Why Am I Crying For No Reason?
By Sarah Fader
Updated March 25, 2020
Reviewer Rashonda Douthit , LCSW
When you burst into tears out of nowhere, and you can't figure out why it can be alarming. You're full of emotion, and you can't seem to put your finger on why you're so upset. Rest assured there is an answer, and you will find it. Uncontrollable crying has many causes, and you will find out why it's happening.
I'm Crying, and I Don't Understand Why
Tears are streaming down your face, and you can't understand where they came from. Being overcome with emotion can make you feel out of control. If you know why you were having these feelings, it might be easier to cope with, but without a context for these feelings, you might feel frightened. What if you can't determine the source of your pain. Remember that life is overwhelming and painful at times, and no matter what the reason is, you have a right to be sad. (Some people cry even when there's nothing "wrong.") Maybe you've had a bad day, perhaps you're coping with a breakup, or it could be that you're dealing with something more severe, like clinical depression. The good news is you're in touch with your feelings and that matters. You can determine the source of your pain by looking inward and being honest about what's going on. But how can you do that best?
According to the American Psychological Association, women appear to cry much more than men. According to a study conducted by the APA, It's estimated that women cry 30 to 64 times a year as opposed to me who cry five to 17 times a year. Part of this has to do with the fact that women are encouraged to express their emotions and men are told by society to suppress sadness. The reality is that we all get sad from time to time and crying is normal and healthy. Regardless of your gender, if you find that you're crying and you can't put your finger on the reason, there's nothing wrong with you, you're human.
There are some medical conditions that can be taxing on your emotions, and affect your levels of hormones or other chemicals in the body. Some of these include:
- Thyroid disorder
- Vitamin deficiency
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Parkinson's disease
- Pseudobulbar affect (PBA)
Source: prostooleh via freepik.com
If you're living with one of these conditions, it's important to be monitored by a doctor and let your provider know what's happening with you mentally and physically. If think you may have one of the above diagnoses, see your doctor and get evaluated as soon as possible.
Chronic stress can cause a variety of issues and affect your overall physical and emotional health. Some of the physical symptoms of stress include headaches, tension, nausea, and crying episodes. Everyone has stress in their lives, but it can affect people in different ways. Sometimes your body may surprise you with a crying episode out of nowhere. The best way to deal with this is to find the source of your stress, less ir or eliminate it, if possible. Sometimes it's not possible to eradicate the source of your stress. For example, if you're feeling stressed at work you can't just quit your job without notice. But you can find healthy ways to relieve and manage stress such as exercise, yoga, or therapy.
When your body is tired, it can be hard to function at 100 percent. Fatigue, like stress, is part of everyone's life at times. We need sleep to stay healthy, and if we do not get enough rest, our bodies react. Lack of sleep, forgetfulness and increased irritability can all be signs of fatigue. Fatigue can also occur because the body is exerting vast amounts of energy when you're anxious. Here's how stress and fatigue are related: when you feel stressed, you may have a hard time falling or staying asleep. If you don't get enough sleep, you wake up not feeling groggy. Subsequently, you're now under more stress as you go on with the demands of your day, which makes you tired. There are studies that indicate that a minimum of five hours of sleep each night is needed for most people in order to avoid potential crying episodes and negative mood changes. To prevent chronic episodes of crying, it's essential to make sure you ideally get at least seven hours of sleep every day. If you're having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about it. It may be a symptom of an underlying illness; mental or physical or possibly both.
Everyone worries, but anxiety is different than that. When you're anxious, you can't shut your brain off. You're chronically worried, and sometimes afraid of the worst happening. Everyone gets anxious sometimes, but when it becomes excessive and begins to interfere with your day to day life, that's a problem. Many people do not realize that anxiety also comes with physical symptoms. There are bodily signs of anxiety that can occur even when you don't think you have a reason to be anxious. And there can be lasting physical effects of anxiety on your overall health. Similar to stress, anxiety affects our bodies in different ways and crying may be one of them. When you're anxious these physical symptoms can manifest. Some of the other symptoms of anxiety may include:
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Shaking or trembling
- Weakness or fatigue
- A headache
- Difficulty concentrating
One of the most common reasons for crying is depression. People who suffer from depression have feelings of hopelessness and sadness that persist. Depression may be situational and temporary, specific to an incident or scenario. Life events that sometimes lead to situational depression may include:
- Relationship problems
- Situational changes such as moving, going away to school or retiring
- Financial problems or job loss
Depression can be severe when it's clinical depression or major depressive disorder. People who suffer from clinical depression may feel emotionally numb and empty. They also tend to lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. Mental health professionals refer to this as "anhedonia". Some of the other symptoms of clinical depression besides crying include:
- Sadness that lasts for longer than two weeks
- Extreme fatigue
- Changes in appetite (eating less or more)
- Changes in sleep (insomnia or sleeping too much)
- Inability to concentrate
- Lack of interest in favorite activities
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Difficulty in making decisions
- Weight gain or loss
- Suicidal feelings
The way you deal with stress can be largely affected by your previous life experience. People who have stressful childhoods, existing mental health issues, and several challenging circumstances at one time are at higher risk of depression. Biological factors (for example, if someone in your family has experienced depression) can also increase the likelihood of depression. Unfortunately, only approximately half of the people who are depressed ever seek treatment.
