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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Betty says:


Very interesting posts. I tend to sit on the fence with this one and there are no splinters so won’t cry!!!
Anyhow as a young schoolchild I was occasionally bullied. Would go running to the teacher crying. I cried at thw drop of a hat and as easily as laughing but the former for the wrong reasons ie I should have stood up to the bullies.
Now my theory is this. Is laughter the opposite to crying. If so why do I laugh at situations someone else may consider is laughable.
Or is that the point. We develop the ability to laugh instead of cry as opposed to cry more than laughing.
It may be a sign of maturation whereby the positive action of laughing is therapeutic. The need to cry is diminished the more we to deal with life.

Perhaps those of us who have had more than their share of troubles develop a higher threshold to cry.

Betty says:

Oh dear my grammar is diabolical in my previous post. I should have said why do I laugh at situations others might consider is a crying offence. (Or should that be sitting on a fence with splinters in le derrière).

Lets call laughter giggling. And crying – well crying.

Giggling is an immature action. Crying over spilt milk, losing a nail, all things high drama is an immature action. So we grow up hopefully and giggling transforms into laughter.
But crying is crying and the way it transforms itself is that we find the threshold for hurt that makes us cry increases.

Now perhaps I should have penned some tearjerker comments . So are you crying cause I didn’t??
So you now see I have a fair soh . If you are laughing there is hope for all.

Sato Tatsuhiro says:

Interesting that I am emotional person. As on horrid news stories I don’t usally cry.

However ine xception thi slatest disaster of the shoot downof Malaysia flight MH-017 between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur over Ukraine I DID ‘huilen’ (cry)! I am Swiss with Japanese and Dutch background and when I heard the horrible tragedy of from 154 – 189 fellow Dutchg nationals who lost their lives totally unwarranted and needlessly, I f***ing cried! I actually broke down and lost myself in tears. I felt that a part of me had also died in that crash as well.

Also there is a new ambient rock group (from Tim Bettinson) called Vancouver Sleep Clinic as he has eight songs one being ‘Hold On We are Going Home. It is metaphoric of going back to the source, the ‘Other Side’ (Transition or death) The lyrics had a strong emotional impact onme and I burst out into tears!

or some good films I can cry as well. Otherwise I do find it hard to cry especially at funerals or memorial services (perhaps as being a Rosicrucian student I understand the concept of the eternal soul and reincarnation). Also being a young gay man (24) and see something of my peers getseriously hurt or die (or suicide attempts), that also triggers my own crying response as well (as that could have been me)!

Sato Tatsuhiro says:

Please pardon the typos in above comment as this keyboard is not very good! Sorry for the poor spellings!

Aguy says:

I turned 14 in march and ever since from that day when my gran dies which was like 3 years ago I carnt cry I’ve never done it infact I hardly ever cry I never cry in pain I dont know what’s wrong I haven’t told no one about it that’s the thing:/

micaiah says:

I used to cry all the time as a kid. Sometimes a sad piece of music was enough to trigger it. Then I had an experience where someone I trusted used that to publicly humiliate me and after that I didn’t cry one tear for over 6 years. I didn’t feel as much as I had before either. I could analytically understand what someone was feeling from their words, gestures, expressions, etc. but the feeling of understanding how they felt was gone. I also started getting random, sharp pains in my chest, like a heart attack.

There were times more recently that I was able to cry, like getting dumped or when my best friend died but even then it wasn’t spontaneous feeling, I had to focus and bring the emotion to the forefront and immerse myself in it purposely before feeling that. Lately I’ve done a lot of soul searching to understand how I think and why I think that way and admitted some things to myself that I had been repressing. One of them was that I had been heartbroken, and as soon as I realized and accepted all those things and wasn’t afraid of it it was like a portion of myself was restored, the walls that had separated it crumbled and fell away and an energy flooded into a place in my chest that Had not felt that in a loooooong time.

I cried and cried tears of joy just because I could truly feel again. Now I can feel everything so much more, I feel motivation and happiness and like I was broken for 10 years and am finally whole again. I feel like I’m balanced on to of the world and I wouldn’t go back for anything. I’m never turning this off again.

Alondra says:

Okay so i read this and i was wondering if thats the answer to my question. Im 17 years old ive been diagnosed with depression since i was 12. Sometimes i could cry alot and i cant stop crying while in other situations i can’t cry at all. I wish to cry when something hurtful happens or i remember something hurtful but i just cant get tears out. Does this happen because i have depression?

seema talkar says:

Date : 10/09/2014.

Regarding sir,
i am so sad because my elder sister since 23 yrs because chicken pox and after she can’t see and no tears in her eyes when she has very sad she can’t cry because her eyes can’t products tears she had use so many drop and tube it can’t help to her and our family finance it is not well but i request sir please tell me very powerful medicine for this condition.
Thanking you,
yours faithfully,

Christine Budde says:

Well I used to cry all the time, then all of a sudden it quit, I couldn’t cry anymore. I am a diabetic which brought on cateracts, they removed them, then 4 years ago I stopped crying. I went to my eye Dr. and he examined my eyes and told me that I have severe dry eyes. So he put in tear ducts in my eyes. I still can’t cry like I would like to, but I do have just a little moisture come out when I am heart broken. But the Dr. said that I will never cry again like I used to. So maybe you have dry eye syndroms. They say that it affects 50 to 60% of citizens. So if you can that’s one thing you can look into and see if that is your problem.

