Uncontrollable Crying

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Reader’s Question

I am a 51-year-old man with an embarrassing problem. I cry very easily. If a sad song comes on the radio I often break into tears. My parents live 3 hours drive from me. They are in great health, but as I leave them after a visit I cry uncontrollably. I even begin to experience anxiety and sadness a day or two before I am going to leave them. Could you give me any advice or direction that could help me? Thank you so much.

Psychologist’s Reply

Being emotionally sensitive is a gift. Psychologists tend to view everything on a scale and what you describe is on the high-end of the normal range. However, it is possible to be too emotional or in poor control of your emotions. When you mention the additional symptoms of anxiety and sadness, we are moving out of the normal range for emotional sensitivity.

Here’s the best way to think of the situation. If you’ve always been this way and your current behavior has been the same for many years, then it would be considered a personality characteristic. If your emotions have recently been more or less uncontrollable, then you are likely experiencing excessive stress or depression in your life. The idea of “uncontrollable” crying is a key factor — as though you are unable to control your emotional response. We often find this in depression — a condition that will be accompanied by sleep problems, poor appetite, loss of energy/motivation, social withdrawal, and preoccupation with the past. Depression produces depressing thoughts, images and fantasies. If depressed, each visit to your family will be accompanied by thoughts of their death, passing, and loneliness.

You can find additional information on stress and depression on this website. In my experience, stress and depression are the most likely causes of uncontrollable crying and poor emotional control.

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