Although only a licensed mental health professional can give you the official diagnosis, you can take an online depression quiz. Please keep in mind: while online quizzes and advice can be helpful, they are not a subsitute for talking with a licensenced therapist. They can be a conversation opener for discussing your mental health with a professional. However, quizzes should never be used to replace professional diagnosis or mental health treatment. If you have symptoms of depression, consult a professional.
If you're experiencing stress, anxiety or depression, it's crucial to know that you can get help. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common type of psychotherapy used to treat depression and anxiety, CBT is a way of training yourself to identify problematic negative thoughts, evaluate them, and if needed, replace them with more rational, helpful thoughts. You can also learn how to manage your feelings, stop worrisome thoughts from circling in your mind, and overcome your fears.
If you believe you may be suffering from anxiety or depression, call your physician or a therapist. You don't have to suffer alone. There are online therapists at BetterHelp that can talk to you about feeling depressed either through chatting online or on the phone. Alternatively, you can find you a therapist near you if you want to see someone in person. However, some people don't have time to sit in traffic or drive to an appointment during the work day; that's where BetterHelp comes in. You can access BetterHelp from the comfort and privacy of your own home (or wherever you have an internet connection). Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.
"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!!"
"I put off finding a therapist for a long time. I dreaded my first conversation with Neil and all the awkward, clunky explanations I'd have to give about my depression and anxiety. All of the things that felt like dirty little secrets that caused me so much pain. But I was so pleasantly surprised by the way Neil accurately picked up on what I was saying and gave me more insight into how my brain was working. It made my issue feel so much less of a personal problem and more of a universal problem we could examine together. He always gives me a thoughtful response within a day or two any time I send a message. I actually think we've made more progress in between sessions just by being able to communicate things that are coming up in real time. Neil is intelligent and kind. I really appreciate his communication style and highly recommend him."
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
What does it mean when you have crying spells?
A crying spell is uncomfortable for the person who is experiencing it. It occurs when somebody starts crying out of nowhere. Crying spells can frequently happen throughout the day, over the week, or multiple days. Some people cry more easily than others, but when you feel like you're crying uncontrollably and out of nowhere, that can be the cause of a crying spell. You may not understand why your emotions are so strong, but there could be a lot of reasons for this. Maybe, you're struggling with Depression. Perhaps, you have just dealt with losing a loved one. Unexplained crying spells are upsetting and can be distressing for some people, but it's important to remember not to hold it in. That will make the emotions stronger, and instead of letting them out, you'll hold them inside.
Is it normal to cry once a day?
Under extreme amounts of stress, some people cry once a day, and that's completely normal, but we can't undergo this level of stress for long before it starts to have some severe consequences. If you notice that uncontrollable crying or crying spells are occurring daily for an extended period, there could be something additional going on. You may be experiencing anxiety, Depression, or another mental health issue. If you don't know why you're crying, it's essential to explore these issues either in therapy or talk to a loved one about them. Some people cry because they feel frustrated. Others do it because they feel like it's a cathartic release. Uncontrollable crying is a different story than merely expressing sadness; it means that you feel so overwhelmed with emotion that you need to express it, and your body lets it out naturally. The experience of crying can be cathartic, and it can help you process your feelings, but it can also be too much for some people. It''s okay to be overwhelmed by your emotions. When you can't stop yourself from crying, that can feel upsetting to some people. But there are ways you can learn to cope with your emotions, and one of them is by working with a therapist.
Why do I get so emotional?
Everyone has emotions and feelings, and it's normal to feel them, but when they get so overwhelming that you can't seem to breathe or you're crying daily, that could be a sign that something serious is going on with you. Emotionality is part of what makes you human; if you didn't have feelings, you'd be a robot. Remember that all emotions are normal, but if you feel like your emotions are so overwhelming that they're impacting your ability to function, that's a different story, and it could be a sign of a mental illness or something else, so it's important to discuss this with a licensed therapist.
