Crying is a completely natural response to your emotions, even the happy ones. Men, women, and children alike all deserve to cry when they need to. It is cathartic and helps us process and release emotions, and it even has stress-busting benefits. Research published in Frontiers in Psychology highlights that “crying occurs predominantly in situations characterized by separation, loss, and helplessness, and being overwhelmed by strong emotion, be it negative or positive.”
Still, sometimes it can feel like your crying has become out of control. You might find yourself crying for no reason and excessively at what feels like inappropriate times and for no apparent reason. When that happens, you want to know the reason behind your unexplained crying so that you can get a better handle on it. This article will shed light on why you are shedding so many tears. First, let us take a look at why we cry.
Why Do We Cry?
Not all tears are the same. You will know if you have ever shed some positive emotional tears out of pride for a loved one or over an inspiring story that does not feel the same as crying because you have lost someone you love or because you are having a hard time enjoying your life.
Crying as a Self-Soothing Behavior
Some scientific research suggests that crying is a self-soothing behavior. Self-soothing behaviors are those that help to regulate our emotions and stress. As babies, our caregivers soothe our stress, sadness, fear, and other emotions by rocking us back and forth, holding us close to their bodies, or singing to us. These are soothing mechanisms that help the baby’s nervous system come down from a place of stress.
As adults, we do not rely on our former caregivers to soothe us; instead, we apply these mechanical regulating interventions to ourselves. Movement, breathing, acupressure points, singing, holding our loved ones, and crying are self-soothing behaviors we use as adults in times of stress and emotional upheaval.
Crying as a Relationship Mediator
Research suggests that crying serves two different purposes: interpersonal and intrapersonal. Intrapersonal or self-oriented crying refers to a self-soothing behavior to release negative emotions. Interpersonal crying refers to the crying a baby might direct towards a caregiver, or a sad person might experience as a means of signaling distress to another person.
Why Am I Crying for No Reason?
As mentioned earlier, crying is completely natural. It serves an essential purpose, helping us to self-soothe, process, and release emotions so that we can effectively move on from them. However, suppose you are crying a lot and unsure about the reason. In that case, there might be some underlying unresolved emotions asking for your attention or hormonal imbalances that requires medical attention.
1. Crying with Stress
A common cause of excessive crying is stress. If you push yourself too hard to be productive, meet those work demands, or take care of those you love, you might experience a spike in stress. Stress is natural and healthy, but it takes a toll on our physical, emotional, and mental health when it persists. Excessive and persistent stress can get in the way of normal day-to-day functioning and well-being.
You might feel like you have so much to do with such limited time and resources that you do not feel like you have the energy to appropriately and compassionately check in with yourself. Yet not taking that time for yourself, especially when you are stressed, can lead to an emotional outburst that makes you cry for no reason.
All of these unprocessed emotions need to be acknowledged and accepted before you can release them. They will fester and eventually come to a head in an uncontrollable crying outburst. Some of us go to great lengths to keep such outbursts under control. Then, we sometimes use unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drug misuse or other dangerous behaviors.
Still, no matter how you choose to cope, the ultimate fact is that whatever emotions, feelings, and stress you need to address will continue to exist and influence your behavior until they are resolved.
2. Crying with Premenstrual Syndrome
During the days and weeks leading up to your period, your body’s hormonal fluctuations can leave you feeling more sensitive to your feelings and emotions than other times of the month, with higher anxiety levels and more proneness to agitation. These can contribute to crying spells that seem to have no apparent reason.
Scientists suggest that the increased agitation, irritability, anxiety, and even mood swings accompanying premenstrual syndrome (PMS) are linked to a temporary drop in progesterone and estrogen levels. Some women experience mild symptoms that can last for a couple of days, while others experience more severe symptoms, including nausea, sadness, and trouble sleeping.
3. Uncontrollable Crying with Mental Health Issues
Stress is one of the leading causes of mental health issues. The brain and body are designed to handle stress in short bursts, but when it persists, when we do not step back and allow ourselves to process and release it, it gets stored in the body. Our survival response lies dormant but is ready to accelerate at any moment. Dealing with that heightened state takes a toll on the mind and body and causes the onset of, or exacerbates, underlying mental health conditions.
Crying with Anxiety
Anxiety is maladaptive stress. As mentioned earlier, stress is natural but left unchecked—it can quickly develop into anxiety. Anxiety disorders are among the most common health concerns in the U.S. and worldwide today. The stress and feeling of anxiety themselves can be crippling. They may be even more concerning when they lead the person suffering into unhealthy and life-threatening coping behaviors such as drug or alcohol misuse or social withdrawal. People who live with anxiety may experience intense unexpected crying from time to time. They are brought on by stress but can also begin when the person feels overwhelmed by the debilitating nature of their condition.
