“Crying: acceptable at funerals and the Grand Canyon.” -Ron Swanson Parks and Rec.
I love this line from the show Parks and Rec, it captures through humor how sometimes we have a somewhat skewed perspective on crying. Our perspective is usually influenced by our personality, our family’s response to crying, and many other factors.
Crying spells can be a symptom of depression or anxiety. It can also be a healthy emotional release. So, which is it, and should you try to cry less or to cry more?
It depends. Many factors influence the answer, so here are some questions and thoughts I would have if a client came to me with this question:
- First, are you experiencing a specific mental health issue such as anxiety, depression, etc? With this, how frequently and for how long are you crying? Are you able to control the crying or does it interfere with your daily tasks?
- Second, are you typically a person who wears their emotions on their sleeves or do you tend to hide your emotions from others?
- Third, did you grow up being taught that crying is just a physiological response to stress or as I have heard people say “a sign of weakness”?
If you have been diagnosed with or suspect you might have a specific mental health condition, then the frequency/controllability of your crying might be closely linked to the severity of your symptoms. For this, it’s best to work with a mental health professional (counselor, psychiatrist, etc.) to monitor these crying episodes and to judge whether it is more indicative of a negative symptom or is a healthy release for the situation.
If you don’t have an ongoing mental health issue, then I tend to encourage balance. On the crying spectrum, try to aim for a spot between never allowing yourself to cry or crying constantly. Need to let yourself cry more; sometimes listening to music/doing something artistic or being in a place that feels safe to cry can help. Feel you cry a lot; try incorporating various stress reduction techniques (exercise, journaling, etc.) throughout your week and see if that helps you lower the intensity of emotions that might be currently coming out as tears.
If you lean strongly in one direction or the other and are struggling to move to the middle ground, speaking with a trusted friend or a counselor can help you to discern what might be holding you back.
Written by Melanie Ross, APC