Dear friends: how to know the difference between venting versus ‘trauma dumping’.

Perhaps you can relate. Many of us have a friend who wants to catch up – only for us to meet and then spend hours listening solely to their problems, irritants and stresses without reprieve. 

Maybe they even constantly mention past trauma in casual conversations, sharing the same story repeatedly with graphic details. It can be a lot to take on. 

So what is the difference between trauma dumping versus a good ol’ vent?

We’re so glad you asked!

Not all trauma-sharing interactions are trauma dumping. When we are vulnerable and open about our issues with friends, it can help foster an even deeper and supportive mutual friendship. But when we trauma dump… we run the risk of driving a friend away.

Nahum Kozak is the co-founder of Lighthouse Relationships and is a senior psychologist.

He tells Mamamia that venting is a natural and often therapeutic way to share emotions with a friend.

“It can relieve stress: Expressing your feelings to alleviate emotional tension and reduce stress. Venting can also help you gain perspective, seeking insights and different viewpoints on your situation. It also fosters closer connections by letting others into your inner world, and feels validating,” he explains.

On the other hand, trauma dumping is less constructive and potentially harmful. 

“It can involve overwhelming a friend with way too much distressing content, often without considering their boundaries or wellbeing. This can lead to emotional exhaustion and burnout. Plus, it can set up a lonely vicious cycle for some people – the cycle between over-sharing, then pulling away and isolating, then feeling lonely and going back to over-sharing.”