This article was co-authored by Klare Heston, LCSW. Klare Heston is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker based in Cleveland, Ohio. With experience in academic counseling and clinical supervision, Klare received her Master of Social Work from the Virginia Commonwealth University in 1983. She also holds a 2-Year Post-Graduate Certificate from the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, as well as certification in Family Therapy, Supervision, Mediation, and Trauma Recovery and Treatment (EMDR).
This article has been viewed 95,154 times.
Depending on your culture, crying in public may or may not be a socially acceptable behavior. Fortunately, if you do find yourself in a situation where you feel that you need to cry, but don’t want anyone to know, there are some things you can do to hide it.
Support wikiHow by unlocking this expert answer.
- Crying allows us to release tension and toxins from our body. Avoid holding it all in for too long, as this may cause even more problems in the long run.
- It’s OK to leave where you are if you’re feeling overcome with sadness and you want to be alone.
You Might Also Like
About This Article
To cry without people knowing, it’s easiest to find a private spot, like your bedroom, a bathroom, or a quiet spot outside. However, if getting away isn’t an option, breathe deeply and cry as quietly as possible. To draw less attention to your tears, place your hand on your forehead, as though you’re thinking or shading your eyes from the sun. If you’re in a social situation, pretend you got a call and walk to the most private spot you can find to allow yourself a moment to cry and regroup. After you’ve shed a few tears, splash some cold water on your face if there’s any redness or swelling around your eyes or nose. You can also use some eye drops or sunglasses to hide the fact that you’ve been crying. To learn how to use moisturizer to hide the fact that you’ve been crying, keep reading!
There was this girl in my therapy group who couldn’t cry. We’d arrive at group at the same time, and she was my age, so we were friendly. You don’t want to get too friendly with people in group, you know, like people in therapy are there to get better not to fall in love or something. So, we were friendly in a stand-offish way. Though when she spoke, when it was her turn to talk in the circle of chairs, she would look into my eyes. And it was like she was only speaking to me, one person, because she needed that. Because it can be so hard to talk about shit that hurts, and sometimes you need someone; someone to be your ground. I had a lot of trouble meeting anyone’s eyes, that was just a part of the father-related shit I had going on, but I didn’t look away from her.
Most people in group would break down and cry when they were speaking, and then they would feel a bit better afterwards. Not this girl, because there was a physical issue with her eyes, something to do with her ducts, and she could not shed tears. So she was in group to learn how to have an emotional release without crying. Because the relief you get from crying, the feeling of letting something go, she’d never had that, she said. All her feeling was still locked up inside her. She’d had a lot of terrible shit happen to her, and no one deserved to cry more than she did. So it was sad. She was kind of a weird girl, spooky, you know, and arty. Beautiful amazing and tortured. I thought about her a lot.
What she did, instead of crying, was she tried to find other outlets for her emotions. For example, art projects. Art was an outlet she tried instead of crying. She’d talk about this at group while looking into my eyes. The project that took up most of her attention was the subversive filming of people on trains. Like commuters. She would secretly film train commuters. Specifically, she’d film people listening to music with earplugs in because she noticed that these people, being gently rocked by a moving train, would sometimes start to weep. And she would film that.
From the footage she created a short film. Initially she set this film to classical music and it was like an arty short film of people on trains crying while listening to their own private music, all of which was set to Beethoven. But one day while she was working on this film her phone rang and she had to mute the film to take the call, which it was her mother calling, again, and she wasn’t really listening, she was watching the film, and it dawned on her what was missing from the film, what would really make it a true film, was if the soundtrack was a train rolling over tracks.
So she canned Beethoven and set the film to the sound of a train on tracks, and it gave the film a cathartic depth that had been missing. Because the sound of a train passing was a metaphor for “this too will pass”. She said. It was like the train track soundtrack actually consoled the crying trainpeople on the film — these people in their own plugged-in world suffering a moment of music induced vulnerability. What she thought she’d discovered was that the combination of gently being rocked while listening to music was a trigger for trainpeople to tap into long felt emotions like fear or anger or grief, which they would process and release through tears, on the train. This girl was touched by the beauty of these people when they cried. She said. Touched, deeply. She could feel their pain.
So, but what the good thing for her was, she said, was that if she rocked herself and watched this short film it gave her the feeling that something was passing for her too. Like the film basically fired her mirror neurons and allowed her to transfer her own sad story over some trainperson’s sad story and to make what was happening for them feel like it was happening for her too (even though it wasn’t). And their tears became her tears. Their release became hers. And that was how she learnt to cry without actually, you know, physically crying.
