Crying is a natural emotional response to many different situations and experiences. It can provide a healthy release of emotions and be beneficial in processing grief, loss, frustration, stress, and other strong feelings. However, some people cry very frequently while others hardly ever shed tears. This raises the question: how often is normal or healthy to cry? There is no definitive answer, as each person’s crying patterns are unique. However, there are some general guidelines that can help determine if your crying habits are within a normal range.
Why Do Humans Cry?
Before examining crying frequency, it helps to understand the purpose and triggers behind crying. There are three main reasons humans produce tears:
1. Basal Tears
Basal tears are the tears our eyes generate constantly to lubricate our eyes and protect them from irritation. The lacrimal glands at the outer corners of the eyes produce these tears slowly and steadily throughout the day.
2. Reflex Tears
Reflex tears serve to protect and cleanse the eyes. They wash out dust, smoke, or other irritants that may get in your eyes. Reflex tears contain more water and protein compared to other tear types to help flush out foreign bodies. Onions, smoke, and getting poked in the eye all commonly trigger reflex tearing.
3. Emotional Tears
Emotional tears are triggered by strong feelings, like sadness, joy, anger, or frustration. These tears contain more hormones, protein complexes, and other substances than basal or reflex tears. Researchers believe emotional tears help the body excrete excess stress hormones and other chemicals that build up during strong emotions. Crying may also promote the release of endorphins that relieve pain and improve mood.
Common Crying Triggers
People cry in response to many different situations or stimuli. Some of the most common crying triggers include:
– Grief and Loss
The death of a loved one, breakups, divorce, pet loss, and nostalgia over past times can all evoke tears. Crying helps express the intense emotions that accompany these experiences.
– Physical Pain
Both sudden acute pain and chronic pain problems can cause crying as a reflexive reaction and release of tension.
When responsibilities, difficulties, and pressure build up, crying can provide an outlet for the stress.
Depression, loneliness, low self-esteem, and other sources of sadness can initiate crying jags. The tears reflect inner turmoil and act as a release.
Positive emotions like great happiness, pride, relief, and nostalgia can also lead to crying in response.
Extreme anger, frustration, or confusion may manifest as crying outbursts. Tears can act as a release valve for these powerful emotions.
Seeing others cry or experience emotional situations can trigger sympathetic tears. Empathetic crying signals compassion and understanding.
– Physical Symptoms
Coughing, yawning, laughter, and sensations of fatigue or choking can all precede crying spells for some people as a reflex reaction.
How Often Do People Normally Cry?
Determining how often it’s normal to cry depends partly on what triggers elicit tears for an individual. Research indicates most adults cry somewhere between 5-17 times per month on average. However, studies find substantial variation among individuals. Women tend to cry more frequently than men, with most men reporting crying 1-4 times per month. Here is an overview of research on crying frequency:
– LaFrance et al. Study (2007)
|Crying Frequency Reported
|5-17 times per month
|1-4 times per month
This study surveyed over 300 adults about their crying habits over the prior year. It found women cried 5-17 times on average each month. Men cried 1-4 times per month on average.
– Vingerhoets Study (2001)
|Crying Frequency Reported
|Young adults (18-23)
|7 times per month
|5 times per month
|Elderly adults (55-85)
|2 times per month
This survey examined crying frequency among different age groups. It found crying became less frequent with older age. Young adults cried the most, averaging 7 crying episodes per month. Elderly adults cried the least at 2 times per month on average.
– Becht et al. Meta-Analysis (2001)
This meta-analysis compiled data from over 20 studies on crying. It also concluded women cry significantly more often than men. The analysis found women cry on average 30-64 times per year (2.5-5 times per month). Men cry 6-17 times per year on average (about once a month).
Is Crying Every Day Too Much?
