Why Can’t I Stop Crying?

By: Dylan Buckley

Updated September 09, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC

Maybe you've had a day when you couldn't stop crying before. A certain amount of tears is normal, and some of us are more emotional than others. We all get sad. Sometimes we cry when we watch movies, and occasionally we even cry tears of joy. So when does it become a sign of a deeper problem? Is there such a thing as too much? It is possible to lead a healthy life and use these treatments to reduce symptoms and learn to better deal with overwhelming feelings if they happen again in the future. There are effective treatments for depression and mood disorders available. 

Depression can be described as feelings of sadness lasting more than a couple of weeks. You no longer have an interest in things you once found pleasurable, you begin to isolate yourself from contact with friends and family, you feel life is hopeless and feel you are worthless, you no longer have the energy you once enjoyed, you want to sleep rather than engage in activities you used to do, you cry or feel like crying all the time, and you cannot concentrate.

A Spike In Crying Could Mean Something More Serious
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I Don't Stop Crying

According to Healthline, "If you're concerned that you're crying too much, if you keep crying, or have started crying more than usual, talk to your doctor. It may be a sign of depression or another mood disorder." While some tears are normal, a spike in crying or feeling like it won't end might indicate a deeper problem that won't go away by itself. 

Crying Causes

Another mental disorder, pseudobulbar affect (PBA), is uncontrollable tears, laughter, or fits of anger. It can be the result of injury to the part of the brain that controls emotions. A person diagnosed with PBA could have experienced a stroke, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease or ALS), or multiple sclerosis (MS). People who live with PBA are often misdiagnosed as having depression. PBA is the result of progressive neurological diseases and delaying treatment because of misdiagnoses or prescribing treatment that is ineffective or harmful to the person.

Crying is a natural way of relieving stress. However, if you think, "why can't I stop crying?" this can lead to a numbing of emotional responses, blocking other emotions. You may get to the point where you shed less tears but cannot experience happiness and joy. You will find yourself shutting down, unable to concentrate on work, taking more sick days, refusing to answer your phone, refusing visitors and isolating yourself from others. And this is a very dangerous situation. This requires medical intervention.

If you don't understand the reason you're crying, it is a good idea to see your doctor. Persistent crying can lead to depression or make you more vulnerable to physical ailments or thoughts of suicide. Modern medications have been shown to decrease depression symptoms significantly. If the depression persists, your doctor can refer you to a therapist who can provide treatment for mood disorders. They may recommend medications, talk therapy, yoga, or meditation.

Mental Health Conditions May Cause Uncontrollable Tears

Certain mental health disorders cause strong emotional response like feeling overwhelmed and not being able to not cry. Bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, borderline personality disorder (BPD), and personality disorder are some of the mental health disorders that can cause uncontrollable crying as one of their symptoms. Uncontrollable tears may also be one of the symptoms of depression. Despite all the research studies of mental health conditions that have symptoms of uncontrollable crying, there’s still so much that researchers don’t know about crying.

Bipolar disorder was formerly referred to as manic-depressive illness or manic depression. It’s a mental health condition that causes unusual and sometimes, abrupt changes in mood, energy, and the ability to focus. The symptoms of bipolar disorder can interfere with everyday activities. Bipolar disorder causes a range of emotional dysregulation that cycles between extreme highs and extreme lows. During times of depression, people with bipolar disorder can have bouts of uncontrollable tears.

Emotional lability is a term that doctors and therapists use to describe rapid changes in mood that can be strong and exaggerated. For example, someone that experiences uncontrollable laughing or sobbing or who has an extreme degree of anger or irritability may be said to have emotional lability.

Borderline personality disorder is a mental health disorder that causes severe changes in mood, self-image, and behavior. People with borderline personality disorder also tend to cry more easily than others or have bouts of uncontrollable crying and they seem to be less aware of how their emotional tears affect others around them. They also go through periods of intense anger, symptoms of depression, and severe anxiety that can last for a few hours or a few days.

People with depression also tend to cry more easily than others. Often, they think, "why can't I stop crying?", and they don't know how to explain their reasons for doing so. That’s because their brains are sending signals to their bodies that cause them to be chronically sad. Living with depression is like living with a dark cloud over your head constantly.

Another mental health condition that causes sudden, uncontrollable laughing or crying is pseudobulbar affect or PBA. People that have certain neurological conditions or those who’ve been injured sometimes acquire pseudobulbar affect or emotional lability if their condition has an impact on the part of their brains that controls emotion. Because they can have bouts of uncontrollable sobbing, pseudobulbar affect is often either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as some other mood disorder.

