Trauma dumping: What teens should know and how therapy can help
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Trauma dumping: What teens should know and how therapy can help

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When we’re going through a hard time in our life, or we’re struggling with our mental health, it can feel great to just let it all out to another person. It can be incredibly cathartic to talk about our feelings with a friend or family member. But when does that sharing get to be unhealthy?

Trauma dumping is a type of oversharing that pertains to traumatic experiences that one has had. And while it may seem like a good thing that your teen wants to talk about these experiences, trauma dumping isn’t a healthy way of coping with their emotions.

Read on to learn about the difference between venting and trauma dumping, how to tell if your teen is trauma dumping, and the influence of social media on this type of oversharing. You’ll also discover how therapy can help.

Trauma dumping vs. venting

Having a venting session can be a great way for your teen to sort out their complicated thoughts and emotions. But how is venting different, and less concerning, than trauma dumping?

Venting is usually done between two people who have built trust with one another, and they want to share the emotions and thoughts that they’re struggling with. These conversations can even be started with the question, “Can I vent to you about something?” This allows the listener to determine if they’re in the right mindset to receive sensitive information.

Conversely, trauma dumping refers to oversharing information about traumatic events without provocation to try to lighten one’s own burden by putting it onto someone else. Trauma dumping can damage personal relationships, or even trigger someone else’s trauma.

The difference between trauma dumping and venting comes down to the social setting as well as the other person’s consent to know about the sensitive information surrounding a traumatic experience. 

To ensure that a person is venting as opposed to trauma dumping, they have to acknowledge that the other person is ready to listen about the experience. The listener also has to know that they may be emotionally affected by the information as well.

Common signs of trauma dumping

There are some situations where trauma dumping is obvious. For instance, many people wouldn’t share their childhood abuse experience with a stranger they’re having small talk with at a party. That’s an example of trauma dumping, as the stranger didn’t ask about those experiences, nor do they have a prior relationship with the person that would allow for them to provide the comfort they may be looking for.

But not all trauma dumping is obvious. A few common signs of trauma dumping include: 

  • Repeatedly telling the same stories, especially graphic details
  • Discussing traumatic events with people who don’t really know the person talking
  • Interjecting casual conversation with mentions of trauma
  • Intentionally sharing trauma with those who may feel an obligation to listen 

Trauma dumping on social media

Social media can be a great place to share your vacation photos, stay in touch with old friends and watch videos that make you laugh. But it’s also a common avenue for trauma dumping.There are many cases of trauma dumping on social media, as people can post almost anything they want while knowing other people are going to see it as they scroll through their phones. This means that they can share their traumatic experiences with dozens, hundreds and even thousands of other people without knowing how it will impact the person on the other side of the screen.

People who read posts or watch videos of trauma dumping can feel emotionally affected by the information that they were unaware they were going to learn. Not only can it trigger their own past trauma, but it can actually cause vicarious trauma.

Vicarious trauma refers to the emotional distress a person can experience after learning about someone else’s traumatic experiences due to indirect exposure to the details.

Trauma dumping from others on social media has been shown to make teens feel:

How therapy can help teens that may be trauma dumping

If your teen is trauma dumping, one of the best options is to book them a therapy appointment. The entire goal of a therapist appointment is to give your teen the safe space they need to discuss their trauma without judgment. A therapist’s job is to ask questions that will provoke the feelings and emotions surrounding trauma to help your child address them head-on and learn to cope with them.

And as therapy helps your teen through the issues that they are trauma dumping, they will reduce their urge to trauma dump about them in the future.

Lightfully Behavioral Health can help if your teen is trauma dumping

If your teen is trauma dumping, it’s important that they have the proper outlet to work through their experiences. And that’s where we come in.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step to help your teen stop trauma dumping, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of them.

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