Crying every day or multiple times per day could signal an underlying mental health issue. Chronic crying may reflect constant sadness, anxiety, depression, or uncontrolled stress. However, some individuals simply tend toward crying more readily as part of their natural emotional expression. Key considerations in evaluating daily crying include:
– Situation or Trigger-Specific Crying
If crying centers around specific emotional triggers like grief, physical injury, or nostalgia, it more likely falls within normal ranges. The tears serve as a healthy outlet for the associated feelings. As the triggering situation improves, crying should become less frequent.
– Pervasive Crying
Crying frequently without identifiable triggers may indicate excessive crying. The tears seem to represent a default emotional state rather than a response to specific events. This could reflect an underlying mental health disorder.
– Disruptions to Life
If prolific crying interferes with work, socialization, or daily functioning, it may be happening too frequently. Very frequent crying can disrupt normal activities.
– Associated Symptoms
Chronic crying accompanied by other symptoms like insomnia, fatigue, changes in appetite, social withdrawal, or suicidal thoughts warrants concern. This constellation of symptoms may signal clinical depression or anxiety.
Seeking counseling helps evaluate whether daily crying stems from a mental health disorder requiring treatment. Talk therapy can also help manage triggers that evoke excessive crying.
When Should I Seek Help for Frequent Crying?
While no definitive threshold defines abnormal crying frequency, consider seeking help from a mental health professional if you:
– Cry multiple times daily without obvious triggers
– Constantly cry over minor frustrations or incidents
– Experience disruptions to work, school, or relationships due to crying
– Cry so frequently it surprises those close to you
– Feel unable to control or reduce crying
A counselor can help determine if clinical depression, anxiety, trauma, or other mental health issues contribute to excessive crying. They can also teach coping strategies to gain control over crying spells.
Tips to Manage Frequent Crying
If you cry excessively or more often than desired, some methods to help regulate crying include:
– Identifying Triggers
Keep a log of when crying episodes occur and any associated triggers. This can reveal patterns and situations that disproportionately evoke tears. Avoiding or adapting these triggers can reduce crying.
– Learning Calming Techniques
When you feel the urge to cry in inappropriate situations, try excuse yourself. Splash cold water on your face, breathe deeply, or practice mindful meditation to calm emotions before tears start.
– Establishing Healthy Outlets
Set aside time to process emotions in a healthy way, like talking to a friend or keeping a journal. Releasing feelings proactively can prevent excessive crying later.
– Evaluating Lifestyle Factors
Stress, sleep deprivation, poor diet, and lack of exercise can all make people more prone to crying. Improving health habits helps stabilize emotions. Consider supplements like fish oil and magnesium to support mood as well.
– Pursuing Counseling
Talk therapy provides strategies to manage emotions, traumatic issues, and thought patterns leading to frequent crying. Counselors can also diagnose any underlying conditions causing excessive tearing.
When to Worry About Not Crying
While frequent crying can be problematic, an outright inability to cry may also signal an issue for some individuals. Emotionally numb people who never cry, even during profoundly devastating or depressing situations, often have underlying mental health problems. Extremely inhibited crying could stem from:
– Psychological trauma
– Personality disorders like narcissism or sociopathy
– An autism spectrum disorder
– Abuse of drugs or alcohol
People who cannot access their emotions through crying tend to struggle regulating their mood and behavior. They may vent feelings through anger, self-harm, or other unhealthy mechanisms. If you worry about never crying, counseling helps address any associated issues. Therapy often focuses on safely reconnecting with emotions.
The Bottom Line
Crying anywhere from once a week to a few times per month falls within normal ranges for most people. Crying episodes centered around situational triggers generally prove healthy. Excessive crying that disrupts daily life or lacks identifiable causes could signal mental health issues. Seeking counseling helps evaluate causes and manage frequent crying. But the inability to cry warrants similar concern, as it indicates inhibited emotional expression. Overall, pay attention to any drastic changes in crying patterns or divergence from your personal norms. Evaluate whether environmental factors or mental health changes drive alterations in expression of emotions through tears.