Many people turn to a trusted friend or family member to vent after a long day. Venting can help you work through stress and anxiety, but at a certain point, it is not helpful and can drive a wedge between you and the people you trust. Trauma dumping is when you overshare intense thoughts and feelings with others, often way too frequently and at inappropriate times.

What Is Trauma Dumping?

Trauma dumping is intense oversharing that leaves both the person doing the sharing and the people listening to it feeling distressed. People prone to trauma dumping find it difficult to regulate, process, and filter their emotions.

Sometimes, this vulnerability results from an underlying psychological condition, like anxiety, but people are often confused by social norms and when and what is acceptable to share.

man oversharing to tired woman


Venting vs. Trauma Dumping

It is easy to confuse venting and trauma dumping. Venting is a healthy way to let out difficult emotions like frustration, anxiety, or anger to relieve stress and move forward.

Venting is done with someone willing and ready to listen and is limited to one session. On the other hand, people may trauma dump to get sympathy. It does not result in self-reflection, and the person listening is not always a willing participant.

two women talking on the couch


Why Do People Trauma Dump?

How we manage and regulate emotions is largely influenced by our threat brain, the part that responds to danger. If you have an overactive threat brain, it floods you with feelings and thoughts that may not be suitable to the situation.

Trauma dumping stimulates the brain to release chemicals that keep us alert and on edge. After trauma dumping, people may feel ashamed or embarrassed about oversharing, bringing the original problem constantly into focus and keeping it active in the brain.

woman sitting on her couch having a panic attack


What Contributes to Trauma Dumping?

Trauma dumping is increasing for various reasons. Social media encourages oversharing, but many emotions are not nurtured or managed in real life at home, school, and work.

Social media, self-help books, and TV shows constantly send messages about how we need to be in touch with our feelings, but there are few opportunities to practice this in our day-to-day lives.

woman writing a blog post on her computer woman reading blog online on computer


Does Trauma Dumping Help?

While venting is beneficial, trauma dumping does not help and, in some cases, can make things worse.

Because the oversharing person does not participate in self-reflection or take responsibility for their feelings, it does not help them process their emotions. Trauma dumping also affects others, draining their energy and influencing their relationships.

unhappy man is alone


Who They Dump On

People who engage in trauma dumping unconsciously seek out others who enable them and may be drawn to people pleasers.

Sometimes, people pleasers are afraid of being rejected and listen to trauma dumping as a way to be compliant. This reaction is also connected to our freeze response. Instead of physically freezing, they freeze their beliefs and focus entirely on the other person's needs.

unhappy woman is complaining to a friend


How to Avoid Getting Dumped On

If you are often the recipient of trauma dumping, there are some ways to say no.

Share with your friend how their trauma dumping is causing you stress and anxiety. Try to stop them from talking and encourage them to take deep breaths or set a boundary and tell them that you are only willing to listen for five or ten minutes. Finally, you may need to avoid them when you are stressed, as they will only make you feel worse.

two women having a serious discussion


Find Other Coping Mechanisms

There are many ways to cope with intense emotions. If you recognize that you are prone to trauma dumping, stop and take a few minutes to breathe and calm down.

Try keeping a journal to let out your negative emotions, listen to music, do something creative, or go for a run. Talking to a therapist can help you deal with feelings you are struggling with.

woman drawing in a journal


Trauma Dumping and PTSD

Trauma dumping refers to people who tend to overshare negative emotions. While some people with post-traumatic stress disorder may trauma dump, PTSD and trauma dumping are not the same.

Trauma dumping is not the appropriate term for someone who is overwhelmed by true, severe trauma. PTSD involves disorganized thinking triggered by potent memories and is more likely to require the help of a professional to overcome.

unhappy woman with a professional therapist


Dealing with Trauma

Most of the time, people who are trauma dumping are not dealing with real psychological trauma, but this is not always the case. There are many forms of trauma and many ways to work through trauma, but it is often extremely difficult to do on your own. Talking to a therapist or counselor can help.

young man talking to a therapist


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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.