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Crying Is Behavior

Question:

I don’t understand something. Crying is a behavior, and we’re all supposed to control our behavior. But I can’t control my crying. It’s a terrible problem at work! especially when I feel like my supervisor is attacking me. I’m afraid it will get me fired. Why can’t i control it? I take medication for depression and have had therapy. But I can’t get over this problem. It destroys my self-respect. Any advice?

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Answer:

Different people express their emotions differently. At one extreme, some people hold their emotions inside themselves and have trouble getting them out. At the other extreme, some people just can’t hold their emotions inside too well and end up sharing them with others. Why a given person will cope with emotions in a particular way is complex and not totally well understood. It is known, however, that there are genetic (biological) individual differences in people’s temperaments that hard-wire them to be more or less emotionally volatile. In fact, the largest amount of variance in personality differences is explained by a factor called “neuroticism” which has to do with precisely the sort of differences in emotional volatility that I was just referring too.

<

p> In addition to the contribution of biology, people learn how to cope by learning from others around them, particularly from those people who have raised you. If your parents were volatile in how they managed stressful situations, chances are good that you’ll be that way too (and vice-versa).

<

p> The disposition to cry a lot is also influenced by various conditions that a person might have. Your depression is certainly going to make it more likely that you will be predisposed to cry easily. That is just in the nature of depression.

<

p> I say all of this to let you know that to some extent there may be good reasons (quite beyond your easy control) for why you cry easily. Knowing this may make it easier for you to accept yourself and how you uniquely cope with your distress.

<

p> Although you won’t hear me dispute the fact that crying in public is not a terribly socially desirable thing to do in our overly-masculine society (unless you’ve got a good excuse like a death in the family or a terminal illness), it is not the end of the world either, and it is not something that you need to hold yourself to. By buying into the idea that you are supposed to control this crying behavior, you judge yourself a failure each and every time you cry, placing a large and unnecessary burden on yourself in the process. If you were able to dodge this self-judgment; to not make yourself a failure when you cry, you might actually just get the crying done and then go on with your business. If anyone was to question you, you might think to yourself, “what’s their problem?”, instead of making their problem your own. Working towards self-acceptance of your crying may be an important step in getting a handle on the problem. It’s simply not a problem if you don’t take it too seriously. Seeing your doctor about the crying and how the depression may be playing into it may also be a prudent course of action.

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Comments
  • Phil

    Helpful, and intelligent response.

    Thank you doctor.

  • Anonymous-1

    About crying. A long way to say nothing and does not address this crying disorder, which I also have. One cannot interact socially if fleeting thought or sights or phrases in a song, suddenly trigger public crying. It is not the other person's problem that they see this crying as unusual. It is unusual, debilitating and exhausting. Go into the grocery store feeling stable, and something happens and uncontrollable crying sets in. Yes I see a Dr and have meds. Failed med treatment after 10 years.

    I call it the Crying Disease, and the answer that the person is alright, just wired differently, does not explain this. This is a disease all by itself and so far no one seems to know the cause.

    My first dx was seizures in the limbic system. So far that is the only one that makes sense. Klonapin helps but then one still cannot expect ot function normally or get througha day. My joke: "On halloween I went out as a normal person" Can only manage that for one or two hours at most.

    Stimulants help.

    and after a while they stop working.

  • Anonymous-2

    I have the same problem. I am a 52 year old male. My bouts seem to happen whenever I see things that are patriotic. The star spangled banner at a ball game used to bring a few tears to my eyes. The older I get the closer it becomes to outright sobbing. Sad movies and happy movies both do the same thing to me as well. It has gotten much more pronounced as i've gotten older. I am sure that it is something not right upstairs for me. I live in a small town and mental health facilities aren't exactly on every corner. I think that I would see someone if there was anyone close by. I do think that there's something wrong with me.

  • Kim

    I too have been dealing with his chronic crying. I had suffered anxiety and depression about 9 years ago. Meds helped get through and I felt great and am raising my three boys. Two years ago, I had to go through a divorce. I don't take many meds any more, just clonazapam for the high anxiety levels coping with the divorce and being force to start a life over with three young boys. Mostly when I am alone, the tears start and are often uncontrollable. It is exhausting and makes me feel horrible that I am not stronger. Sometimes a thought while driving triggers it. A kind jester from someone triggers it and sometimes I just don't know why. Last week I asked my phychologist to try something as I cannot function this way as I am trying to find my way in life and employment. She tried Cymbalta but feels I am more overwhelmed with the stress of trying to work and raise the boys and an exhusband who fails to pay support. Yes, lots of stress. I lack motivation that I use to have, but she feels it is not really drepression as when things are good, I feel great and can socialize very well. The Cymbalta just made be feel blah and less motivated. I just don't have the get up and go and have to really try to get past this. I found the comments you made interesting and feel there should be something more that can be done. But what? I would love to not cry, get up and have energy and just be happy again. Thanks for listening and any advice would be appreciated.

  • Anonymous-3

    I struggle to get through my day and constantly berate myself for my lack of self control I embarasse myself and those around me I would like to disappear.

  • susie

    As one gets older one does cry more. I am 53 and cry when I see a bus. I miss my children when they were young, miss my parents. It is normal. I cry at love stories in movies, sad movies..all things that I experience and miss. I want to remember...The tears just makes it real. No one is happy every minute of the day. One can be content....I am. It is hard growing older. Life changes. When I was young 2 children, job, husband, house to clean,taking children to dance,sports ect. Bills to pay, sickness to deal with was stressful..all a part of life. I did get depressed. I really loved being a mom. Oh and my job was a day care provider in my home for 27 years. Still doing it. It all starts when on turns 6 and goes to school, college, job family, parent died, kids leave home ect. Life is hard but there are wonderful time too. Crying and stress has to be learned to be controlled...crying here and there releases it.....Stop and smell the roses!!!

  • Anonymous-4

    As a 58-year old retired federal law enforcement officer now in the business world, I can relate to others who cannot explain their sudden bouts with crying, as I am suffering with this same issue. As others have described in this post, it can be over patrioitic things, movies, news stories (reporting both heart-warming or tragic events), etc. Fortunately, I'm able to control myself before tears start flowing, or briefly look away from others while I compose myself, but it still bothers me. I even hide this from my wife. I'd like to think this phenomenon is occuring as a result of my becoming more compassionate as I grow older, as some have suggested. Or perhaps it is something more deeply seeded, resulting from a troubled and emotionally bankrupt childhood. Fortunately, this condition has not resulted in my taking medication or over-induldging in in alcohol consumption frankly, given these difficult times, when so many are hurting financially, I have absolutely nothing in my life for which to complain. I have been blessed. Perhaps that is why I get overly-emotional I feel guilty over it. Please take care and know that you are not alone with this problem

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