Why do I cry so easily when I used to never cry?
April 20, 2011 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Have you ever switched from being a stoic to being a crier? Could this be from treating my depression or something else?

I grew up under emotionally abusive parents and learned to be very private about expressing sadness or strong emotion. Movies, sad stories, fights with friends, none of these things visibly upset me enough to make me cry. I was a bit famous among my friends for being a robot and able to make jokes about the saddest things.

I am now in my mid-late twenties and that has changed abruptly in the past few years and only seems to be getting worse. Anything with strong emotion, sad or happy, can make me cry. And not just sad movies or stories, even imagining something sad or happy can set me off, like thinking about the feelings of a soldier returning home from war or what it must be like to lose a beloved pet. It isn't that these things make me sink into a dark pit of gloom, after a cry I recover quickly, it is just that I start feeling the emotion so strongly it becomes overwhelming. It is pretty embarrassing because I have held the belief it is better to hold my cards close to my chest when it comes to crying and my emotions.

It feels partly as if it is easier to cry, and partly like things affect me much more strongly than they used to. I have always been an extremely empathetic person, very good at imagining myself in someone else's shoes, but in the name of functioning normally I've been able to keep it in check and not feel their feelings too strongly. This is not possible anymore.

The strange thing is it seems to directly correlate with the treatment of my depression. A few years ago is about the same time I started to make many life-changes that helped my depression. I noticed crying started to get easier then. But the crying has really taken off since I started taking medication for the first time last year. The medication has been great and I feel 10,000% better and more functional in every way--except all of this crying. Shouldn't I cry even less now that I am not depressed?

Has anyone had this experience where they turned from someone who didn't cry to a crier? Is this normal? Can I make it stop?
posted by Hey nonny nonny mouse to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You say you are taking medication for treatment of depression - are you also taking medication for birth control? That might be a reason.
posted by spec80 at 9:17 AM on April 20, 2011

No, I am not taken any birth control medication. I am not pregnant and have not undergone any noticeable hormonal changes.
posted by Hey nonny nonny mouse at 9:18 AM on April 20, 2011

I saw a documentary in which someone described being surprised at going from being a crier to being a non-crier - in this case clearly correlated with the consumption of testosterone as part of an FTM transition.
posted by emilyw at 9:20 AM on April 20, 2011

Yes! I was a non-crier through much of my teens, but when I turned 18, two relatives died, I moved, and my parents divorced. I was also in the beginning stages of coming to grips with both depression and anxiety. All of a sudden the floodgates just opened up and like you, I cried at everything. An American Express commercial made me cry once. I cried at Father of the Bride. It was ridiculous, BUT it felt really good. I am only now realizing because you mentioned it that this also started around the same time I began taking anti-depressants.

Here is my theory:
Depression numbs you. It make it hard not just to feel happy, but to feel anything. When you begin dealing with that depression, you begin to be able to feel not just happiness but a full range of emotions. This was how I always consoled myself about my ridiculous crying- at least I was feeling something. And as you mentioned, I always recovered pretty quickly. And that's a good thing- it shows that you are able to cope with slight peaks or depths of emotion.

Now in your case, it does sound like the medication may have something to do with it, so that is probably something just to monitor. But overall, I think crying is healthy and now that I know how to do it, I understand the feeling of needing to do it and knowing that I'll feel better afterwards (a little like vomiting...). I have tried to embrace it and turn it into a bit of a personality quirk (just like your friends calling you a robot before). Admitting to yourself and others that something might make you cry and being able to laugh a bit about it helps too.

So as long as it's not interfering too much with your life- I would try to accept that you now have this wonderful capacity to feel all of these things and to try to embrace the cathartic effect of crying. And for a bit of hope, my crying has tapered off a bit since things have come back together somewhat, though it is still far more common than it used to be.
posted by Polyhymnia at 9:25 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I did. I learned very early on as a child not to cry, because I'd get in even more trouble if I did (not to imply that I grew up in an abusive household, but my mother had me when she was fairly young, and didn't always have the amount of patience you need to have with young children.) I went through my teens and early twenties without barely a crying episode, because for the most part I learned to stuff aside my emotions in order to keep from crying, and I learned so well that I did it instinctively. Then I got into my first serious relationship, and that changed. Looking back, I think that I was entering a situation where keeping my feelings bottled up would just not do, so as I learned to be more open, I found myself crying more often.

