Why do I get teary-eyed when I am serious?
August 17, 2006 1:50 PM   Subscribe

Is there a reason I get teary-eyed when I find myself in even the most remotely serious situation?

I don't consider myself a sad person in the least, but for some reason, whenever a serious topic comes up, I find myself tearing up and getting that itchy I'm-gonna-cry feeling in my throat. My jaw jitters and I might stumble over what I'm saying for fear of starting up the ol' waterworks.

Whether it's talking about global warming, a friend's breakup, how much I love my cat, or even when I find myself in a small confrontation, I feel it coming on. I never actually cry, but I know my eyes get glassy and I look uncomfortable. I feel like a dork as a result.

It's not a serious problem--just an annoyance. I just want to know why it happens. Has anyone else ever experienced this? Is it a mental (i.e. depression that I am not aware of?) or physical (i.e. heart rate induces tears?) thing? Chalking it up to "I'm a crybaby" just doesn't satisfy me!
posted by sian to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, any ideas on how to curb the teariness are welcome.
posted by sian at 1:51 PM on August 17, 2006

Have you been drinking more than usual?
posted by jon_kill at 1:53 PM on August 17, 2006

Response by poster: Ooh--background. Young, healthy full-time female student who rarely drinks, never smokes, eats healthy and exercises regularly. If this is a PMS thing, I'll eat my hat, because it happens all the time.
posted by sian at 1:54 PM on August 17, 2006

Sian, I think that's pretty common. Happens to me all the time, and to my wife.

Sometimes its embarassing - she's a teacher, and if her students tell her a sappy story, she cries at the drop of a hat.

I once cried during an episode of the Simpsons.

Get me talking about my dogs and I can be in tears in seconds. But they're happy tears.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:56 PM on August 17, 2006

Have you been through anything traumatic lately? Increased emotionality is a symptom of PTSD. Two years after a particularly bad event in my life, and I am frustrated that I cry at the littlest things.
posted by Sara Anne at 1:59 PM on August 17, 2006

IANAP, but I've had depression off and on for years. This doesn't sound so much like depression, per se, as it does simply an amped up sense of the intensity of everyday feelings. Maybe global warming scares you -- and that fear feels a little overwhelming. Maybe you feel really sympathetic for your friend's breakup -- and that sympathy morphs into sadness. Maybe you feel very attached to your cat -- and so talking about him (her?) amplifies a sense of how much you don't want to lose your pet.

If any of that rings a bell, I wonder if there's not actually a bit of anxiety (perhaps the anxiety/worry of losing things you care about?) driving your emotional responses in these situations, more so than depression.
posted by scody at 1:59 PM on August 17, 2006

for a long time, certain episodes or scenes in movies would make me very emotional (for example, the ending scene in broadway danny rose, where danny rose (woody allen) runs down the street after mia farrow's character after rejecting her). I always 'objectively' wondered why a scene like that - which was touching but not necessarily overpowering - would have such an impact on me. Eventually I decided I had some issues with abandonment because of things in my childhood that I had, in adulthood, really just buried stoically and had not faced or articulated. After I started doing that (facing it and articulating it), I no longer have those overpowering responses to selective scenes like that anymore (which, I figure, is a good thing; closer to normal).
Long story short, if my situation is anything like yours...
posted by jak68 at 2:01 PM on August 17, 2006

Are you on any medications? When I started on birth control, and again when I had to switch brands of the pill, I became extremely teary quite frequently. I also had other moodiness symptoms, but the crying is what I remember most. It stopped after awhile.

Is there any kind of constant stress you're experiencing? I also sometimes get closer to crying in situations the more stressed I am. Even if the things are unrelated, like a stressful situation at work and then hearing about a friend's fight with her husband, I get teary more often. I'm not a crier in general though.
posted by christinetheslp at 2:14 PM on August 17, 2006

Do you have other inappropriate reactions you can't really control? Uh, not that I know how to fix it or what it means but I have the "Teary eyed out of proportion to the subject at hand" reaction as well as some other physical responses I can't get under my control; blushing even when I don't feel embarrassed for instance.

It's not at all depression for me and it passes quickly in a wave and is unrelated to my period. But both the blushing and the teary-eyedness physically manifest disproportionately to what I'm actually feeling. What I think I mean is: I don't feel internally to the degree that it's occurring externally (on my face).

(Also non-drinker, non-drug user, healthy, fit, no medications, stress-free lifestyle, etc.)
posted by birdie birdington at 2:17 PM on August 17, 2006

I once cried during an episode of the Simpsons.

It was a really good episode about love always ending in tragedy except, of course, for Marge and Homer. It was quite moving at the end and to tell you the truth my eyes were a bit damp.
posted by ed\26h at 2:34 PM on August 17, 2006

I occasionally get this, for serious and intense situations which are not necessarily sentimental or sad -- and I'm male. I think it might be some weird effect of the fight-or-flight instinct.
posted by brownpau at 2:40 PM on August 17, 2006

aka being moved by the circumstance.
posted by Fupped Duck at 2:45 PM on August 17, 2006

To prevent the tears, try this trick from a previous AskMe
posted by Quietgal at 2:56 PM on August 17, 2006

I mostly have managed over the last twenty years to develop the skills to restrain myself in public situations and keep my schmaltzy sentimentality at home where only my family can affectionately laugh at me. Practice, I guess. Certainly, my colleagues would never accuse me of being sentimental, and that's deliberate.