What is a nervous breakdown?
A nervous breakdown is when you experience a significant period of distress where you can't function as you typically would. The symptoms could include Depression, anxiety, and extreme levels of stress. You may also experience insomnia, hallucinations, engage in self-harm, or have flashbacks. The term "nervous breakdown" is not widely used anymore because it has a negative connotation and is also very vague, but if you are experiencing what some refer to as a mental breakdown or nervous breakdown, you could struggle with eating well, not maintaining your hygiene, or being isolated from other people.
What is considered excessive crying?
If you're crying multiple times a day and you don't know why that could be considered excessive crying. It could feel extremely painful. Some people don't know or can't identify why they're laughing or crying. They might be engaging in both intermittently and feel like their emotions are all over the place. Laughing or crying is a genuine expression of feelings, and we feel both joy and sadness in life. They are both valid emotions. If you're experiencing crying spells regularly at home, work, school, or even in the middle of the mall or the grocery store and you can seem to stop; it could be deemed excessive. It also may be a sign that you need to take some time to focus on bettering your mental health.
What triggers crying?
Crying comes on when your emotions get very strong, and you feel a sense of sadness. Some people cry when they're extremely happy as well. People who live with Depression may experience crying spells more because they're overwhelmed with their feelings, and their body's reaction is to let them out. Note that other people with Depression may feel numb and not cry at all, let alone undergo crying spells or uncontrollable crying; it varies from person to person.
What do you call someone who is too emotional?
Well, it's not productive to call someone names if they're experiencing feelings. If you're calling anyone anything for having emotions, all that you can call them is a human being. A person who is exceptionally emotional or who is experiencing uncontrollable crying could have a mental illness and experience dysregulated emotions. Still, it isn't helpful to label someone as "too much" of anything. This person may also be going through incredibly challenging circumstances, such as trauma.
If you're experiencing uncontrollable crying or any uncontrollable emotions, it's essential to seek the help of a mental health professional. A licensed counselor or therapist can help you understand your feelings and cope with them.
What is the Pseudobulbar Affect?
The Pseudobulbar Affect, or PBA, is when someone has uncontrollable episodes of laughing or crying. Laughter is usually the best medicine, and crying can help you at times, but uncontrollable fits of laughter or crying can be embarrassing, especially if it's during an inappropriate time. For example, if you are suffering from the Pseudobulbar Affect and it makes you laugh, you need to have that known during a funeral.
The Pseudobulbar Affect can be caused by many things. Usually, it's due to a brain injury or a stroke, or another neurological disorder. There is medical treatment available.
Coincidentally, two acclaimed films from 2019 had characters who had this. In Joker, Arthur Fleck does suffer from uncontrollable bouts of laughter. In Parasite, Ki-woo can't stop laughing after he gets a brain injury.
Can Crying Make Me Have Trouble Sleeping?
Some people cry themselves to sleep, and in fact oversleep, but crying all the time may lead to trouble sleeping as well. Your emotions may be so strong that it's hard for you to turn off your brain. You may wake up early feeling emotional and you're unable to go back asleep.
And of course, insomnia is one of the many symptoms of depression. People with depression may not get much sleep, which can make their depression worse. Alternatively, they may oversleep, which can be bad as well.
Can Anxiety Disorder Make Me Cry?
When you are experiencing intense anxiety, it can definitely make you cry. You may experience extreme emotions, including uncontrollable crying, as your body finds a way to cope with what's going on.
Can Crying Be Good for One's Mental Health?
While uncontrollable crying can lead to extreme depression, crying to release grief, pent-up emotions, or something else can be good for your mental health. When you cry, it can release chemicals that make you feel good and relieve pain. In addition, crying can lead to emotional balancing.
So don't be afraid to cry. Holding back the tears may be bad for one's mental health.
Where Can I Find Some Medically Reviewed Articles About Crying?
When you search for articles about crying or another subject, it's important to look for the "medically reviewed by" in the post. This means that a professional has medically reviewed the content and gave it their seal of approval, which means the information you're reading is as accurate as possible.
Of course, do a bit of digging. See who it's medically reviewed by and make sure they are qualified. Usually, you can find a doctor's credentials easily. Sometimes, the person who medically reviewed it may not be qualified. Someone who is not fit to publish a medically reviewed article could be giving out misinformation that may be dangerous.
Even something as simple as crying is something you should make sure it properly medically reviewed before you read it and take its words seriously.
Life can be challenging, and if you're emotionally overwhelmed and having bouts of tears, it's okay to reach out for help. Crying isn't a sign that there's something wrong with you, but knowing the source of your pain can help you heal. Take the first step today.