So yeah, in the end, after she told that to group, she left group. She was smokin’ hot, this girl. And I loved her. But after she left group, I never saw her again. I just got on with my life. I tried to get passed my own blocks, and to look people in the eye when I could. I did get better, slowly. Something that helped me, that had always helped me, was to put my headphones in and get on a train and watch the city I loved, the city I hated, go by. She was right about the feel of a train, the rocking, it’s like you are being held in the hands of something big that knows your fate.
A long time later I got a DVD in my letter box, wrapped in brown paper.
It was a short film. She had shot the film sitting behind me and to the right. Usually there were a few people between us, but sometimes not. A lot of times I had my hood up, but you could tell when I started to cry; it was the way my shoulders shook, the angle of my head. It was a quiet film, in black and white, it was arty I guess. With just the sound of a train gently clicking over some tracks. I saw that I was different. I was moving on. The past was losing hold, bit by bit and day by day.
Whether you cry from watching the scenes from The Notebook or cry after stubbing your toe in the middle of the night on a chair you didn’t see…. everybody cries. It can be in the privacy of your own home or share with your best friend, we all do it. And yes, we all sometimes cry for no reason and it can be normal. It probably is more alarming when you think “why am I crying for no reason” or we think “kids are crying for no reason,” but surprise, it is not for no reason. There is a reason. You just may not be aware of what it is.
Children may not be able to articulate what is going on, so to adults, it looks like kids are crying for no reason as well.
Why Am I Crying For No Reason:
1. Most people are overwhelmed and don’t even realize it.
You may be heading home from work sitting in traffic, and all of a sudden tears begin to fall. At that moment you probably are thinking, what is wrong with me? Why am I crying? I’m not even sad! If you are unaware of the amount of stress you are under, then stress can find a way to express itself, whether you are expecting it to or not. Stress lives in the body and crying is one form of release that stress finds. So pay attention to the amount of stress you’re under, it may be contributing to your experience of crying for no reason.
2. You don’t have to be clinically diagnosed with depression to experience symptoms of depression.
While it is a common mood disorder, many of the symptoms are common for people to experience as well. Some symptoms of depression are persistent sadness, empty mood, or hopelessness. Amongst other symptoms, these feelings tend to make people cry. The conscious connection may not be made so people assume they are crying for no reason.
3. Similar to stress, many people experience anxiety.
Whether you have an anxiety disorder or struggle with anxiety in general, anxiety can cause you to cry. Symptoms of anxiety can include having a sense of impending danger, feeling nervous, or having difficulty controlling worry. The act of crying can be a release of the build-up of previously explained symptoms. Remember, if you are not active in coping with your anxiety, it can appear in unexpected physical ways, like in the form of migraines or crying.
4. If you are a woman, unexpected crying can be related to premenstrual syndrome.
Premenstrual syndrome is the collective experience of symptoms that women have one to two weeks before their menstrual cycle begins. Some symptoms of the premenstrual syndrome include headaches, bloating, and crying spells. If you are not tracking your menstrual cycle and are unaware it is beginning, you may not realize you are experiencing premenstrual syndrome.
5. Processing the death of someone you love or cared for does not have a deadline.
You may assume that because the person died a year ago, or 6 months ago that you would not feel sudden strong emotions related to that person you lost. You may think that you have learned to accept the loss and going about your daily life. But like many people, you may still be grieving the loss of a loved one and not realize it. Something as simple as a smell that brings up a memory of a loved one could cause us to cry all of a sudden.
6. Have you heard of the pseudobulbar affect?
Not many have. Pseudobulbar affect (PBA) is a condition that’s characterized by episodes of sudden uncontrollable and inappropriate laughing or crying. Pseudobulbar effect typically occurs in people with certain neurological conditions or injuries, which might affect the way the brain controls emotions. People that have pseudobulbar affect do have other emotions but express emotions in an inappropriate and magnified manner, consequently disrupting their life. Uncontrollable crying can look like crying for no reason.
So keep in mind, you may not be crying for no reason. Your tears mean something, you just have to figure out what they mean. If you need to talk to someone, see a professional therapist or psychiatrist in your insurance network who can help you feel better and increase your quality of life.
At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff who specialize in psychotherapy and psychiatry services. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic on (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.
Babies and toddlers often get clingy and cry if you or their other carers leave them, even for a short time.
Separation anxiety and fear of strangers is common in young children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years, but it’s a normal part of your child’s development and they usually grow out of it.
