Help me avoid drunk crying.
April 9, 2013 10:58 AM   Subscribe

I used to be a happy drunk, and now I have become a person who cries for no reason when I drink. Why did this change, and can I change it back?

I'm a woman, late 20's, no history of depression or alcoholism. I'm a generally confident, outgoing, friendly person. I am happily married, love my job, and I am happy. In the last couple of years, I have started having crying fits after a night of drinking.

I'd like to understand this phenomenon better. What changed? Am I metabolizing alcohol differently? Could my suspicion that a certain kind of alcohol triggers this be correct? What else is there to know about drunk crying? A google search turned up a lot of totally useless yahoo answers, but I'd like some real information about this. Scientific information would be great, but anecdotes about your own experiences would be helpful, too.
posted by picapica to Food & Drink (19 answers total)
Hmm. This is purely laywoman's armchair speculation, but it could be that alcohol is just lowering your emotional defenses and whatever random emotion that bobs up to the surface doesn't have any barrier so it flies right out. Most of the time that random emotion is more happy, but once in a while it's....not.

Basing this on having had a couple instances of bursting into tears out of total nowhere immediately following sex.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:06 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

How do you know it's for "no reason?" Maybe you're just not aware of the reason? Maybe you're reluctant to know the reason.
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:07 AM on April 9, 2013 [11 favorites]

Our bodies change as we get older. That's probably the explanation, end of story. The quantity of alcohol I can drink without consequence as a mid-30s person is dramatically lower than it was in my 20s, and this is true of everyone I know.
posted by something something at 11:07 AM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think it's hard to say what is causing you to cry given the information you provide above.

That being said, a lot of people who are depressed do not recognize that they are depressed. Perhaps the alcohol is triggering something that you're not consciously aware of. Or perhaps not.
posted by dfriedman at 11:08 AM on April 9, 2013

I have found myself just generally crying more as I've gotten older. Happy crying as well as sad crying. Late '20s seems a little early for this to be setting in, but everybody's hormonal makeup is different.
posted by queensissy at 11:11 AM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

I used to be able to drink and metabolize...quite a bit of alcohol in my youth. Now, hardly any.

I guess I used up my allotment.

If it's problematic, and you find that you're drinking more than know the drill.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:18 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've found the best solution is to know when to stop, and avoid binge drinking.

How do I know when to stop, and when it's turning into a binge? When I can no longer *totally* appreciate the taste of what I'm drinking. I'm still slightly buzzed, but not tipsy.

Avoiding binge drinking should solve your problem.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:21 AM on April 9, 2013

I go through periods when I'm more emotional when drinking, and it's pretty directly tied to what's going on in my life, even if it's happy-lack-of-sleep stuff. It took a while to sort it out, but it's definitely connected for me and possibly for you. What I usually do is stop/limit drinking during those times and then feel out the situation again.

It's probably partially due to age, but I don't think that's the whole story.
posted by sweetkid at 11:23 AM on April 9, 2013

Have you changed what you actually drink? Wine makes me mellow, whiskey makes me angry, and gin makes me cry. (But only the last one..!) Alcohol is a depressant, so maybe different drinks have different chemical levels which make you more depressed/emotional. Hormones also affect alcohol (I think) so maybe as you've gotten older and your hormone balance has changed this could have an impact?
posted by billiebee at 11:28 AM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Just have one drink. Then stop. You can't really control your emotions while drinking but you can control your drinking.
posted by srboisvert at 11:29 AM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

I happened to go through a few years of deep depression that overlapped with my time in college, and I would routinely go to a party, get smashed and have fun, but end up sobbing on a stoop or curb or something outside. Once I got the depression taken care of, I stopped sobbing when I drank.

But for you it could be any number of things. Sure, you might be depressed and not know it, but it seems more likely that you've got some pent up stress and alcohol is weakening your defenses enough to let you release it.
posted by smoq at 11:29 AM on April 9, 2013

The way to avoid drunk X is to not get drunk, for all values of X.
posted by zippy at 11:35 AM on April 9, 2013 [19 favorites]

This happened to me at the after party for a good friend's wedding a few years back. We were having a great time and drinking a lot. That + me having a sudden complex big realization about friendships, relationships, and how my friend still totally "got" me when almost no one else in my life really did = me suddenly sobbing my heart out, head down in my arms, at a table with my then-boyfriend and a group of people I'd just met. It happens.