Symptoms of Anxiety
- Racing thoughts
- Catastrophic thinking
- Muscle aches, pain, and tension
- Nausea, vomiting
- Social withdrawal
- Excess sweating
- Waves of intense fear
- Panic attacks
Crying with Depression
Crying for no apparent reason is a symptom of depression. Depression is one of the most common health issues worldwide, but its commonality does not make it less challenging for those affected. Hallmark symptoms of depression are a deep sense of sadness and despair coupled with a pervading sense of numbness and hopelessness and even apathy for oneself and the world.
Living with depression can be deeply challenging because there are windows of intense emotions between those periods of numbness. In those windows, emotions are heavy and complicated, such as guilt, loneliness, despair, and self-loathing. The feelings arise, but they feel so overwhelming that they send the person back into depression. This experience can evoke a feeling of loss, that we have lost a part of ourselves, our joy, and vivacity. That sense of loss is a type of grief that can lead to long and uncontrollable depression crying spells.
Symptoms of Depression
- Deep sadness
- Emptiness, numbness
- Sleep issues
- Lack of motivation, ambition
- Low energy
- Suicidal thoughts/self harm
- Angry outbursts
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
Crying with Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by extreme highs and lows. Those of us who live with bipolar disorder can experience emotional highs and even euphoria for days or weeks at a time, only to come crashing down into a depressive episode that can last for months at a time.
Bipolar is a challenging mental illness to live with because the highs and lows, the mood swings, and the pervading sense of low self-worth can be exhausting, confusing, and even life-threatening. A common symptom of bipolar disorder is crying spells. They accompany the deep sadness associated with the condition and can come on unexpectedly. As per the unpredictable nature of bipolar, these unexpected crying spells can happen anywhere, from work to public transport to dinner with friends or family.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
- Mood swings
- Extreme highs and lows
- Suicidal ideation
- Delusional thinking
- Neglect of self-care
How to Stop Crying for No Reason
1. Allow Your Emotions
First and foremost, do not assume that you are wrong or flawed for crying. People cry. It is as natural as laughter, and to deny yourself of the deep and authentic sense of your humanity that comes from crying is truly a shame. There is a stigma surrounding that crying that makes it hard to approach and talk about it with others.
Men in particular face this stigma—but they are not alone. To be seen crying by others sometimes feels shameful that others will judge us as overly dramatic or even unstable. That fear is not entirely irrational either. People judge others for publicly crying. However, these judgments do not make them right. That stigma also affects someone who judges you for expressing your emotions. They judge because they live with their one internalized barrier to authentic and natural, free-flowing emotional expression.
“It is a grave injustice to a child or adult to insist that they stop crying. One can comfort a person who is crying, which enables him to relax and makes further crying unnecessary, but to humiliate a crying child is to increase his pain, and augment his rigidity.”Alexander Lowen, The Voice of the Body.
Move away from the fear of judgment and practice allowing your emotions to be as they are. That does not mean letting them control your daily life. It means giving them the space to breathe without judging them, suppressing them, or trying to mask them.
2. Find the Source of Your Stress
How often do you take a step back from your life to pause, breathe, and ask yourself how you are doing? Most of us are so caught up day-to-day that we neglect this important time of reflection. Yet it is only when we pause and reflect that we gain deeper insight into what is going on in our lives. Understand that your inner life, your uniquely personal experiences, feelings, and perspectives are just as valid as events in the external world and deserve your time and compassionate attention as much as anything or anyone else.
Try keeping a journal to understand better your emotions and what is triggering your crying spells. Some people do not like the idea of keeping a journal and recording their thoughts, feelings, and emotions because they view it as a teenage behavior (‘keeping a diary’). Those who dismiss it for that reason miss out on a profound healing habit that offers deep insight into the self.
Write in your journal about whatever comes to mind, but set the intention to use it as a means of self-discovery. The more you practice journaling and the more consistently you do it, the more likely you are to stumble across some orphan self-relaxation that can shed some light on the true source of your tears.
3. Speak to Mental Health Professionals
Your uncontrollable crying may stem from a recent significant change in your life, such as losing someone you love or a sense of uncertainty following a job loss or moving to a new city or country. However, crying for no reason may also stem from an underlying mental health issue such as depression, anxiety, chronic stress, unresolved trauma, or bipolar disorder. As such, if your crying spells keep coming back and you do not know what to do about them, it is wise to speak to a mental health professional.