I'm in my mid thirties now, and I would say that I am more of a crier than a non-crier, but it has definitely leveled off to where things that might have made me cry in the past don't anymore. It took a while, but I did spend even longer bottling up my feelings so it's not crazy to me that coming to this happy medium took me a few years. So maybe it's the meds, maybe it's something else, but in some way there has been some sort of cathartic change that is prompting this, and IMO it's not a bad thing. I've learned to be free with my emotions, but also to manage them. (Well, it's not like I have completely mastered that! But I'm in a pretty decent place right now when it comes to that.)
posted by DrGirlfriend at 9:28 AM on April 20, 2011

Look, SSRIs (the most common drugs used in the treatment of depression) are, when it comes right down to it, a real crap shoot. We basically know what they do, and have some general idea about how they affect emotional states, but they are far, far from the kind of targeted, selected, effective treatment that, say, antibiotics are for bacterial infections. Two people with identical builds may react wildly differently to the same dose of the same drug. Side effects of SSRIs range from sexual difficulties, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, weight gain, and weight loss. Any of them can happen to you, but none of them necessarily will, and the only way to know how a certain drug is going to affect you is to take it and experiment. Most physicians who prescribe these drugs are more than willing to work with their patients about finding the appropriate drug and dosage so that maximal benefit is derived with a minimum of side-effects.

This really does sound to me like it could be related to your treatment, and if it's bothering you, talk to your doctor about it. Maybe you can drop back to a smaller dose or try a different drug. Just because you have a prescription that says one thing does not at all mean that that's your only option. Trial and error is a big part of treating depression, and there really is no "should" for this sort of thing.

Then again, this may also be something you want to talk to a therapist about. Your crying might not be physiological at all. Certainly worth bringing up, maybe even before you go to your doctor.
posted by valkyryn at 9:30 AM on April 20, 2011

Congratulations, you're not a robot!

I think it's normal. I'm not an expert on emotions by any means, but I went through something like this--also in my 20s--that finally went away. I was being treated for depression and anxiety (not altogether successfully back then), and out of nowhere, the slightest sad stimulus would set me off. Like, episodes of the Simpsons on syndication. I would watch, and there would be nothing particularly touching about it, but I'd just start bawling. It didn't seem to be exactly *depressed* crying...more a sort of sudden burst of melancholy that would then go away for a few hours or days until the next stupid thing set it off.

I wasn't a robotic non-crier before that, so it's not quite the same thing...but it was certainly a weird, moist way to live for a while. Anyway, eventually it stopped, and now I don't cry over the sadness of restaurant menus or the idea of lost puppies.

BUT! As always, talk it over with your doctor or therapist.
posted by mittens at 9:32 AM on April 20, 2011

I've had similar experience that correlates crying with being treated for depression.I also was raised not to cry and to hold my feelings close- or really just stuff them down. Now that I'm healthy, I tend to cry much more often than before (which was basically never). I attribute it to being less afraid of my feelings so I feel more comfortable letting myself feel them. I consider it a gift. I feel more free with myself. Please memail me if you'd like to talk about it. Good for you for taking care of yourself and getting treatment!
posted by kamikazegopher at 9:33 AM on April 20, 2011

This happened to me in the context of treating depression as well (but was not particularly tied to medication). I went through a period of something like seven years when I cried literally one time prior to seeking treatment for depression. I cry fairly regularly, though not, I'd say, excessively, at ordinary sad stuff now.

Frankly I think not crying was a symptom of pathology, particularly of suppressing affect as a defense against emotional pain. I don't think it was a positive thing, I think it was evidence of a failure to really deal with passing emotions that contributed to general pent up depression and anxiety. I would question the belief that it is better to be emotionally closed-off.

On the other hand I've learned to be a lot better at heading off and not dwelling on fantasies about bad things that could happen (really to counter general anxiety, though I suppose not immersing myself in a welter of emotions is a side-benefit). Feeling normal sadness over real things in what is an undeniably sad world is one thing, putting yourself on an emotional roller coaster over things that might happen is another.

I also am more likely to avoid things like very sad media when I don't feel like going down that path... e.g. since I've become a father I can't take stuff about sick kids. I used to let a sort of "can't look away" impulse suck me into things like reading articles about sick kids anyway, but I've become more likely to think "yeah, I don't feel like crying into my keyboard today" and skip it.
posted by nanojath at 9:43 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was a stoic but intentionally learned to be a crier. It took years. It meant that I had to see the world as less alien and more receptive to how I am. That's scary. When it gets to scary, one feels like reversing the flow, but, in fact, you're heading in the right direction. The other thing you need to do is to be able to experience the need behind the crying and to accept what you get in satisfying it rather than merely becoming a crying stoic who is convince they can't get what they want.
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:44 AM on April 20, 2011

In addition to the meds, are you also in therapy?
If so, maybe this isn't that surprising or that disconcerting. Good therapy seems to be pretty effective for those who are all emotionally private and repressed, even if there is an awkward period when all sorts of intense! feelings! get all stirred up and make you cry at (god forbid) moving stories of human resilience or for little kids who feel lonely and sad. And then, you know, you sort of integrate them and deal with them, thanks to the skills you learned in therapy and junk.

