Tired of being a crybaby
June 14, 2007 2:40 PM   Subscribe

I am not depressed or unhappy, in fact, just the opposite. But I cry all the time and I need to figure out how to stop because it's really embarrassing.

I cry at least 3-4 times a day.Any emotion- happy, sad, funny, poignant, whatever- sets me off. It's strange, because I am not the kind of person that you would expect to be a crier. I'm calm, laid-back, completely un-dramatic, a little sarcastic and, aside from the involuntary eye water, not prone to high emotion-and I hardly ever cry on normal crying occasions like arguments with friends or family (which pretty much never happen anyway) or upon receiving bad news. But for some reason, I can't go to the movies with anyone else because no matter what movie it is, I am probably going to cry through the whole thing, starting with the preview trailers. I even cried at Borat, because the way he treated the nice old Jewish couple made me sad. I can't listen to most of the music I love on my ipod in public-this morning on the bus, just the first few seconds of a Ralph Stanley song set me off. A funny joke, most anything on the cute overload web site, a happy family walking down the street together, an old man on the bus in a flat cap with a nice moustache - almost anything can get the tears started. There isn't really any sobbing or hiccuping, just tears. It's always been there, but it's gotten worse in the last few years, and I need to learn some tricks or something to keep it under control.
posted by cilantro to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
This is far from the best advice I'm sure you can get, but it sometimes works for me. In The Tiger's Child, the main character is an extremely emotionally disturbed child who claims to never cry. When asked why not, she explains that, whenever she feels the tears about to come, she just thinks of the physical processes that are causing the tears to come--the different neurons in her brain firing and how that leads to the tears. Right now, I'm completely blanking on the physiology behind crying, but the more detail you think about, the better.

Then again, it feels really weird to take advice from a horrendously psychologically unfit 6-year-old.
posted by Ms. Saint at 2:46 PM on June 14, 2007

Do you get plenty of sleep, or do you have allergies? I find I'm more prone to the weepies when I'm not getting enough hours per night, or when my body's busy trying to fight imaginary enemies.
posted by crinklebat at 2:47 PM on June 14, 2007

My knee-jerk thought is to wonder whether you are experiencing some sort of hormonal imbalance that's got you out of whack, especially since you feel like this is escalating.

As for tricks, I don't know anything beyond wrenching your mind away from the trigger (think about something else! Now! Fast!) or just gritting your teeth and toughing through it until the tears aren't rising anymore.

On preview, allergies and fatigue get me emotionally out of whack, too.
posted by desuetude at 2:51 PM on June 14, 2007

Are you dealing with something major elsewhere in your life? When that has happened to me it turned out to be a "transfer" for emotions I was not expressing in other areas.
posted by konolia at 2:59 PM on June 14, 2007

This might be totally off the mark, but birth control did this to me once. It's probably not the root cause, since you said this has gone on forever, but if you are on new birth control since the escalation it might be something to look into.

A good trick is to not allow yourself to speak. For me, speaking makes the tears come stronger and faster. If you can stare at a wall and grit your teeth and not answer right away if someone asks you what's wrong, that might stymie at least some of it.
posted by ohio at 3:03 PM on June 14, 2007

Sounds to me like you're just very sensitive and in touch with your emotions. I think that's a good thing. And I cry alot too, though not as much as I used to. Something hormonal could be at work too, though, as others have mentioned, so I wouldn't rule it out. You might get a check-up and talk to your doc about it since it's becoming a real burden.

When I don't want to cry, I try as hard as I can to make myself cry. It seems to short-circuit the whole process, sort of like kids who shed crocodile tears because they're trying so hard to get worked up. Seems counterintuitive, but it's worked for me in the past.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 3:13 PM on June 14, 2007

I get incredibly weepy when I'm not getting enough sleep.

For an avoidance technique, you could try wearing a thick rubber band around your wrist and snapping it every time you think you're tearing up inappropriately. The physical pain might take your mind off of whatever's making you teary at that moment.
posted by muddgirl at 3:14 PM on June 14, 2007

Oh, Konolia has an interesting idea, too.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 3:15 PM on June 14, 2007

Tears are just a indicator you feel something very strongly - happiness, fear, anxiety, apprehension, whatever.

I cry at the drop of a hat. I really wouldn't worry about it.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:31 PM on June 14, 2007

If you'd said "weeks" instead of "years" I'd wonder if you were pregnant. (Checked your profile to find you were Dama rather than Caballero when I was going to make a comment about my own trend toward becoming a weepy old man.) So instead, what konolia said. Part of my own weepiness, I think, is that little joys are bigger for me than, say, five years ago when my own internal happiness baseline was running generally higher.
posted by phrits at 3:35 PM on June 14, 2007

This is pretty much what sent me to therapy - "just to see why I'm crying all the time, when I'm really quite happy!" I came to realize that I had been squashing a lot of emotions from stressful life events (breakups, transitions, changes, nothing really horrifying, just life stuff, but I too am "sensitive," which I knew but was always ashamed of a bit). I had never really dealt with them, and kept saying (and believing, mind you) that I was "fine, really. I'm fine!" So those emotions started popping up in all sorts of inappropriate places, and I was bursting into tears in front of my boss, at movies, at commercials. I dealt with the issues, admitted some anger and deep sadness, and moved on. It was about a year with a therapist and dozens of boxes of kleenex. But now I actually AM happy - and no longer crying at comedies. YMMV.
posted by nkknkk at 3:37 PM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

I cry at parades. It's called displaced depression. How old are you? Since menopause hit me it's more likely to happen.
posted by wafaa at 3:40 PM on June 14, 2007