I've never had it happen to me again, though. That was just sort of a powerful, epiphanic moment for me. If it's happening to you all the time, you probably need to at very least change what you're drinking—and if that doesn't help, something else needs to change, whether it's how much you're drinking or who you're hanging out with when you drink or something else you haven't even realized yet.
posted by limeonaire at 11:38 AM on April 9, 2013

I went from normal drunk to being a crying drunk in my mid 20s. It started at the same time as the increased frequency and awfulness of the hangovers. Gone are the days of carefree drinking! I almost never get drunk anymore because man... between the crying and the hangovers, it just isn't worth it. I'll have a couple drinks and get buzzed, but that is where it ends for me. Saves a lot of embarassment, headaches (literally), and frankly money.

So yeah, I'm going to say "age" is likely a cause, or it was for me. And the solution is to drink less.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 12:01 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Our bodies change as we get older. That's probably the explanation, end of story.

This sounds quite likely, and would match with what I have seen in many people around me – although it is not always crying. It is just generally being inappropriately emotional. I've never quite considered it before your question, but it is definitely something I have noticed.

One thought is that perhaps the social dynamics change. The crowds of people that I notice who drink heavily in their 20s is much different from the crowds I see in their 30s, which are then different from those that I see in their 40s.

In the 20s, it seems to be everyone, all going out together. But then, life happens and by the 30s, a lot of people have gotten married and/or had children and/or advanced in their careers. The people left who drink and party by the late 30s seem to be people that don't have any of these things going on. Conversely, the people with lots of things going on, don't seem to have time to drink.

Also, I've chatted with a few doctor friends over the years about alcohol and the body, and it turns out that there is kind of an allotment. It's not a hard allotment, but it's the body's capability to absorb stress. In the 20s, the level of stress is often low (despite what a lot of people feel), and the body is resilient. In the 30s, the level of stress is higher, and the body is 10 years on. As the GP said to a friend of mine, "Well, you've had a lot of fun, haven't you. That can't go on forever, can it?"

Finally, inappropriate emotions. As we age, there are different social responsibilities that are expected of us. How we behave in our early twenties, is different from our late twenties, which is different from early thirties, and so on. If you acted the same way now that you did when you were in your early twenties, how would people think about you? That then can be a reflexive proposition. Our expectations of ourselves change as we go along, so then perhaps if we find ourselves doing the same thing at 30 that we were at 20, what are we thinking about ourselves?

This is all thinking out loud at this point, but there's a few possible drivers:
1) Social
2) Health
3) Psychological

Not sure what the answer is, but the reality is that all change as we get older. I would think you could answer this by looking at the following:

1) When you drink, who are you drinking with? What is your relationship with them when you are not drinking? Is there a possibility that you are drinking with people that have a certain emotional affect on you – people that you aren't around when you are not drinking?

2) How do you feel when you drink? Has your tolerance substantially changed – either upward or downward? Are you hungover for longer? Have you made diet changes? Are there any other substantial diet or behavioural changes that you have made? Started an exercise programme? Stopped exercising?

3) How do you feel normally? I have seen that alcohol (and other drugs) tend to amplify people's moods – whichever direction that may be. If you're in a baseline good mood, it will make you in a great mood. If you're in a baseline bad mood, it will make you in a worse mood. If you have started crying and it's not a social- or health-related occurrence, could it be a psychological thing?

You are married, and have a job you love, but both of those can be interactions that require a lot of responsibility and hence potentially stress. You are generally happy, but if those are positions of high responsibility, you could find yourself overcome with emotion, because there is just inherently more things that can go wrong.

I guess the point that I am making (and this is thinking out loud) is that whilst the alcohol has remained the same, you have changed over the timespan when you would have been drinking. You've probably changed quite a bit, and this may well be one of the indicators of that.
posted by nickrussell at 12:10 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

That doesn't sound particularly fun. Alcohol is sort of meant as a fun recreational thing that leads to enjoyable times when used functionally. You might do some introspection about whether you are currently using alcohol to a functional end if you are finding it makes you weepy.
posted by mermily at 12:22 PM on April 9, 2013

I read this article (which is by Malcolm Gladwell, so keep that in mind) a few years back and thought that, at the very least, it pointed to some interesting studies on how drinking affects behavior (specifically, how social cues affect how you act when you are drunk) that were more than armchair expertise.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 12:35 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a theory that women's bodies go through extra hormonal changes in the mid-late twenties. I've read a lot of (admittedly anecdotal) evidence about getting "baby crazies" at this time period, boobs and/or hips getting bigger, skin changing for little to no reason--going from oily to dry or reverse, going from pimply to clear or reverse. I know female friends who say they cry easier. I cry a lot easier than I used to--I pretty much used to never cry at all.* So it is totally possible this is just normal weird body changes.

*Though for me the changing in crying may be from having my emotional responses fixed after I went on depression meds a few years ago.
posted by Anonymous at 7:34 PM on April 9, 2013

Mental Floss has a brief article about this today. Why Do We Get Emotional When We Drink?
posted by sugarbomb at 8:27 AM on April 10, 2013

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