posted by vivid postcard at 10:00 AM on April 20, 2011

i grew up with an emotionally abusive father who pretty much forbade us to express any negative emotions, so i too grew up suppressing anger and sadness. this was not a good thing. people need to be able to express the full range of their emotions that i'd experienced that day. i've been in therapy off and on for years (and have also been diagnosed as clinically depressed). my latest therapist, whom i have worked with for several years, has me do an exercise at the beginning of our sessions in which i am supposed to identify three positive and three negative emotions. i can name the three positive ones in a flash, but it takes me much, much longer to name the negative ones. it's gotten better but in the beginning, it was damn near impossible to get me to do it.

and yes, i cry pretty pretty easily now, and i let myself get angry when the situation warrants it. i figure it's just my emotional self's way of making up for decades of not allowing myself to do it (i'm in my late 30s). however, if i am very upset, crying gives me a piercing headache.
posted by violetk at 10:12 AM on April 20, 2011

Yes, depression numbs you. Recovering from it could easily bring these feelings to the surface, where they come trickling out. I cried maybe once from the age of 13 or so until I was 21 because of depression, and then it got better (not because of treatment or medication, but because it just... did) and I start crying at commercials, pretty music, everything. It felt good.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 11:41 AM on April 20, 2011

I am someone who went from being a non-crier to a crier in my mid-twenties, though not in the context of taking anti-depressants. One of my theories about crying (over things happy or sad) is that as I age, I have a broader knowledge and understanding -- real understanding -- of a range of emotions. While I thought of myself as empathetic before, in reality I wasn't as empathetic as I thought I was because I simply didn't have the experience to base those empathetic feelings on. Whether I knew it or not, there was a lot about the world and emotions that was abstract to me.

Now, the silliest little things make me cry. I can be sitting with a group of friends, feeling loved, and it's enough to set me off. I'm pretty good at not going beyond misting up now, but sometimes I have to leave the room to compose myself. Experiencing mini cinematic moments -- you know, where you're walking in the park, and it's sunny, and there's a song playing from someone's radio, and it feels like everything was exquisitely scripted, like there is someone in charge of all these little moments in your life -- makes my chest tighten and my eyes sting. I'm 31 now, and this doesn't bother me anymore. The first few years, I thought I was insane. Now I think it's just part of my growing up experience.

This might not be the same for you. Maybe this is a reaction to the medication, or maybe it's a reaction to not needing to be guarded all the time. Whatever it is, I hope it doesn't distress you too much. You're definitely not the only one out there who has experienced this. I think a lot of people notice a softening in themselves as they age; a tendency towards less cynicism and more...sappiness? Whatever it is, it's OK. If you're anything like me, you'll get more of a handle on it eventually. It might even become a quirk you learn to love.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 12:43 PM on April 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Not crying as such, but before I had kids, I wasn't bothered by newspaper stories about bad things happening to children, etc. Now I have to avoid reading them or I will get sick to my stomach. So your reaction to upsetting stuff can change over time.
posted by leahwrenn at 2:28 PM on April 20, 2011

This may not help you much, but here you are. It happened to me. Not to do with medication though. It followed a particularly stressful event. I didn't like it because I was getting zero mileage out of crying and wanted it to stop. It was entirely out of character. So I put my mind to stopping it. I've largely succeeded. I don't miss my temporarily weepy former self.
posted by londongeezer at 3:33 PM on April 20, 2011

Oh yes, I was a major stoic growing up. Showing emotions of any sort was apt to get verbally and, sometimes, physically abused. "Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about!" and smack! So I learned to stop showing all emotion including happiness; it just wasn't worth it.

Becoming involved with husband really broke down those walls. I learned to show emotions with him and now can with my somewhat recovered/recovering family.

Just FYI: I have been depressed since childhood (no wonder) and have been taking medication for several years. But the medication came a few years after my husband and I got married. It really was the mister who started my healing.
posted by deborah at 4:47 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've had that experience unrelated to medication or hormones (that I know of, at least). It feels so weird to be suddenly crying at, like, the finale of some reality TV contest after years and years of dry-eyedness and eye-rolling. For me, this kind of emotional reaction has to do with stress or with strong emotions in my own life when it varies from time to time, but the overall change seems to be more due to greater life experience; many of the emotions are ones I just hadn't experienced when I was younger and rolled my eyes at them, and which trigger a mirror response in me now that I have the response to trigger.
posted by Lady Li at 9:20 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Paul Fussell once wrote, in the context of -- of all things -- the Indianapolis 500:

By this time I find that I am crying, for me always an empirical indication, experienced at scores of weddings and commencements, that I am taking part in a ritual.
posted by tangerine at 12:33 PM on April 21, 2011

« Older Yet another albumfilter   |   Tired of being the kibble that's always there;... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.