Nthing "other issues". When I've been going through a hard time (even without noticing it consciously) my tears seem to be closer to the surface, so that almost anything that makes me smile or daydream threatens to bring them out.
posted by Lady Li at 3:54 PM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've found that vigorously raising and lowering my eyebrows usually works to stem the flow of tears. I assume it has something to do with muscles and the tear duct, but I'm no physician.
posted by desjardins at 4:24 PM on June 14, 2007

Physical causes popped into my head immediately also, especially sleep and hormones. On the hormonal front, any chance you have undiagnosed diabetes or PCOS? Does it get worse in the couple of weeks before your period? Are you on birth control pills? I know a lot of people cry a lot, but 3-4 times a DAY? At Borat? That ain't right.
posted by selfmedicating at 4:54 PM on June 14, 2007

I wish I had an answer for you myself. I've had trouble with this my entire life. It's not so bad when it's something entertainment oriented like music or poetry, but It's a HUGE problem when I'm trying to have a serious conversation with someone, like my boss, and I start to tear up. I would like people to respect what I'm trying to say, but when I'm wiping tears and snot off my face, I can understand how that might be a bit difficult for them.

The strange thing is, I'm not really that upset, at least not in a way that one might associate with crying. I've ruled out hormones and some of the other things that people have mentioned above. I have a really inappropriate physical response to certain situations and emotions, and I really wish i could stop.

So, I'm hoping for a good answer with you.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:16 PM on June 14, 2007

This review of the book "Adult Crying, A Biopsychosocial Approach" provides lots of new, fun phrases to google. My favorite? "emotional incontinence."

In all seriousness, it does seem like some people suffer from "pathological crying," in which you cry in response to a stimulus that just doesn't warrant it. It seems to go by various names: 'emotional lability’, ‘emotional incontinence’, ‘pathological display of affect.' These authors call it involuntary emotional expression disorder.

Wikipedia entry on labile affect indicates that it is treated with run of the mill antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac) or citalopram (Celexa). I also saw some reference to using sertraline (Zoloft). Hope this helps! Good luck!
posted by selfmedicating at 5:51 PM on June 14, 2007

I did this too for years. Everything would set me off - long distance commercials, someone on the Today show getting a scholarship, John Williams movie scores, nearly anything on Oprah, teen movies.... it stopped as soon as I was put on Lexapro for other reasons.
posted by chickygrrl at 5:57 PM on June 14, 2007

What chickygrrl says is interesting, since lexapro and celexa are pretty much chemically identical.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:02 PM on June 14, 2007

I cried all the time. And yup I was depressed. I have a hard time trying to wrap my head around there being any other combo.
posted by CwgrlUp at 6:27 PM on June 14, 2007

Sounds an awful lot like Labile Affect.

Dextromethorphan (cough suppressant) in combination with Quinidine has been shown to be an effective treatment. It's up for FDA approval now.

Might want to talk to your doctor about it.
posted by Void_Ptr at 7:25 PM on June 14, 2007

I tend to be pretty weepy sometimes, but much less so when I consistently take my multi- B vitamin. *shrug*

It seems almost too easy, but it actually makes a difference- hormonal issues are much less emotional as well.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:26 PM on June 14, 2007

Go talk to a doctor and a shrink. This one's more complicated than the "whats my rash" medimefis that normally show up, and seems serious enough (see: it interferes with your life) to warrant real attention.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 12:29 AM on June 15, 2007

Birth control did this to me too. It was most embarrassing when someone said something nice and I would have to go hide and cry, instead of being able to talk to them. Off the pill, I am much more level.
posted by beandip at 3:58 PM on June 15, 2007

I agree with The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew's, see your doctor.

It's completely logical to associate tears with emotions, but honestly, reading your question I immediately thought "physical". Why? It's just the way you worded your question in general (plus "not depressed or unhappy, in fact, just the opposite") combined with the fact that you would have probably made the link between crying and a transfer of emotions or a change in taking birth control.

Of course, I'm a doctor nor psychiatrist, so my opinion is unreliable at best and complete rubbish at worst. You should really see your doctor, a blood panel will give you much more definite information than we ever can. After a physical cause is ruled out, you can proceed to examine the possible psychological causes.
posted by lioness at 7:55 PM on June 15, 2007

Best answer: I think this is exactly the sort of question where you can ask mefi before asking an MD. You have to be realistic about what you're expecting from the health-care system. This is not an episode of House where the doctor is going to burn the midnight oil trying to solve a medical mystery.

Insurance is paying for the doctor to give you 15 minutes. Other people that s/he is seeing in 15-min increments today may include: a 70-something with a clotting disorder; a 50-something trying to prevent a recurrent heart attack, kids with asthma, diabetics in various stages of disease progression, etc. You are in the enviable position of having a problem that's not all that serious. You won't die from it or go blind from it. It won't hinder your ability to work. It's just inconvenient and embarassing.

I think you are likely to have good luck if you go into the doctor's office with your homework done and say, "I cry at the drop of a hat. I really don't think it's sleep, psychological problems, or hormones because (and list all the reasons given here). I've heard that antidepressants might help. What do you think?" The doctor will probably ask you a few questions about sleep, hormones, and depression, but it's pretty likely you'll get a prescription for Zoloft or similar.

Expecting a bunch of blood tests to diagnose this is not realistic. Blood tests only work if you are testing for something in particular. But what? The doctor will rule out hormonal issues the same way we did on this thread, by asking you about it. If the problem is at the synapse (where antidepressants work), there is no blood test for that. There is no blood test for psychological problems or sleep. The doctor has to justify the cost of tests to the insurance company.

A really straightforward way to both diagnose the problem and solve it is to just try antidepressants and see if they work. There's very little risk associated with SSRIs like Zoloft or Lexapro, they're common, they're cheap. There's a really good reason they are some of the most prescribed drugs in America today.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:42 AM on June 16, 2007

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