It’s important to start off by saying, crying is a perfectly normal, and healthy way of expressing emotions. We all cry – it’s part of what it means to be human. And it’s a sign of emotional wellbeing to be able to acknowledge and express our feelings, instead of pushing them away or denying them.
No matter how much we want to avoid crying (or the events that lead up to it!), it’s not something we will ever be able to put off forever. Our emotions are always in flux, and real emotional health is about experiencing the full spectrum of emotions, rather than only allowing for the “positive” ones.
And it’s worth saying, crying can actually do us a lot of good, both physically and mentally.
You know that sense of peace and inner calm that follows a good cry? Research has shown that crying can have a self-soothing effect. It helps us regulate our emotions and find calm in moments of distress and upset. This is because crying helps flush out excess stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
All of this said, when crying – or the lack of it – moves to either extreme i.e. you’re tearing up every day or not at all, then it may be indicative of something deeper.
Perhaps you can pinpoint a reason why you’re crying so much. Or maybe there’s no apparent cause. Whichever situation you find yourself in now, if you’ve been feeling this way for a while, it’s important to understand what’s going on so you can begin the process of taking action.
Uncontrollable crying – what causes it?
Depression – in some cases, excessive crying can be a sign of depression. Depression is marked by persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness that can easily lead to lots of crying. If you suspect you’re depressed, you may want to check out our depression page for more on signs, symptoms and support.
Anxiety – similar to depression, uncontrollable crying may also be a symptom of anxiety. Anxiety can leave us in a constant state of fight-or-flight where almost everything we do feels threatening. It’s not hard to see how this can lead to feelings of overwhelm and some tears.
Difficulties self-soothing – the ability to self-soothe is a really important life skill but it’s also (sadly) one that many people struggle with. Perhaps you were never modelled how to self-soothe by a parent or caregiver growing up, or it’s simply something you haven’t considered up until now. With a lack of other coping mechanisms to draw upon, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed and tearful often.
You’re burnt out – it’s important to say that burnout doesn’t happen overnight so you’ve usually missed a lot of warning signs to get to this point. That said, burnout can sometimes go unmissed as it can be easy to pass the symptoms off as something else. If you’ve been burning the candle at both ends for a long time, you’re feeling tired and teary most days or you find that you don’t have the same energy levels you once did, this should serve as a major red flag.
Uncontrollable crying for no reason – what to do
Learn how to self-soothe – soothing touch is a simple technique you can use to comfort yourself when you’re crying and feeling overwhelmed. Just in the same way that we might hug a friend when they’re feeling down, we can learn to offer this kindness to ourselves. When we hug (ourselves or someone else!), our body releases oxytocin, otherwise known as the “cuddle” hormone. Oxytocin is the warm, fuzzy hormone that we sometimes associate with love, and it helps us feel reassured, safe and cared for. When you’re next crying, try squeezing both your arms, cradling your face or gently stroking your arm. You can also try offering yourself some comforting words at the same time like, “I’m here for you” or “You’ve got this”.
Tell your loved ones how you’re feeling – Sharing how you feel with a friend or family member can help lighten the load, and it also ensures they’re able to show up for you in the way that we all need when we’re going through a difficult time.
Open up to your GP – if you think you might be struggling with your mental health and you’ve been feeling this for a while, check-in your GP. This isn’t something you’re expected to manage alone – and there is support out there.
Start therapy – therapy offers a safe, non-judgemental space to explore different thoughts and feelings. A therapist will be able to help you identify what’s at the root of your tears so you can heal any underlying wounds and make an actionable plan for change.