You might cry when you’re feeling low and going through a rough patch. Maybe you get a bit weepy when deadlines pile up. Or, perhaps, all it takes is a heartfelt advert to get your tears flowing.
We all know there’s nothing more cathartic than a good cry. But, for some of us, it can be a real struggle.
You might want to grab a tissue and let it all out. But, no matter how hard you try, the tears just won’t come.
There are many reasons why you might struggle to shed a tear or two. It might be because of a physical ailment but, more often than not, an inability to cry says a lot about our emotional state, our beliefs and prejudices about crying, or our past experiences and trauma.
Is it bad that I don’t cry?
Excessive crying isn’t always a good sign. If you find yourself tearing up often, it could indicate that you’re experiencing a lot of intense or challenging emotions, or that you’re struggling with depression and anxiety.
Remember there’s no right or wrong amount to cry. Everyone is different and some people find it easier to tear up than others. So don’t waste energy on what you should be doing. Drop the shame and allow yourself to truly feel your current emotions.
Some people may cry at the drop of a hat. Other people may experience fewer emotional upheavals, have different ways to express their emotions, or are simply in more control of their tears. That’s completely fine, so long as you’re not bottling your emotions up.
That being said, if your inability to cry worries you or you’re struggling to connect with your feelings, it’s important that you take time to explore this. Because it might be a sign that there’s something else going on under the surface.
Is crying good for me?
Crying often gets a bad reputation. Sometimes it’s mistakenly seen as a sign of weakness or immaturity. But the truth is that it can do us a whole lot of good — both physically and mentally.
Here are a few reasons why:
- Crying flushes out harmful materials and debris, such as dust and smoke, from the eyes.
- Tears also lubricate the eyes, preventing infection and ensuring normal function.
- There are three types of tears: reflex, continuous and emotional. Some studies suggest that emotional tears may contain stress hormones and other toxins. Therefore, when we cry we flush them out of our system. However, more research is needed in this area.
- When we’re feeling weepy, it lets those around us know that we need help.
- Crying is a way to acknowledge painful or challenging emotions. Sometimes our pain can be buried so deep down, that it can be difficult to articulate. Crying allows us to express challenging emotions when we can’t find the words, and it may offer a sense of relief.
Inability to cry: The physical reasons
Crying makes us feel better, even if our problems persist. But sometimes our biology betrays us and the tears don’t come.
It’s not that we’re in short supply. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says that we produce a staggering 15 to 30 gallons of tears every year. Nevertheless, there are a few physical reasons why you may struggle to cry:
- You have a medical condition that affects tear production, such as dry eye syndrome (Keratoconjunctivitis sicca) or Sjögren’s syndrome
- You’re taking certain medications, such as antidepressants or hormonal birth control.
- You’ve recently undergone laser eye surgery.
- You live in a dry and windy climate.
- We also produce fewer tears as we age.
Why can’t I cry anymore? Mental health causes
Besides physical ailments, there are plenty of mental and emotional reasons why someone may struggle to cry. These include:
It might sound contradictory but many people with depression struggle to cry. That’s because depression can manifest itself in different ways.
When you think of depression, you might picture someone experiencing knock-you-off-your-feet sadness and distress. But this isn’t the case for everyone.
In fact, some people say their depression feels more like overwhelming numbness or emptiness.
They may feel so unemotional or “flat” that even positive events don’t elicit a response. Ultimately, this can result in an ability to cry.
Imagine you lived and breathed crafting but, one day, it no longer brought you joy. Or, what if, the idea of reuniting with an old friend made you feel nothing.
It’s not an uncommon experience and it’s called anhedonia. Simply put, anhedonia is when you lose interest in the social activities and physical sensations that you once enjoyed.
It’s a symptom of many mental health conditions, including depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Not all people with these mental health conditions experience anhedonia. But those who do may struggle to cry.
Do you bottle up your emotions? Maybe you feel like you’ve got to put on a brave face and ‘just get on with it’? If so, it may explain your inability to turn on the waterworks.