In my situation, it's very definitely connected to my menstrual cycle and (strangely) the upside of depression. That is, when I'm feeling particularly happy with the world (and connected), that's when I cry at tv ads and chicken soup. I suspect it's also connected to my creativity, but I'm not certain. Perhaps I'm just more emotional about the stuff I create at times like that.

It's nice to do at home. I guess I just have a slightly different (more professional persona) for my work environment.
posted by b33j at 2:58 PM on August 17, 2006

I get this all the time, too. And it's not just a reaction to things that are supposed to elicit an emotional response, like sappy movies or songs. If I see an unusually well done drawing, or read something that's extremely well written, I get the ol' watery eyes and lip quiver. One of my bosses was showing me a scene from My Friend Totoro (not an emotional scene, either) and I was blubbering like a 3 year old. She must have thought I had some traumatic Totoro experience, poor woman... But I was just really impressed and for some reason that how my body chooses to respond. Maybe your body has the same kind of waterworks glitch mine does.
posted by maryh at 3:00 PM on August 17, 2006

I think this is just some people's stress reaction, like how some people tense up in particular ways, or laugh inappropriately. My mother does this, she has cried in job interviews before (when they were neither going well or badly) and she finds it very embarrassing and limiting.

I do it too, although much less than my mum, and we have very different responses to stress and levels of tolerance for stress otherwise. I chose a stressful job and think I'm good at dealing with confrontation, but every now and then... My solution has been to consciously distance myself from the situation once I feel the weepiness coming on, and to prepare for and mentally rehearse situations where I think it might happen. It's weird.
posted by crabintheocean at 5:13 PM on August 17, 2006

For me, its totally a stress reaction, both to good and bad stress. For example, today I made a bunch of new friends but as soon as I got home and discovered the laptop case that I had ordered was the wrong size, I burst into tears. I think even though I made a bunch of new friends, a good thing, it was still freaking stressful, and so something seemingly kind of silly caused a strong reaction.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 5:51 PM on August 17, 2006

I get this, too- sometimes when I think something is funny, I cry.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:43 PM on August 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

This happens to me when I'm in confrontation with someone or even when simply speaking vehemently about a topic. I could be discussing the superiority of khakis over jeans and suddenly find myself tearing up.

I don't consider myself to be an overly emotional person--movies and Hallmark commercials never make me cry. I think crabintheocean explained my situation (and possibly yours) the best. My quick fix: making my stomach tight, which clears my head and lets me focus on the situation at hand.
posted by killjoy at 6:49 PM on August 17, 2006

You can chalk me up for this, too. For me, I think it goes back to childhood/family stuff -- my family was not demonstrative or expressive, and so I feel even the slightest twinge of emotion as rather large and sniffle-inducing. It's okay, though, and the more I've explored and learned to accept and express my feelings, the less this happens. Or at least, the less overwhelming it feels.
posted by Miko at 8:09 PM on August 17, 2006

I get subtle tears without anything like sobbing: just a steady leakage from one eye brought on by a conversation with some emotional content. Second-hand, like when someone is telling me of a problem that a third person is having. It has come up in confrontational situations too. It's nice to know it's not unique to me. And thanks for the link, Quietgal.
posted by Snerd at 8:24 PM on August 17, 2006

Maybe you're just a sensitive person! Might not be appreciated in our society, but still a quality you have. Embrace it. Some people never cry. :)
posted by mercurysm2 at 8:26 PM on August 17, 2006

I've noticed that I cry at the drop of a hat (unless I'm actually sad, then I can't cry even if I try) since I had my son, who's now 4. I've chalked it up to increased empathy...if something is sad, I tend to tear up thinking about how terrible something is for the people involved. Most recently - a kid died in an accident right in front of his father, and a month later I still tear up thinking that I wish I could hug this man and take away his sorrow. I'm putting it incredibly simplistically, but that's it in a nutshell. On the flipside of that, I also cry when children show ends and the kids have learned to share or accomplished something. It starts out with tears, and then I start crying because despite all the sadness in the world, I'm still able to appreciate simplistic beauty and the wonder that is life.
I prefer that beautifully cheesy reason to anything related to being chemically imbalanced. I've known close friends that were similarly gifted in crying, but they ran to Zoloft. Not me - embrace being human! And be proud that though you could chose to be jaded by how we all treat each other, you continue to be moved.
posted by Iamtherealme at 9:39 PM on August 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

most of these people don't get what you're saying. this is not crying, but the very first twinge of it in stressful, serious situations, not sad or sappy ones.

i get this too, it's annoying when i'm trying to explain something to my boss or worse it pisses me off when I'm arguing a point w/ someone.

but if it's any consolation, you are obviously not the only one. and brownpau I'm glad to hear it's not just girls this happens to. I thinks it's more just a physical reaction to stress, not necessarily emotion related.
posted by lannanh at 1:26 AM on August 18, 2006

I get this too. For example, I can discuss the Jon Benet Ramsey case with no problem, going over theories, etc.. Then, another day the case would come up and I would get that I'm gonna cry feeling and not be able to talk. I figured that it was my brain realizing at some deeper level what the case was really about. A precious little girl beaten to death and sexually abused. And the realization at some deeper level that such evil happens all the time in this world, and I am powerless to stop it.

(and I am not even that interested in the Ramsey case btw, it just popped into my head as an example)
posted by vronsky at 2:42 PM on August 19, 2006

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