People that have pseudobulbar affect experience normal emotions like laughing or crying. but they experience them in a more intense way. Such emotional lability is embarrassing and disrupts their daily life. Once someone has been diagnosed with pseudobulbar affect, the symptoms of the condition like uncontrollable tears can be managed with medication.

"No matter what you're experiencing, with the right tools provided by a therapist, you can figure out why you won't stop crying."

Crying tends to make people uncomfortable. At the same time, a good hard cry can help to relieve stress. Many people that have trouble sleeping because of a mental health disorder find that when a bout of crying peaks, it will relieve stress enough that they can fall asleep.

While crying is a result of sadness and despair, it can also be quite healing. Sobbing activates the parasympathetic nervous system and it stimulates relaxation responses. This response allows you to take a deep breath, relax your facial muscles, and regain your composure. Whenever you or someone that you care about experiences an unusual intensity of any emotion, it’s important to pay attention to the symptoms and seek professional medical advice. In most cases, when you seek treatment for excessive crying, treatment can be very effective.

Effective Treatments for Depression and Other Common Mood Disorders

As many as 1 in 10 adults will experience a mood disorder in their lifetime. Luckily, several treatment options can help you ease your symptoms and teach you coping mechanisms. Mental health counseling is usually offered in various clinical and community settings. Other alternatives are affordable online counseling services.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a short-term, goal-focused therapy that aims to help people change the way they think. According to a study by Ellen Driessen, M.Sc. and Steven D. Hollon, Ph.D., CBT is an effective treatment for acute depression and can be used as an alternative to antidepressants for some. Some evidence suggests that CBT could affect cognition and help prevent future relapse.

Medication

In some cases, doctors or psychiatrists may prescribe medication to help control depression or other mood disorders. In addition to counseling and medication, your health practitioner may recommend changes in diet and exercise to help you gain energy and manage your mood disorder, so you may start feeling like yourself again. Because lifestyle changes can include such a wide variety of recommendations and possibilities, here are a few of the best ways to get relief and battle mood issues at home.

1. Reduce Your Stress Where Possible

If you're crying, you most likely have a lot on your plate that needs to be acknowledged and dealt with before you are able to return to your normal emotional state. In order to ensure you aren't at risk of shedding tears throughout the day, you may want to consider reducing stress in your life where possible. Stress can often make mood disorders worse and leave you open to more crying fits.

2. Think of Underlying Reasons - Are They In Your Control? 

Sadness is a healthy emotion, and even for those experiencing depression, there may be validity to the overwhelming emotions you are feeling. Take some time to sit with that sadness during your next crying episode and ask yourself, why am I feeling this way? When you confront these feelings, you may discover there is some substance to your sadness and some issues that you will need to address as you move forward. You may also discover that your sadness has no basis in reality, which can also be very therapeutic.

3. Practice Self-Care More Often

When our needs aren't met and we experience more stress in our lives then we are able to properly cope with, we put ourselves at risk of wearing ourselves down and potentially developing mood disorders. Part of the recovery process includes learning our own personal limits and practicing self-care to make sure we get a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Taking care of yourself at home is necessary, but not everyone who is experiencing emotional disturbances is properly equipped with the right tools or the ability to tackle their mood disorder on their own. This is the reason therapy (an extremely effective and necessary treatment method) is heavily recommended for anyone dealing with a mental illness. The good news is that therapy has evolved to make it easier for people to get access to counseling quickly and easily.

BetterHelp is an online counseling platform that connects users in need of mental health services with certified therapists. Gone are the days where you have to scour the area for the nearest counselor and schedule multiple appointments until you find the right fit. Counseling with BetterHelp is cheaper and time efficient. Simply jump online, connect with a counselor, and start therapy on your own schedule and from the comfort of your own home. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.

Therapist Reviews

"Dr. Okuda is a wonderful counselor who supports me in my thoughts while steering me to a positive and healthy mindset within those thoughts. She wants to make sure I am okay by the end of a session, and even if I am not, she acknowledges that that is okay. She helps me look at thought patterns in a way that's helpful in my ability to manage them and be at ease with them even in my sadness, and ideally, too, in my happiness."

"I've only met with Tonya once so far, but what really stood out to me was the fact that she gave me a safe space to just cry. And that meant everything to me!!! She gave me a different perspective on a few issues I was struggling with, which allowed me to see myself and the situations in a different light. I plan on continuing to see her for as long as I can. Thanks Tonya!!"

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Moving Forward

Excessive crying can be indicative of a mood disorder like depression. However, these types of disorders are more than treatable if you reach out for help. No matter what you're experiencing, with the right tools provided by a therapist, you can figure out the reason you keep crying. Most importantly, you will be able to stop. Take the first step today.


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