Emotional crying involves getting in touch with your feelings. So people who repress or disconnect from their emotions may struggle to cry
Some people find it difficult to cry because of societal pressure or their internalised beliefs about crying.
For example, if we believe that crying is embarrassing and childish — or if we’re simply scared of being vulnerable — it’s only natural that we’ll try to stave off our tears.
You may have subconsciously adopted these notions about crying in childhood.
Let’s say your parents struggled to express their emotions and rarely cried. As you grew up, you may have followed their example and held back your tears, even when you had a good reason to bawl.
Your parents might have even told you off for crying, which might lead you to believe that your tears are ‘wrong’ or a sign of misbehaviour.
You may also have been swayed by cultural or societal beliefs. For instance, studies suggest that women typically cry more than men, and the difference may be more pronounced in countries whereby the culture allows for greater emotional expression.
We’re all aware of the phrases “man up” or “men don’t cry”. Whilst they might seem harmful on the surface they can do a lot of damage. That’s because they suggest that expressing yourself is a sign of weakness. And that couldn’t be further from the truth.
How to tap into your emotions and cry
Ready to let your tears flow? Here are a few tips to help you tune into your feelings:
Reframe your thinking
Let go of any outdated, untrue preconceptions you may have about crying and allow yourself to feel your feelings.
Remember it’s good to cry. It’s healthy to cry. If anything, leaning into our feelings is sometimes the only way we can move past them.
Tears are a release valve for overwhelming emotions such as sadness, stress, grief and even joy. So crying is never something you have to be scared or embarrassed about.
Label and identify your emotions
It’s hard to express your emotions if you don’t know what you’re feeling. That’s why it’s important to identify your feelings.
Let’s face it: emotions are fickle things. Sometimes it’s easy to identify when we’re happy or sad, frustrated or anxious. Other times, it’s not so clear cut.
The first step to labelling our emotions is to think about what prompted the feeling. Then think about what urges you feel. Do you want to shout and lash out? Or maybe you want to avoid people and withdraw from the world? Next, think about your thoughts and your body, as this will probably give you clues about your emotions.
In time, you’ll learn to identify your emotions more easily — and it’s an important skill. Because once you get to grips with your feelings, you’re going to be in a much better place to cope with them.
Express your emotions
No one expects you to cry every single time you feel sad or anxious. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you struggle to cry.
Some people find that having a good sob allows them to fully experience their emotions. But there are alternative ways you can tap into your feelings, if you’d rather.
All that matters is that you acknowledge and accept your feelings. Because emotions can be messy, complicated and downright confusing sometimes. But they all serve a purpose — even the difficult ones.
If you don’t feel like crying, let go of any shame you may be carrying. Here are a few different ways you can express them instead. Remember it’s all about finding what works best for you.
- Say how you feel aloud. Sometimes vocalising our emotions and saying “I feel angry” or “I feel hurt” can offer a sense of relief.
- Journal it. Writing down how we’re feeling is a great way to sift through our emotions.
- Get creative. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, creative outlets such as music, painting or crafting, can be a great way to explore your emotions.
Talk to loved ones
It might seem scary at first but talking to close friends or family is a great way to get in touch with your emotions. They might share similar thoughts, validate your feelings or simply offer a shoulder to cry on.
Just make sure you both have time to properly connect, and pick a private place where you would feel comfortable if you do break down and cry.
Go to therapy
Sometimes in life, we get so used to putting on the brakes that we forget how to let go and really experience our emotions. If this sounds familiar, it might be worth trying therapy.
You might discover some difficult emotions that you buried deep-down and you’ll learn ways to overcome these emotional roadblocks.
Eventually, you may find that your tears naturally start to flow. Perhaps you find it’s easier to cry in front of a therapist because it’s such a comfortable, safe space.
If this happens, don’t worry. We won’t judge.
We know just how soothing and cathartic tears can be. So, go on, have a good cry. Let it all out.