I have a friend who says he can’t cry — are there medical conditions that stop people from crying?

- asks Rose Kelly

April 16, 2007

From a badly stubbed toe to teenage angst, there are many instances that make people cry. Yet for some – no matter how charged the situation – shedding tears is impossible.

Strong emotions cause our brains to release chemicals that indirectly lead to teary eyes. A flow of tears not only shoots up the level of endorphins, natural chemicals within the body, providing a sense of well-being and relieving stress, but also they release toxins — making us healthier, according to Dr. William Frey II, a neurologist at the University of Minnesota.

Since the physical act of crying is rooted in the psychological, depression – usually a disease associated with tears – can prevent them. According to a review article published this year in the journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, severe cases of depression flatten emotions, leaving a person without the trigger that starts the crying circuit. Max Hamilton, who created a depression scale in 1960, commented in a 1967 paper that severely depressed patients “go beyond weeping” and settle into a cry-proof state.

The battle against depression can itself snatch away the urge to let it out. In a 2002 study, Adam Opbroek discovered that many patients with sexual dysfunction associated with prescribed anti-depressants also experienced a “diminution in emotional responsiveness.” Medication intended to reduce a sense of sadness, Opbroek found, did so but at the cost of “emotional blunting,” or the same flattening of emotion felt by some depressed patients.

Aside from a numbing form of depression, the inability to cry may be caused by a rare affliction called Familial Dysautonomia (FD), or Riley-Day Syndrome. While someone with FD experiences emotions like anyone else, they’re born without the reflex necessary to produce tears: crying becomes a dry display, according to the foundation’s website.

The inability to feel physical pain is another genetic anomaly that can make a person less likely to cry. With an underdeveloped system of nerves for sensing injury, people with Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis (CIPA) have a pain threshold high enough to make a bike accident feel more like a pillow fight, and so tears flow less often.

Crying is a uniquely human trait. The situations that make us cry are often the ones we remember most. It shows we are sensitive to things we encounter in our lives and, in that way, it is important for survival. Spilling tears is something we all need to stay healthy.


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Just A Guy says:

Hello Stephanie.
Super sorry the respond too late. I hope you won’t need this anymore and wish the problem solved. But if you are, I’m here !!!! So listen to this a while.
Here’s my real experience. So I will never ever give solution base on “ideal” theories.
First, don’t force yourself to cry instantly. I tried. For whole 1 months now. Every single day. Zero. A big big zero. You just need to believe someday, I can’t predict the day, but someday, my friend. The word might be sound cheesy. But someday, I promise you. Always believe somebody still there for you.
Second, like drugs and medicine law. Even the best medicine there is, can’t heal everybody in this world. So, you need to find the right “place” and the right “people” to trust, cause your heart started to neglect every single careness around you. It’s sound dramatic. But, it can happen!! Maybe there’s only one person or place who can make you cry again. Maybe millions. We don’t know it yet.
Just never quit to live. Even you feel like walking robot.
Last, it really cut my heart so deep that you experience this for 7 months. I really wish that you don’t need this anymore. See!!! Imagine that. Even a stranger who never talk and see you like me, care for you!!! Just never quit to live. I only experience that for a month, and it is very scary. So, take care , my friend

Yvette Parsons says:

I think I may have melancholy depression. I haven’t been able to sob or cry effectively for 5 years. I try to invoke emotion through drinking wine. This helps bring on some tears but it is induced by a substance and doesn t feel real. My father died 5 years ago and I never really cried or grieved properly. I feel numb.

any advice?

Aurea says:

I really wanted to cry so I will feel good inside. My heart is full of sadness bitterness and rejection. My husband cheated on me , I didn’t know about the affair until one day . Crying me feel better. But I cannot shed s test,

Shelly L McGoldrick says:

I haven’t been able to cry for at least 4 years now. I shed 1 tear when I found out I had stage 4 cancer, but misty eyed is as far as it gos. When my sister died,being weeks from loosing my home to unpaid property taxes, not even ahaving my breast removed. I just didn’t see any point in crying about anything anymore. Just to be judged as feeling sorry for myself or being a baby, even just for attention. These judgement s only made me feel worse, or helpless and unloved. After a while I felt the need to cry but found I couldn’t even if I tried. A social worker threw my from the hospital following my heart failure told me it wasn’t healthy not to cry. . What started as a personal choice seems to be out of my control now. It also seems to be more unhealthy than I had ever imagined.

Patricia Boulet says:

My father couldn’t cry and I can’t either. We have never been told we had depression or any psychological problems. We both were diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome. I hardly have any saliva either. During a sad time, I have the ugly crying face but not one tear. When my daughter passed away, my right eye got a thick feeling but no tear. The next day, the corner of my eye looked like it had been burned. I’m 70 and my dad passed away at 93. I hope this helps someone understand about this condition. People who can’t cry because of Sjogren’s Syndrome are not heartless. Just can’t cry.

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