Why separation anxiety happens
If your baby used to be calm when you left the room and they were happy to be held by people they didn’t know, it may not seem to make sense when they start crying whenever you’re not there or strangers are close.
But separation anxiety is a sign your baby now realises how dependent they are on the people who care for them. That can include their grandparents or professionals closely involved with their care, as well as their parents.
As they get more aware of their surroundings, your baby’s strong relationship with this small group means they don’t feel so safe without you. Their growing awareness of the world around them can also make them feel unsafe or upset in new situations or with new people, even if you are there.
How to handle separation anxiety
Separation anxiety can make it difficult to leave your baby at nursery or in someone else’s care. You may feel distressed by their tears and worry about the effect on your baby every time you need to leave them.
Remember, it’s only natural for your baby to feel anxious without you, so there’s no reason to feel guilty when you need to get on with other parts of your life. In fact, separation anxiety is usually a sign of how well you have bonded with them.
Instead, you can focus on helping your baby understand and deal with their feelings so they feel more secure. They’ll learn that if you leave them, they will be OK and you will come back. If your baby’s old enough, you can talk to them about what’s happening, where you’re going and when you’ll be with them again.
By leaving your baby with another caregiver, you won’t damage them. You’re actually helping them learn to cope without you, and that’s an important step towards their growing independence. Don’t be too hard on yourself – separation anxiety is common and it’s normal.
Tips for separation anxiety
Dr Angharad Rudkin, a clinical psychologist, has these tips to help you.
Practise short separations from your baby to begin with
You could start by leaving them in someone else’s care for a few minutes while you nip to the local shop. Leave your baby with someone they know well so they still feel comfortable and safe in your absence. Gradually work towards longer separations, and then leaving them in less familiar settings.
Talk about what you’ll do together later
Talk to your toddler about what you’re going to do when you see them again so they have something to look forward to with you. For example, you could say: “When Mummy comes back to pick you up, we’ll go to the shop together to get food for dinner.”
Leave something comforting with your baby
It may comfort your baby to have something they identify with you – like a scarf with your scent on or a favourite toy – close by. This may reassure them while you are away.
Make saying goodbye a positive time
When you leave your baby, however sad or worried you may be feeling, smile and wave goodbye confidently and happily, otherwise they will pick up on your tension. By giving your baby experience of saying goodbye then having happy reunions, you are teaching them an important life lesson.
When to get help for separation anxiety
“It’s completely natural for babies and toddlers to cry when they part from their main caregiver,” says Dr Rudkin. “But as babies get older, they’re more able to understand that people and things exist even when they can’t see them.”
Until that happens, it’s important your baby’s anxiety doesn’t stop them getting the most from new experiences like socialising and learning at nursery. And it shouldn’t stop you going to work.
“If your child’s separation anxiety is causing them a lot of distress, they are upset for a long time after you have left them, or it has been going on for more than a few weeks, talk to your health visitor,” says Dr Rudkin.
Video: my child wants to be with me all the time – what can I do? (6 to 18 months)
This video explains what you can do if your child wants to be with you all the time.
General / General : Eleanor Haley
If ever there were a time you’d expect to cry, it’s after the death of a loved one or other significant loss. You’re sad as hell, and everyone around you is weeping, so you probably should too, right?
For some, yes, their tears could fill the deepest canyon. But for others, their tears are like a sneeze that won’t come. Though they may feel the precursing sadness–and perhaps a pit in their stomach and a lump in their throat– their eyes remain dry.
We receive a lot of questions about crying–or rather–not crying after a loss. People want to know, why don’t I cry when someone dies? Though there are many variations on this question, they usually fall under one of two categories.
Category # 1: I’m usually a crier, but I can’t cry now. What gives?
Many people are distressed at not being able to cry because they typically can and do cry when something upsetting happens. However, now that something truly devastating has happened, they suddenly find themselves cut off from a means of emotional expression that usually seems second nature.
Though this is a common experience, it’s normal for a person to worry when something deviates far from their baseline (i.e., what they’re used to). So, if this describes you, we’ve written about the experience of “feeling nothing” here and discussed why a person might feel numb after a loss here.
Category #2: Even though I’m not a crier, I expected loss to make me cry, and it hasn’t.
For many other people, their baseline is that they hardly ever cry, if at all. Some people rarely shed tears, and they don’t know why. Others admit they avoid it because it makes them feel ashamed or embarrassed. This shouldn’t be surprising when you consider how many children are raised to believe tears are weak, wrong, bothersome, or attention-seeking.
