trauma dumping illustration

(Sydney Carroll / Daily Titan)

As relationships develop into a source of comfort, boundaries can start to blur. 

Trauma dumping is when a person overshares difficult emotions and traumatic experiences with others, bombarding them with information that they didn’t consent to or weren’t ready to hear. 

While this may seem like a normal coping mechanism, trauma dumping can cause unwilling listeners to feel burdened and affect their mental health. Those who have the tendency to overshare should understand their partner’s boundaries and be more cautious of trauma dumping within their relationships, romantic or platonic. 

There is a definite difference between venting and trauma dumping. Venting is a conversation where all parties are involved and there is control over what is and is not shared. When people trauma dump, there might be a lack of receptiveness by the listener, and a lack of acceptance of input or advice by the speaker, according to the resource Choosing Therapy.

Relationships are all about reciprocity and mutuality, but when someone is trauma dumping, it is often one-sided. Trauma dumping carelessly crosses boundaries between partners, favoring selfish emotional management over mindful conversations. 

Without realizing, the listener can experience secondary trauma, which is a type of emotional contagion where negative feelings become infectious. Considering the information that is shared, it could become burdensome for the receiver as they listen and take in others negative experiences and emotions as their own.

Jamie Walls, a third year business management major, shared her experience as an outlet for oversharers. 

“I’ve had people in my life who do it too much,” Walls said. “After a while, you can’t expect someone to always have that capacity to just trauma dump on them.”

Trauma dumping is something that could become a serious issue in relationships. It can cause awkwardness and rifts in friendships, as well as hinder a person's relationship with their significant other.

An issue Walls brought up is how trauma dumping  strains a relationship. “The person who doesn’t want to be trauma dumped on anymore, kind of isolating themselves from that person and slowly like, avoiding them,” Walls said. 

After trauma dumping, one party may feel relieved, but the other might feel exhausted from taking it in. It can be extra burdensome if the listening party doesn’t have available emotional space.

Some people cope with their issues by speaking about it and sharing their frustrations with others, particularly significant others. In that case, it is important to make sure that the listener knows the goals of the conversation. 

Walls said that although she believes talking about trauma can be important when shared with someone you trust, it is also vital to make sure that the receiver is okay with it.

Before oversharing, consider the time, place and person on the receiving end of the conversation. If people feel a need to relay bad experiences regardless, the bare minimum requires assessing the situation around them and  encouraging the other person to participate in purging their issues as well. 

Rather than risk straining a relationship and making your partner uncomfortable, search for other alternatives. Set boundaries in your relationship and ask your partner if it is okay for you to share with them certain information rather than overloading them with information.

If your partner regularly trauma dumps, communicate how it made you uncomfortable or how it might have triggered your own personal trauma.

Venting is okay, trauma dumping is not.

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