s happening in their lives or provide a comfortable space for them to vent and share

Persistent trauma dumping can do more than make others uncomfortable. It can also damage important relationships by pushing close friends or family members away. Constant exposure to another person’s trauma can cause detrimental effects on a person’s mental health, such as increasing their anxiety or stress levels. In some cases, trauma dumping can even come off as manipulative, especially if the one being dumped on feels like the relationship is one-sided.

There are a few methods that can be used to end trauma dumping and build healthier relationships with others, including:

  • Keeping a journal to process thoughts and feelings about difficult situations when feeling overwhelmed
  • Practicing meditation, mindfulness, or other self-care techniques to lower stress levels and regulate emotions
  • Exercising or engaging in other physical activities to tune in to the body and surroundings
  • Seeking help from a mental health professional

Therapy can be an effective way to process trauma and move on in a healthy way. Although not everyone who experiences trauma has PTSD, nearly 13 million Americans struggle with this condition in any given year. PTSD treatment involves a combination of traditional treatment and counseling to help individuals come to terms with their experiences.

There are also different types of therapy to choose from based on personal preference and experience. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is used to treat a wide range of mental health and substance use disorders by promoting change and acceptance. Individuals can learn how to develop healthy coping mechanisms in response to stressful or triggering events and set positive goals to move forward. Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) helps individuals identify and focus on their personal strengths and take actionable steps to overcome their problems positively.

Therapy can also treat a dual diagnosis, which is when someone is struggling with substance abuse and a cooccurring mental health disorder. PTSD is a disorder that commonly occurs with substance abuse because individuals may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with trauma.

Learn More About Trauma-Focused Therapy at Beachway

Choosing the right trauma track treatment can seem like an overwhelming process, but it doesn’t have to be. Beachway Therapy Center offers a variety of programs designed to treat mental health issues, substance abuse, or dual diagnoses.

Experienced therapists at Beachway Therapy Center are trained to provide personalized care that addresses each individual’s unique mental health conditions, including trauma, and help them lead a successful recovery. If interested in learning more about our programs, contact Beachway today.