It’s not okay that we as a society have made many people feel ashamed of a natural human experience like crying–but we have. And knowing this is the case, it’s then equally unfair that we turn around and tell grieving people that if they’re not openly weeping, they’re somehow doing grief wrong. So we’re mainly here to say it is okay to cry, and it’s also okay not to cry if you can’t or don’t want to.
We aren’t saying that crying isn’t a helpful outlet for many people–on the contrary–it certainly has its potential benefits, and if you’re curious about those, a Google search will turn up many articles. Instead, we want to reassure those who aren’t crying that it’s okay. Crying isn’t a required step in grieving a loss; it is not a measure of how much you love the person who died, and you can still grieve healthily even if the tears don’t flow.
But don’t grievers need to “let it out”?
People often tell grievers that they “need to let their emotions out” by crying, which sets up the expectation that they would feel better if only their tears would flow. As a result, those who can’t cry may worry they don’t have access to a necessary emotional release valve. But, it turns out that the idea that crying is some essential form of catharsis during emotional times isn’t entirely accurate.
Crying does have self-soothing benefits; it’s thought to release oxytocin and other helpful pain and stress-reducing hormones. But, crying is only one of many activities that can help in this way. Other activities that may have similar effects include physical and emotional intimacy, bonding with a pet, massage, music, exercise, artistic expression, meditation, etc. And with regards to emotional expression, there are countless ways beyond crying that people express their emotions (journaling, art, talking, etc.).
The most important thing is that a person has tools for self-soothing, stress relief, and emotional expression, but those tools do not need to include crying to be healthy.
An important catch: non-criers may receive less support
I think it’s important to note that scientists don’t really know why people cry emotional tears. Ultimately, there are many theories and many potential explanations. But one pretty solid theory about why people cry is that tears signal to others that the person crying is experiencing distress and needs help.
Dating back to our baby days, we used crying as a way to get our needs met. As adults, tears help us send SOS signals to others that we need support. So, in this regard, non-criers may be at a disadvantage after experiencing loss because they might not get the help that others receive.
Though the grieving person may be experiencing a hurricane of thoughts, emotions, and physical responses on the inside, their outside looks calm. So well-intentioned family and friends may triage their support and assistance away from them towards others who are more outwardly struggling.
Those who don’t cry after a loss may also worry that not crying will signal that they’re doing fine or aren’t that bothered. And, not to scare you, but this is a legitimate concern. People often judge or stigmatize grief expression that looks different from what they expected (see our discussion on disenfranchised grief). Perhaps worse than the judgments of others is self-stigma, as the grieving person themselves may wonder if not being able to cry means something’s wrong with them or if they’re grieving less than they should (it doesn’t).
So all this being said, if you feel that your lack of tears is impacting the support and care you’re getting, you may need to deliberately tell people how you feel (instead of showing them). If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, another option is to seek out more formal outlets for support, like a support group or therapist.
We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and resource suggestions with the WYG community in the discussion section below.
Professor of Psychology, University of Canberra
Debra Rickwood does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of Canberra provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.
You have probably found yourself weeping quietly, or even suddenly sobbing uncontrollably, while watching a movie. Common culprits include Marley and Me, The Color Purple, Schindler’s List and The Lion King.
You may have tried to blubber discretely so your dry-eyed companions didn’t think you were a sook (and no doubt you had a sneaky look sideways to see if they were glassy-eyed too), or you may have boldly sobbed away.
Why do we cry in movies? Is this a sign of emotional weakness (hence hiding it from your friends) or an indicator of strength – evidence of emotional intelligence?
Good movies are carefully crafted to engage us and be deeply absorbing. They transport us into the world of their characters: to see as they see, feel as they feel, and even totally identify with a character in some cases. We know movies are not real, but we are so engrossed that we emotionally react as though they are.
Some are based on true stories, and knowing this makes them even more potent. The emotional power of some movies is especially captivating: they’re not called tearjerkers for nothing.
The love hormone
Neuroscientist Paul Zak has studied the effects of compelling stories, showing watching them can cause the release of oxytocin.
Oxytocin is best known for its role in childbirth and breast feeding, increasing contractions during labour and stimulating the milk ducts. It is also released in response to positive physical contact – hugging, kissing, sexual intimacy and even petting animals – as well as through positive social interactions.
Consequently, it has been called the “love hormone”.
As social animals, our survival depends on social bonding, and oxytocin is critical. It helps us to identify and attach with our essential caregivers and protective social groups.
According to another neuroscientist, Robert Froemke, recent research shows oxytocin has an even broader impact and acts as a “volume dial”, amplifying brain activity related to whatever a person is currently experiencing.
So, although oxytocin may be targeted biologically at ensuring strong social bonds, it also serves to enhance emotional responses.
Crying in the movies is a sign that oxytocin has been triggered by the connections you feel due to vicarious social experience. Your attention is captured and emotions elicited by the movie’s story.
Oxytocin is then associated with heightened feelings of empathy and compassion, further intensifying feelings of social connectedness and you pay even further attention to the social cues of the characters in the movie. Hence the sudden emotional outpour!
Empathy is a sign of strength
Empathy is a key component of emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and regulate your own emotions and to understand and manage the emotions of others.
According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, empathy is one of five key emotional intelligence characteristics, along with self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation and social skills.
High emotional intelligence has been shown to be associated with effective leadership, professional success and academic achievement, as well as better social and intimate relationships. It is linked to with psychological and physical health and well-being, and greater emotional intelligence helps to deal with stress and conflict.
Crying in response to a movie reveals high empathy, social awareness and connection – all aspects of emotional intelligence. As such, it is an indicator of personal strength rather than weakness.
Sobbing openly may be a particular sign of strength, as it shows that a person is unafraid to display their emotional reaction to others.
Crying is not a sign of weakness
A reason why crying in movies has been viewed as a sign of emotional weakness is that crying, especially crying in response to the pain of others, is seen as a stereotypically female behaviour.
Add in that oxytocin, and its relationship with empathy and social bonding, is strongly associated with child-bearing, and the crying = female = weak connection is established.
But there is nothing weak about demonstrating your emotional intelligence. Emotional crying is a uniquely human behaviour. Good movies embed us in another world, eliciting powerful emotions and triggering biological processes in our brain.
Suddenly being awash in tears shows a strong empathy response. Blubber away and be proud of your emotional intelligence – and maybe search out tearjerker movies to check out the emotional response of your friends.
In this Article
- What Are Tears of Happiness?
- Benefits of Crying
- Types of Tears of Happiness
- How Tears of Joy Can Affect Health
Sometimes, when weвЂ™re filled with joy and emotion, we start to cry. We usually associate tears with sadness, so it might seem strange to cry when youвЂ™re happy.В
But crying can have some positive effects on your well being, and can actually help you to manage your emotions.В В
What Are Tears of Happiness?
ItвЂ™s not known exactly why we cry tears of happiness or how they are different from tears of anger or sadness. But when we cry due to something we think of as good, rather than something thatвЂ™s sad, we call our tears вЂњtears of joyвЂќ.В
You donвЂ™t just shed tears when youвЂ™re upset. There are three different types of tears, categorized by the reasons they appear:В
- Basal tears. These tears are actually in your eyes all day. They act as a lubricant and disinfectant for your eyes. In addition to the water and salt that you might expect in a tear, there is also mucus and oil. The oil protects the tear from evaporating.В
- Psychic or emotional tears. We cry psychic or emotional tears in response to an emotional event. These tears contain stress hormones.В
- Irritant tears. Irritant tears flush out your eye when something disturbs it or gets inside. A common example would be the tears you get from cutting onions.В В
Benefits of Crying
Crying can cause your body to produce hormones that make you feel better. You release oxytocin and endorphins after you cry, which can help lift your mood.В
If you feel emotional comfort when you cry, your mood can improve afterward. But if you try to push back your tears or feel shame when you cry, it can have the opposite effect and actually bring down your mood.
The culture you live in may also play a part in whether or not you feel better after you cry. People who live in wealthy countries are more likely to feel relieved and more positive after experiencing a bout of tears.В
Types of Tears of Happiness
A recent study tells us there are four different types of positive tears: amusement, affection, beauty, and achievement.В
- Amusement. You cry tears of amusement when you are laughing at something, or find something so amusing you canвЂ™t help but shed tears.В
- Affection. Tears of affection might happen when youвЂ™re at a wedding or have an unexpected rush of gratitude and feelings of warmth. ItвЂ™s common to have tears of affection for someone you care about.В В
- Beauty. You can cry tears when you become overwhelmed by an astounding scene. It can happen when youвЂ™re overtaken by beautiful music or a riveting nature scene.В
- Achievement. Achievement tears could happen when you achieve something important or overcome an obstacle or hurdle.В
This study reviewed reports from more than 13,000 people and also found interesting cultural similarities. People who live in Western societies or in societies that focus on the individual were more likely to cry tears of beauty or amusement. Participants who live in communal cultures showed more tears of affection.В
Women are also more likely to cry tears of happiness than men. вЂЊ
How Tears of Joy Can Affect Health
Crying tears of joy has a purpose. They can help you keep your emotional balance. People who cry from happiness when theyвЂ™re overwhelmed can actually recover better from the original feeling that caused them to cry.В В
You can have two different emotions in response to a single cause. This is called a dimorphous expression. Dimorphous expressions can help you regulate your emotions so they donвЂ™t overwhelm you.
Association for Psychological Science: вЂњвЂTears of JoyвЂ™ May Help Us Maintain Emotional Balance.вЂќ
Brain Pickings: вЂњThe Topography of Tears: A Stunning Aerial Tour of the Landscape of Human Emotion Through an Optical Microscope.вЂќ
Canadian Journal of Psychiatry: вЂњTears of joy.вЂќ
Cleveland Clinic: Health Essentials:В вЂњWhy We Cry and What Tears Are Made Of.вЂќ
Frontiers in Psychology: вЂњIs crying a self-soothing behavior?вЂќ
Personality and Individual Differences: вЂњTears of sorrow, tears of joy: An individual differences approach to crying in Dutch females.вЂќ
PsyArXIV Preprints: вЂњA Model of Positive Tears.вЂќ
Before you read on, take a moment to pause. Close your eyes if you want to, and take a couple of calm breaths. Then ask yourself — how are you feeling right now?
Think of one-word answers that describe how you feel.
Notice what words come to mind. Does one feeling stand out? Or are there a few? You might even have opposite feelings at the same time. For example, excited and nervous. That’s normal.
Just notice the emotions you feel at the moment. There’s no right or wrong answer.
Doing this is a simple way to be aware of your emotions.
Sometimes it’s easy to be aware of your emotions. Maybe there’s one feeling that’s strong and obvious to you. Other times, you might not pay much attention to how you feel. But your emotions are there. And they’re all normal.
Feelings are signals from the body that help us understand ourselves and make good decisions. For example, feeling fear in a situation like crossing the street in traffic is a useful signal to stay safe.
Being more aware of your emotions is a skill that can help you:
- know yourself better
- feel better about things and cope better
- be less self-critical
- pause instead of act on difficult emotions
- decide how to act and handle situations
- get along better with others
Here are five ways to practice being more aware of your emotions:
- Notice and name your feelings. To start, just notice how you feel as things happen. Say the name of the feeling to yourself. You might feel proud when something goes well. Or disappointed if you don’t do well on a test. You might feel relaxed when sitting with friends at lunch. Or nervous before a test.
- Track one emotion. Pick one emotion — like feeling glad. Track it all day. Notice how often you feel it. Maybe you’re glad when something good happens. Or glad when a friend shows up. Maybe you’re glad when someone lends you a hand or says a kind word. Or glad just because it’s Friday. Every time you feel glad, make a mental note to yourself or write it down. Is the feeling mild, medium, or strong?
- Learn new words for feelings. How many feeling words can you name? Try to think of even more. How many words are there for angry? For example, you might be annoyed, upset, or mad. You might be irate, fuming, or outraged.
- Keep a feelings journal. Take a few minutes each day to write about how you feel and why. Writing about your feelings helps you get to know them better. Make art, write poetry, or compose music to express an emotion you feel.
- Notice feelings in art, songs, and movies. Focus on what the artist did to show those feelings. How do you feel in response?
Take time to get to know your emotions better. Just notice how you feel. Accept how you feel without judging yourself. Show yourself some kindness.
Remind yourself that all your emotions are normal. But how you act on emotions matters a lot. When you know your emotions, you’re better able to make wise choices about how to act — no matter what you’re feeling.
If you have emotions that feel difficult or overwhelming, get support. An adult you trust can help you talk through any tough feelings you’re dealing with. Sometimes people get help from a therapist to deal with difficult emotions that affect daily life.
When it feels like your brain is constantly in overdrive, trying to keep up with and process headlines and you’re simply trying to make it through the day, a variety of emotions may arise. Crying may seem like the most obvious way to express negative emotions like sadness, disappointment, pain, and grief. But it’s also one that’s not available to every person—not even when they feel the need or desire to let their tears flow.
It’s also possible that you may have had no problem crying for entire swaths of your life, but then suddenly, your well has run dry. Well, this tracks too because the ability to cry in a given situation is highly personalized and reflective of so many factors. There are many reasons that can explain why you struggle to cry, such as medication side effects, mental health conditions, and trauma of all forms (including generational trauma related to racial injustice). And, yep, the bevy of emotions associated with living through the coronavirus pandemic, such as loneliness and isolation, factor in, too.
So, if you’re confused about why you struggle to cry, consider yourself in good dry-eyed company—but also don’t write off the ability to find a cathartic way to express your emotions if you find yourself unable to tear up. Below, get intel from experts about why folks develop an inability to cry, how to reverse that, and alternative ideas for emotional release.
Reasons why you may struggle to cry
If someone who is typically able to express their emotions by crying suddenly is unable to do so, it’s important to rule out medical or ophthalmological causes, says Jenicka Engler, PsyD, a psychologist, neuropsychologist, and depression researcher in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. For some, the inability to cry may be caused by medications such as antidepressants, and psychologist Jameca Woody Cooper, PhD, suggests you speak with your health-care provider if feel you are unable to cry for this reason.
“Some people develop a sense of emotional distance and numbness from their own emotions as a defense mechanism.” —Jenicka Engler, PsyD
The inability to cry “can also be experienced as a normal stress response for some people,” similar to that of the fight, flight, or freeze trauma response, which many have experienced throughout this pandemic year. “Some people develop a sense of emotional distance and numbness from their own emotions as a defense mechanism,” says Dr. Engler. These people tend to constantly repress their emotions—consciously and subconsciously—without acknowledging or processing them. This can be a temporary fix in distressing moments, “but it’s a pretty maladaptive coping mechanism to put walls up between your inner emotional experiences, and it doesn’t work well over time,” says Dr. Engler.
Another reason you may find yourself struggling to cry can be due to mental-health conditions such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder, Dr. Engler says. “It’s commonly thought that you need to be sad or crying a lot to be depressed, but many people with major depressive disorder present as unable to feel emotions or as if the ‘volume dial’ on their emotions is turned down.” Dr. Woody Cooper adds that “trauma can make the person and the brain, to some extent, shut down as if in protection mode,” leading to a feeling of emotional numbness and the inability to cry.
How to reverse emotional numbness and the inability to cry
There isn’t a quick fix to reverse emotional numbness or the inability to cry, but there are ways to reconnect with your emotions. One way to better express your emotions and create an environment where it feels safe to release these emotions is to “bring emotional language to the forefront of your regular day-to-day experiences,” says Dr. Engler. This means going to therapy, sharing your emotions with trusted friends and family, journaling, and using “I feel” statements, she says.
For people who find themselves wishing they could have an emotional release through crying, Dr. Woody Cooper says it’s imperative you identify the reasons why you’re cut off from that emotion. To do so, she suggests seeking therapy because it’s likely that a traumatic event, or a series of traumatic events, led to the suppression of sadness and crying to an extent that may preclude you from feeling these emotions.
How to achieve emotional release
In addition to therapy, “one of the easiest ways to get a release of emotions and cry is to talk about and process your negative experiences and emotions with someone else,” says Dr. Engler. “There’s something transformative about saying those words out loud to another human being.” And if you’re not in a space to cry yet, another way to achieve that catharsis is to participate in activities that produce “feel-good endorphins in the nervous system,” such as sketching or doing a high-intensity workout.
Another option to help you become more in tune with your emotions and cry is to watch a sad movie or read a sad book, says Dr. Woody Cooper. “A link between emotional films and the release of the hormone oxytocin in the brain has been reported,” she says. Oxytocin is dubbed the “cuddle” hormone and has been shown to increase feelings of trust, closeness to others, generosity, and happiness, according to Dr. Woody Cooper. So, by reading a sad book or watching a sad movie, someone who finds it difficult to cry will ideally be able to get in touch with their emotions and potentially feel comfortable enough to cry.
Becoming in tune with your emotions and being able to express them in healthy ways such as crying may take time and more than likely so trial and error. If you’re concerned about being unable to cry, or if you feel like your emotions have suddenly changed, both Dr. Engler and Dr. Woody Copper recommend speaking with a licensed mental-health professional.
Oh hi! You look like someone who loves free workouts, discounts for cult-fave wellness brands, and exclusive Well+Good content. Sign up for Well+, our online community of wellness insiders, and unlock your rewards instantly.
Steph Coelho is a freelance health writer, web producer, and editor based in Montreal. She specializes in covering general wellness and chronic illness.
Steven Gans, MD, is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Crying out of the blue can happen for many reasons. Even when the crying seems out of the ordinary, there is likely some logical explanation. Depression, for instance, can make you feel sad and hopeless, leaving you crying seemingly out of nowhere.
Even the most random bouts of crying usually have an explanation. Grief and emotion don’t always come out in predictable patterns. However, if the crying you are experiencing feels really out of left field, it might be the result of an underlying brain issue. Rest assured, though, that this explanation is unlikely.
” data-caption=”” data-expand=”300″ data-tracking-container=”true” />
What Causes Crying for No Reason?
Here is why you might be crying more than usual.
Depression can cause a host of symptoms, including:
- Sleep troubles
- Appetite changes
- Concentration issues
- Loss of interest in activities
- Bodily aches and pains
- Suicidal ideation
Depression is common, and symptoms can differ from person to person. Some people may experience episodes of seemingly unexplained crying. Others may find themselves crying more than usual.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with depression are more likely to suffer from other conditions such as anxiety disorders.
Anxiety is a complex state characterized by feelings of intense worry, panic, and fear in anticipation of a perceived danger, and is often accompanied by other physical and cognitive symptoms. Certain people with anxiety may feel overwhelmed and more likely to cry over seemingly mundane things.
People with bipolar disorder have extreme highs and lows. Along with these unpredictable mood swings may come outbursts of emotion, including crying. Not everyone with bipolar has the same ratio of highs and lows. There are two main types of bipolar:
- Bipolar I involves manic episodes lasting at least a week and may be accompanied by separate periods of depressive episodes. Some people with this type of bipolar also experience manic and depressive symptoms at the same time.
- Bipolar II involves periods of depression and hypomania, where the highs are not as severe as in bipolar I.
Some people may have symptoms of bipolar disorder but don’t fit neatly into these categories.
Your tears are made up of more than water and salt. There is some evidence that emotional tears (in contrast to tears formed in response to things like yawning) contain substances like hormones and prolactin.
Hormonal changes may explain why some people seem to cry for no reason. Sometimes, the hormone changes are expected. People who are pregnant, for example, may find themselves crying more easily. The flood of hormones due to pregnancy is typical.
Other times, hormonal changes that lead to crying are part of an underlying condition, like premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD can cause:
- Crying out of nowhere
- Excessive crying
- Moodiness, depression, and anxiety
- Appetite changes
- Bloating, cramping
- Headaches and body aches
The onset of the disorder typically happens about a week or so before menstruation. Symptoms usually subside during menstruation.
Some people may also feel more emotional while menstruating because of hormone changes.
Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA)
Neurological disease can also cause crying for no reason. When crying is the result of a brain disorder, there is no reason for it aside from the physical condition. PBA is a symptom of many neurological diseases, including:
- Brain injury
- Brain tumor
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
People with PBA can also experience other random emotional outbursts, including anger. Rapid changes in emotions are also possible. Going from anger to laughing in an instant, for example, can happen in people with PBA. These emotional episodes are typically very short-lived.
How to Get Help
If you think your expressions of emotion are out of the norm or excessive, you should speak to a medical or mental health professional. If you are crying for no reason and find that it interferes with your regular activities, don’t hesitate to seek help.
Treatments for depression, anxiety disorders, and other mental health conditions may include:
- Support groups
- Complementary therapies, including mindfulness and exercise
Often, medical professionals will recommend a combination of therapies for maximum effect.
Get Help If You Are in Crisis
If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, reach out for help immediately. Call a loved one, friend, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), which offers free, confidential, 24/7 support. Or call 9-1-1 to get emergency help.
How to Cope
There are several ways to cope with mental illness. Seeking professional help is the first step. A professional can help you figure out the best treatment option—whether that includes medication, therapy, mindfulness techniques, or a combination of these. Some people may find it helpful to join a support group.
If you have PBA, you may struggle to deal with your symptoms. The American Stroke Association suggests the following coping mechanisms:
- Open communication: Telling others about your PBA will help minimize confusion during an episode.
- Distraction: If an episode seems imminent, distraction may help minimize symptoms.
- Changing position: Altering your posture or position may help control episodes.
- Deep breathing: Breathing exercises may also help you get through an episode.
A Word From Verywell
People rarely cry for absolutely no reason at all. If you are crying a lot, feeling down, or find your emotional outbursts are causing problems in your day-to-day life, it may be time to see a healthcare provider.
Crying that is out of the ordinary can be a sign of depression, anxiety, or other conditions. Thankfully, most causes of unexplained crying can be managed and treated.
Some people, though, are just more emotional than others. Remember that it is OK to cry. Even if something minor makes you well up, you don’t have to be embarrassed.
If your crying is disrupting your routines, causing you to feel embarrassed, or happening with other symptoms, consider talking to your healthcare provider to rule out an underlying condition.