Do you cry for no apparent reasons? Here are some reasons why

What happens when you seem to cry for no reason, and what can you do if it keeps happening?

We cry when we feel a surge or burst of emotion, or when we feel physical pain. Crying is healthy, as it can calm us, reduce pain, and show others that we need help. It is not a sign of weakness, as some people think. However, sometimes crying seems to occur randomly or out of the blue. If crying seems to occur for no reason on a regular basis, it could be a sign of emotional difficulties.

Why we cry

Depression is one of the possible causes of crying for no apparent reason. You may cry even if you do not feel sad. Other emotions that are common in depression, such as hopelessness, guilt, loneliness, worthlessness or despair may also be playing a role.

Anxiety can also lead to crying for no reason. Even if you don't feel scared or nervous, experiences such as ongoing worry, uncomfortable feelings in your body or thinking about things that could go wrong contribute to anxiety. Crying can seem to come on suddenly and out of nowhere when experiencing these ongoing aspects of anxiety.

Unexpected crying can also occur if you have difficulty regulating your emotions. Emotion regulation is a term for how we cope with, manage and overcome the emotions we feel. You may have problems with emotion regulation if your feelings are more intense and difficult to manage than those of other people. The reason you feel upset may be completely understandable, but the size and impact of your emotions can be upsetting.

When to seek help for unpredictable crying

Crying without knowing why doesn't always mean something is wrong. However, it is important to know when to seek help for unpredictable crying episodes. You may consider seeking treatment if crying for no reason:

  • Is frequent and continuous
  • Feels out of your control and is upsetting
  • Occurs at the same time as feeling depressed or on edge in general
  • Occurs with strong mood swings or changes in mood
  • It disrupts your daily life, e.g. affecting your ability to work, causing problems in your relationships, etc.

Proven treatments

In cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), the first step is to find a way to make sense of the crying episodes that is unique to the individual.

One way to do this is to increase attention to emotions, including the practice of noticing and naming the feelings that often arise when crying. Another technique is functional analysis. Here, a CBT therapist can help you identify the 'chains' or links between various feelings, thoughts, and other behaviours that may lead to (or follow from) crying.

Therapy can then focus on addressing what seems to keep the crying going, with many proven techniques for depression and anxiety. These include practical skills that can improve mood and make depression or anxiety less likely to recur. There are also effective treatments for emotion regulation difficulties, including dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) skills. The aim of these techniques is to make it easier to cope with strong or unpleasant emotions and reduce the influence they have on mood and general well-being.

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