Problems shared are problems halved. An expert warns that if you have too many problems, it could lead to ‘trauma dump’.  

This phrase refers to those who are unable to handle their own problems or frustrations and not to those in genuine distress.  

Nelisha, a psychologist and Oxford University colleague, wrote Being with Others. Curses spells, scintillation and psychology explained that those who are guilty of “dumping” rely so much on their friends to help them process their emotions. 

Nelisha spoke to FEMAIL to explain how you can prevent trauma-dumping.    

Psychologist & Oxford University associate fellow Nelisha Wickremasinghe has revealed why you should never dump your problems on your friends (stock image)

Psychologist & Oxford University associate fellow Nelisha Wickremasinghe has revealed why you should never dump your problems on your friends (stock image)

What is the point of people trying to ‘dump their trauma’?  

‘People who “dump” traumatic thoughts, feelings, energy onto others – who speak and behave with “wild vulnerability” – find it very difficult to organise, process and filter their feelings appropriately.’

The act of trauma dumping may sometimes be a sign that the victim is dealing with a psychological issue such as borderline personality (BPD) or post-traumatic stress disorder.

The expert stated that in everyday life the boundaries are blurring between sharing with friends and keeping it to yourself or discussing with professionals. 

“People get increasingly confused about culturally mixed messages on what and when sharing is okay,” she stated. 

“The usage of the term “trauma” has been made more flexible, which means that people may experience minor life difficulties and call them ‘traumatic.

What is ‘trauma?’ not trauma 

Nelisha, pictured, explained that we tend to over-share when we don't know how to process our feelings

Nelisha, shown in the photo, said that people tend to share too much when they don’t understand how to deal with their feelings. 

Nelisha explained that trauma dumping is different from actual traumas one can feel after suffering from PTSD.

“It is important to differentiate between them. She said that post-traumatic stress disorder can be a serious condition where flashbacks or powerful memories disrupt the mind’s ability to communicate with others. 

The counselor said that PTSD patients would want the person who is telling them to be serious about helping them.   

The woman continued to state that people need to recognize an inconvenience like waiting in line for petrol, or not being able take advantage of a promotion, isn’t the same thing as witnessing a crime, or surviving rape. Participation in a fatal accident, or the premature death of a family member.

People who trauma dump often complain more about feeling abused by their bosses, partners, friends, fear of Covid, being alone, not being noticed or being valued, having paranoid thoughts that other people are plotting or talking about me and an overall attitude that everything is against them. 

It is becoming a common practice to share too much…but it does not always work out well. 

According to the author, there’s a term called “oversharing”, and this has been accepted as a norm.  

Over emoting has been encouraged, and is now the standard on social media as well as talk shows and reality TV. She said that there are a lot of messages and self-help guides out now, encouraging us to talk about our emotions and share them with each other. 

Trauma dumping is when people feel that they should share their feelings, but are not taught how to deal with them.  

“Yet, yet in many schools or workplaces, emotions are not properly cared for and nurtured. In some places, they even get discouraged,” she stated. 

“Feelings, while we may be told that they are positive, there is very little practice in learning how to process, explain, and express them.

According to her, trauma dumping was also a result of the “threat brain,” the “part of our emotional system that responds and is alerted to danger.”

“An overactive brain with dangerous thoughts and feelings will overwhelm us. These emotions and thoughts, if not controlled and soothed, can eventually spread throughout our daily lives and relationships,” she said. 

‘Our threat brain can be activated by both real and imagined threats which is why, for some people, relatively minor problems can feel terrifying – our ability to replay, imagine and over-think makes it so.’

Both parties can suffer from trauma dumping

“Traumadumping is dangerous because of high-stakes speech and conduct that stimulate a section of the nervous system, which in turn floods our body and produces powerful hormones and chemicals to make us alert and hypervigilant,” she stated. 

Nelisha said that it can take time for someone to heal from their trauma.  

Because of the emotions that result from the “trauma binge”, detoxing can be difficult. 

“For instance, many people feel embarrassed and guilt because they believe they’ve shared too much or embellished the facts of their problems. 

They can feel more anxious because they don’t have to take away their pain. Instead, the solution has provided them with problem-focused energy, which keeps their’memory activate’. It’s like binging on alcohol, but trauma dumping can cause lasting effects that are painful and debilitating.

It is also cause of suffering for those who are the victims.  

“They are trying to help, but cannot because trauma dumpling is meant to let out emotions not solve problems. Nelisha stated that they often feel angry and depleted by their emotional “bombing” and inability to get out. 

‘Friendships and partnerships thrive on reciprocity – which is mutual sharing, giving and taking. On the other side, trauma dumping is unilateral and uses people as an object to project pain. 

“When this occurs, the receiver may experience “secondary trauma” which can be described as an emotional contagion in which negative emotions become more infectious.

Do you think that trauma dumping could be a problem for YOU?  

Nelisha spoke out about the types of people most at risk from trauma dumping. 

“If you are at the victim of someone else’s trauma dump, ask yourself: What is it that I have about myself that allows people to use or attract me this way?She said, “

There are three ways you can say no to trauma-dumping 

· Learn about your threat brain and share with your friend/partner how trauma dumping increases threat brain activity and creates anxiety and stress in both of you.

· Let your friend/partner know that when your threat brain is activated it makes trauma worse and that research shows that breathing slowly and regularly is better than talking when we are feeling fearful. Invite your friend to stop talking and to breathe – you can do this together.

Do not see them when you’re tired, stressed or if they aren’t available. If you must see this person, practice and be ready to say no.

This is a crucial question because it isn’t about you blaming others, but rather compassionately understanding the ways in which your relationships may not be working for you. 

This question should be asked kindly, and it is best to do so with curiosity. 

She stated that those who are prone to dumping their traumas on other people unconsciously look for someone who can hold onto their emotions. 

Nelisha stated that there was a sixth sense in all people. It connects with our subconscious and seeks out and connects to those who can help our unconscious yearnings, needs and character to be heard, seen and related to. 

According to her, you are more likely to be a trauma-dumping target if your personality is people-pleaser.  

She said that a person who trauma dumps unconsciously seeks people with a greater need for love or approval than the average. 

‘This need arises – again often unconsciously – from a a fear of being rejected or of being unloveable. This belief stems in part from early childhood experiences that we are able to secure love and safety if we behave well, comply with others and be submissive. 

Just as how we respond to perceived danger has an impact on how we handle problems from others, so too does how we react when we see danger.  

Nelisha said that if you have difficulty stopping your friend from dumping on yourself, it could be because you are using the freeze part of our flight flee-freeze threat brain reaction repertoire. 

‘Whilst animals literally freeze by remaining still, humans freeze their own needs and beliefs so that they can fully focus on the other person – which feels like the safest thing to when we experience fear,’ she went on. 

According to her, such brain strategies like fighting, fleeing, and freezing can rarely be used in good relationships. They also don’t help friends who are trauma-dumping. 

“Discovering that your brain is in danger of being trapped in the ‘freeze’ loop can be the first step towards learning how to handle people who are trying to take advantage of you,” she stated.  

Ask yourself the following question: “What did I do to earn approval, love and attention from my parents as a child?” Consider where you are on the spectrum from submissive to dominant (e.g. People pleasing), to dominant (.e.g. competitive and achievement-oriented). 

“Then, small steps can be taken towards compassion assertion. It is important to learn how to be compassionate and not defensive when saying no, she said.