artil Explains: Trauma Dumping

Emily Reed

Unloading trauma onto others often creates toxic and negative relationships. While trauma dumping could be confused for simple venting, or getting things off your chest, it has a plethora of negative effects. Trauma dumping, in essence, is when venting turns toxic, and can create distant relationships and isolation among those who do it.

Venting vs. Trauma Dumping

Trauma dumping is not venting. Trauma dumping is when someone unexpectedly unloads traumatic feelings, thoughts, and experiences onto another. Most are unaware, but trauma dumping is unsolicited, toxic, and sometimes manipulative. What may come across as a simple coping method to deal with past experiences can quickly transform into a manipulative and toxic habit. 

Trauma dumping is not to be confused with venting, though. Venting is simply a means to blow off steam and look to others for a solution or validation, especially in high-pressure situations. Those who unload trauma onto others are not looking for a solution or validation; it’s an unhealthy coping mechanism that harms others. 

Trauma Contagion: How it Harms Others

Oversharing traumatic experiences and information to others will push them away. Constantly unloading toxic information onto others, and not letting them share, or help you in any way, will ultimately put a strain on relationships and friendships with others. 

Read more: The Problem with Emotionally Depending on One Person

From the other side of things, setting boundaries, unfortunately, can be tricky. Those who trauma dump are often feeling the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. They may not recognize what they’re doing, or the severity of the information they’re sharing. Trauma dumping, unlike venting, doesn’t solve anything, nor does it help process feelings. Releasing trauma onto others — and as a result, filling them with heavy, negative energy — doesn’t come with any solution or validation. All it does is spread negative feelings and drain others.

Read more: Exceptional Friends: May We Have Them, May We Be Them

The Influence of Social Media

Social media has become a huge dumping ground for trauma. It’s unclear as to what people aim to get from posting their trauma online — perhaps it may make them feel less alone, or maybe look for others who share similar experiences. However, in many audiences, there isn’t sympathy or pity, but rather cheering, clapping, or comments attempting to be funny.

While one post could be innocently perceived as sharing feelings, it could easily trigger a massive pile of posts by different people, all trying to one-up each other. Trauma dumping, especially on social media, is not funny, it’s not cathartic, and it doesn’t make you feel better; all you gain is negative social media attention. If your aim on social media is to gain sympathy, you aren’t going to get it, nor are you going to get personal insight. Trauma dumping has become a trend on TikTok, with #traumadump tags garnering over 20 million views. These posts signal significantly personal stories, ranging from abuse, assault, family trauma, or mental breakdowns. Social media has provided people with a community that allows for trauma dumping, even furthering unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Are You a Trauma Dumper?

While trauma dumping is a trend on social media, the majority of those who trauma dump are unaware that they’re doing it. People who trauma dump usually feel isolated and use it as a way to feel heard and validated, but unfortunately, they just end up isolating themselves even more. If you find yourself unleashing some heavy information without looking for a solution, try to practice some healthy coping mechanisms. 

It’s essential to remember that sharing your feelings and thoughts is totally okay but in a healthy manner. Venting can quickly spiral into oversharing, creating toxic environments and relationships. What you may see as sharing an experience, someone else may see it negatively and absorb the trauma you’re feeling. 

While avoiding trauma dumping is often easier said than done, there are some things you can consider. 

  • Be conscious of others’ emotional capacity. It’s important to be mindful of how heavy information can affect others.
  • If you feel the need to share trauma, write down your thoughts. Sometimes unleashing these thoughts, no matter the manner, is enough to make you feel better.
  • Talk to a therapist. You can’t trauma dump on a therapist. The biggest thing about trauma dumping is that you share information with someone totally unsolicited. With a therapist, they know what’s coming

Emily Reed

“There’s always room for more mental health advocacy. Mental health looks different on everyone, and I feel that if I can write about my experiences, surely someone will be able to relate. Sometimes I struggle with my mental health when I’m doing something I’m supposed to love, like traveling, and although it seems weird at the time, it’s totally okay -- our emotions and feelings will always be valid.”
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