Looking to lead a stronger, healthier life?
Sign up for our Wellness Wire newsletter for all sorts of nutrition, fitness, and wellness wisdom.

Now we’re in this together.
Thanks for subscribing and having us along on your health and wellness journey.

See all Healthline's newsletters »
Advertisement

Why Can’t I Stop Crying?

Overview

Some people cry while reading a sad book or watching videos of baby animals. Others cry only at funerals. And for certain people, the mere hint of anything that arouses emotions can cause tears to flow.

If you’ve ever had tears well up in a meeting or wept out loud in a movie theatre, you may have wondered if it’s normal. Is there such a thing as crying too often or too much?

Do you cry too much?

There are no guidelines for how much crying is too much. A study in the 1980s found that women cry an average of 5.3 times per month and men cry an average of 1.3 times per month. A newer study found that the average duration for a crying session was eight minutes.

If you’re concerned that you’re crying too much, if you can’t seem to stop crying, or have started crying more than usual, talk to your doctor. It may be a sign of depression or another mood disorder.

What causes people to cry more frequently?

There are a lot of reasons, besides having an immediate emotional response, why you may cry more than normal. Tearfulness is frequently associated with depression and anxiety. People often experience the two conditions at the same time. Certain neurological conditions can also make you cry or laugh uncontrollably.

Depression

Depression is a mood disorder in which you have persistent feelings of sadness that last more than a few weeks. Activities you once found pleasurable may no longer interest you. Symptoms of depression may include:

  • sadness and gloominess
  • feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • low energy
  • difficulty concentrating

Your crying may be related to depression if you:

  • cry over small things or have trouble identifying why you’re crying
  • cry much more than normal
  • have trouble stopping your tears

Excessive crying is more likely to happen if your depression is milder. People with severe depression often have trouble crying or expressing other emotions.

Anxiety

We all have times when we’re nervous and anxious. With anxiety disorder, though, you experience worry and nervousness more often, maybe even on a daily basis. Symptoms often include:

  • edginess or irritability
  • excessive worry
  • muscle tension
  • fatigue
  • difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • trouble sleeping

Pseudobulbar affect

Sudden uncontrollable crying, laughing, or feeling anger can be a symptom of a condition called pseudobulbar affect (PBA). PBA is an involuntary neurological state related to an injury or disturbance in parts of your brain that control your emotions.

Sometimes called emotional incontinence, the uncontrolled emotions associated with PBA often don’t match how you feel or what you’re experiencing. Because the symptoms are similar, PBA may be misdiagnosed as depression. PBA often occurs in people who have:

Learn more: MS and the pseudobulbar affect »

Gender and personality

Studies indicate that, on average, women cry more often than men. One possible reason for this is that testosterone may inhibit crying. Cultural norms may also account for some of the differences in crying among men and women.

Besides a difference between sexes, people who are empathetic and concerned about the well-being of others may cry more than people who are less empathetic. People who are anxious, insecure, or obsessive, cry more and for longer periods of time than other people.

Why do we cry?

Did you know?
Crying in response to emotions is unique to humans.

Glands located above your eyes produce most of your tears. They’re called lachrymal glands. The word lachrymal means tear. Every time you blink, tears flow to your eyes from ducts attached to your lachrymal glands. This keeps the surface of your eyes lubricated and protects them from substances like dust, smoke, or onion gasses. Tears also drain into your nose.

Tears are made up of:

  • water
  • salt
  • protective antibodies
  • enzymes

The chemistry of tears caused by emotion, sometimes called psychic tears, is different than that of tears that moisten and protect your eyes. Psychic tears contain more of the protein-based hormones your body produces under stress.

There’s limited research on the science and psychology of crying. Some researchers believe crying is a way your body gets rid of stress-related hormones. Other studies show tears may trigger the release of endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that make you feel good and reduce pain.

A recent focus of research is the response people have to the chemical content of tears. Studies have shown, for example, that men are less aggressive and less sexually aroused when smelling women’s psychic tears.

Does crying make you feel better?

Crying doesn’t necessarily make you feel better. In one study, only about 30 percent of participants said crying made their mood improve. Crying is more likely to make you feel better if:

  • you have the emotional support of a friend
  • you’re crying because of a positive experience
  • it enables you to understand your emotions better
  • it helps you resolve an issue or problem

Seeking help

If you have symptoms of depression or anxiety, or emotional responses that don’t feel right, don’t try to tough it out alone. Mood disorders can have a negative impact on every part of your life. This includes your relationships, work, or school. They also make you more vulnerable to physical illnesses.

Talk with your doctor about what you are experiencing. Your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist or therapist who specializes in working with people who have mood disorders.

Treatment

Approximately 80 percent of people with depression improve significantly with treatment. Treatment for depression and anxiety can include psychotherapy (talk therapy) and medications. Self-care is important, too. Many people find relaxation techniques, meditation, mindfulness, and exercise helpful.

Learn more: 10 simple ways to relieve stress »

Therapy and antidepressants can alleviate the effects of PBS. Some people see improvement taking a newer drug developed just for the condition, called dextromethorphan quinidine (Nuedexta).

Outlook

Some people cry more than others. Women tend to cry more than men, even in cultures where it’s acceptable for males to cry. Crying more than is normal for you may be a symptom of depression or a neurological disorder.

If you’re concerned about the amount you’re crying, talk to your doctor.

Tips for managing crying

There’s nothing wrong with crying, but if you want to try to manage your tears, there are some things you can try:

  • Focus on taking slow, deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. This may help you relax, which could also stop the flow of tears.
  • Relax your facial muscles so your expression is neutral.
  • Think about something repetitious, like a poem, a song, or nursery rhyme you’ve memorized.
  • Take a walk, or find another way to temporarily remove yourself from a stressful or upsetting situation.

Read this Next

Add a comment
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement