Crying is one of our first defense mechanisms, which we practice even before birth. As newborns, we cry to indicate we need help, and we continue to use this emotional tool throughout our lives. As we age, we may use crying as an emotional release; one-third of people reported feeling better after a sobbing session.
But, how much crying is too much? When it becomes uncontrollable or disrupts your daily life, you should speak to a medical professional about your condition. Any of the following reasons could cause your excessive crying:
High levels of stress can overwhelm you. You may not be able to attribute the crying spell to one definable cause, but all it takes is one thing to tip the scales for your body to look for an emotional release.
Sleep deprivation puts your body under stress as well. So your emotional resilience is lower when you are fatigued or exhausted. It can either be physical or mental exhaustion that can trigger unexplained emotional reactions like crying.
2. Gender or Cultural Norms
According to international studies, women cry more often than men on average. Your hormone levels can affect your crying frequency since their fluctuating levels can lead to more crying. For example, during puberty, menstruation, and menopause, you may be more sensitive and prone to emotional outbursts like crying. Specific hormones like testosterone may inhibit crying. However, some studies attribute these gender differences to cultural norms instead.
Whether it’s biological or cultural, there’s also an individual component. People who are more empathetic, meaning they can more easily put themselves in the situation others are experiencing, may cry more than their peers. If you are prone to obsessing, rumination, anxiety, or insecurity, you may tear up more than others.
We are naturally prone to nervousness or anxiety at times. However, a condition like generalized anxiety disorder means you can experience nerves or worry daily. You can have trouble sleeping and concentrating or feel edgy, irritable, or tense. This stress caused by anxiety can trigger waterworks in mundane situations that wouldn’t otherwise make you cry.
While anxiety itself can cause excessive crying, so can certain anti-anxiety medications. Those belonging to the benzodiazepine drug class can cause mood swings and crying. Other medications can have this same effect, such as:
- Stimulants like Adderall or Ritalin
- Sleeping Medications
If you are struggling with substance addiction, you can have mood swings like the ones caused by medication leading to frequent, uncontrollable crying. Other medical conditions can explain your new teary demeanor as well.
5. Other Medical Conditions
Conditions like pregnancy can temporarily make you more prone to welling up. Other conditions that make you more sensitive to stimuli, like ADD, ADHD, or autism, can make you more overwhelmed and likely to cry. Certain neurologic conditions or injuries can lead to frequent crying as well.
6. Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA)
PBA is an involuntary neurological condition caused by problems in parts of your brain that control your emotions. It’s sometimes called emotional incontinence because you can have sudden uncontrollable bouts of laughing, anger, or crying. These external emotional outbursts don’t match up with how you feel. PBA commonly occurs in individuals with Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or a history of strokes. Because of some of the associated conditions causing PBA, doctors can think it’s depression.
7. Grief or Depression
If you suppress loss or grief, it can resurface unexpectedly in the form of tears. Stress, trauma, and grief, especially when buried, can be the precursors to depression. To be considered depressed, you must have persistent sadness that lingers over a few weeks. You may struggle with your energy level or concentration, affecting your work output. You can feel hopeless, worthless, sad, or general gloominess.
Depression can make you cry more frequently or longer than usual, and it can be challenging to stop your tears. You can also cry over small things that typically wouldn’t bother you. Milder forms of depression trigger more excessive crying bouts, as severe depression normally suppresses crying, among other forms of emotional expression.
When Is Crying Too Much?
Medical professionals don’t have an established guideline for how much crying is too much. You can speak to your provider about management tips if it bothers you. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a treatment that can help you identify linkages between feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that build up to crying you may otherwise not notice. Once you can recognize the chain reaction and name the feelings bubbling up, you can work to regulate these emotions.
CBT is effective for treating other mental health issues like depression and anxiety that could be contributing to your crying. If you suspect your tears are due to a mood disorder, you should speak to your doctor immediately for clinical depression and anxiety treatment options. Beyond CBT, there are other forms of therapy, like neuro treatments for depression. You can also practice self-care techniques like mindfulness, meditation, and breathing exercises. No matter what is causing your emotional outbursts, there are proven methods to dry your eyes and deal with the root cause.