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When Venting Turns into Trauma Dumping

When you’re close to someone, it’s natural to talk to them about your frustrations and vent about what’s going wrong. It feels good to have someone listen and validate. However, sometimes normal venting turns into trauma dumping, which can strain the strongest of friendships. Trauma dumping is an unsolicited barrage of traumatic feelings, thoughts, and experiences onto another person who isn’t prepared for it. It may be face to face or online, and it’s happening more often as more people have anger, irritation, and frustration bottled up. They unleash the feelings without being aware of the severity of what they’re sharing and how it’s affecting the listener.

Signs you may be trauma dumping:

  • You vent about the same feelings repeatedly and don’t change your reactions or do anything differently.

  • You don’t want others to respond to your venting. You get upset when they offer their thoughts or opinions on your situation.

  • The conversation is one-sided. You don’t care about how others are doing or allow them to talk about their problems.

  • It doesn’t matter who you vent to, even if you don’t know them. That is, you’ll vent to strangers on the internet – as long as someone is willing to listen.

If you’re struggling with being the trauma dumper, get help. Mental health providers help guide people who have struggled with traumatic events in a safe environment and are able to give emotional support and help you manage your feelings, so you won’t need to carry them around to vent on others.

If you’re the recipient of trauma dumping, it’s important to set boundaries. Trauma dumping is not helpful for either party, and it negatively effects any relationship.

  • Be empathetic but direct. The best way to protect yourself and let the other person know you are not okay with them dumping on you is to tell them upfront that you are uncomfortable with what they’re telling you. Standing there and listening enables them to continue their actions.

  • Don’t offer advice or problem solve when you see trauma dumping online. Social media fuels the fire with trauma dumping. Most of the posts that overshare information need support, sympathy, and professional mental health help. Trauma dumpers are not concerned with the closeness of the relationship, they will dump on anyone who will listen and sympathize.

It's difficult to feel intense feelings while feeling alone, but when you share those feelings with someone you hardly know, it’s awkward for the listener and they have no idea how to support you or leave the conversation. Therefore, trauma dumpers end up feeling more alone and confused. Venting is a release between good friends or close confidantes, and it leaves the venter feeling supported and the listener with a deeper understanding of their loved one’s situation. If you struggle with past or present trauma and need to talk to someone, seeing a counselor is a wonderful way of resolving your pain and keeping your friends.


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