Coni Wilson says:

I have tbi from a motorcycle accident in 2008 and haven’t cried since, I even watched my dog get hit and killed by a car and couldn’t cry. I wish I could cry!

DaughterinLaw says:

My mother in law doesnt seem to cry in the two years shes been living with us. Last year her mother (my hubbys granny) died. All of her siblings wept but she didnt though i can see how pained she is and how much she loved her mother. She even told her sister that she is crying too much… My mother in law once told me she cant cry even if she wanted to. What ive observed is that she likes things covered. Like an already covered bottle of soysauce she would cover it with a small plastic cup. Every bottle in the kitchen that is. Every entrance has a curtain. Even bookshelves. When i bought potato chips and left it on the dining table the morning after she put them in paper bags… She tries to cover everything even if they are already covered. She doesnt like eating out. Her doctors says shes depressed but she wont listen. And now shes complaining about neck pains. Im just glad she isnt suicidal and still goes to office. How can i help her. And plus i do want to see my house without a covered cover of everything. She is a nice person. I only hope she finds her happiness.

Ally green says:

Ok that’s really sad

Sanjna Akre says:

I began feeling really cold when I’m about to cry and when I crying
I feel like I’m having lumps in my throat
I shiver …I get really cold

What i do not realize is in reality how you’re now not
actually much more neatly-appreciated than you might be now.

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selva says:

i dont know why. nothing makes me cry. i have seen sad movies. none of them made me cry. i am 14. its been 8 months since i last cry.i really dont know why. i have not much feelings

Niya says:

. I dont cry wen other people cry. Wen my Bf broke wit me, i didnt cry. Wen i read his message saying tat he Wanna breakup,i laughed seeing the message. I usually dont cry. Dont know y… Am i normal?? People ask me how u dont cry.. And i jst say i dont know. And i am jst 13 yrs old.

Joshua says:

Hi I have been on trt since 2012 and since then I have cried once,and that was because the family pet pts but before starting it I was very emotional and suffered with depression alot.

Leah says:

Okay right, may I just say that I have never every cried in my entire life! It says in my baby book ‘does not produce tears’ can I say that effects me deeply as I have previously been unintentionally bullied. People have said ‘oh go cry me a river’ or i’d say ‘oh god I’m laughing so much I’m going to cry’ I’d be responded with ‘ha! But you can’t!’ I know these things seem petty and silly but it does affect me. I do not have PTSD or Depression but I still cannot produce tears. So, I decided to look up Familial Dysautonomia (Riley-day disorder) yet all I seem to find is websites including nostril concaving, jaws collapsing and upper lips flattening. So if anyone had any idea or knowledge on this please contact me, thank you.

Angela says:

One of my who fell in love with me and I do the same fallen in love with him that never had chance to met each other because of the distance. It made my life sad. I can feel he really loves me the problem is only the distance. I’m hoping someday can find the way to see eachoother.

Dette says:

I cannot cry. I lost my husband and recently my brother and I cannot shed a tear. I loved these men dearly, I get all choked up and get a heavy feeling in my chest but no tears. So much pain and no release, I need a good cry!!!!
However, any hurt created or regarding my kids and grandkids and I cry like a baby. Why, oh why am I like this, I want to cry.

Sophia says:

I woke up this morning with the feeling of not being able to breath too easily and my fingers seem hard to control. I found this a bit scary and i began to cry. My eyes teared up and got blurry and yet… not a tear fell. I am very confused as to why this is going on, because it wasn’t a problem before.

Logan Holt says:

For a long time I have lacked the ability to cry when showing strong emotion. Very rarely can I shed a tear in these negative times and the lacked ability to cry makes me feel so much worse. I still produce tears from wind, lack of sleep, or yawning. When I was a child I had to get surgery done on my tear ducts. What do you think my problem is. My depression eating me alive or my tear ducts closing up again after 16 years. I am 20 now just haven’t cried since I was 16.

Jyoti says:

I’m a girl and I have all the guts to do whatsoever, which is right; Once before I was able to control all my emotions either cry/laugh/make fun/ even in the extreme conditions where no tenagr like me can hold up emotions for so long. But now they r not in my contrl fully. Even I can’t share my emotions with anyone neither with my any parent/teachers/friends/classmates/relatives/sisters/brothers/my nani / no one. May b d reason behind this b the repetitive changes of school/friends/place/neighbours/teachers. But with reference 2 mmentioned above I have d courage to overcome evwn the most adverse situations of my life. I’ll handle all that nicely just n sm moments …………………….

Deb Johnson says:

I should be able to cry bu. it’s been almost 3 yrs. now. I am 65 yrs,having difficulty finding employment,have to sell home of 20yrs. Live on social security. Unable to find an affordable place to move to, and have seeked all kinds of housing programs to no avail. So I do have reasons and the need to cry.

Jacob says:

Up until last year, crying was something normal for me. It helped me have some form of emotional release which I very much cherished and I am honestly very sad to have lost it. Be it happy tears, sad tears, or even tears of awe, I can’t seem to produce them anymore. Sometimes I get really close to crying, but then when I push them a little closer they just stop. I’ve had this same feeling of emotional tension ever since and it’s weighing down on other aspects of my life. People worry about me, and they have the right, because I haven’t been acting the same and it’s scary. Hopefully someday I’ll find a way to get back to the way I used to be but for now all I can do is keep trying.

zyro says:

I also cant cry anymore, I used to cry a lot but now the tears just stopped coming out. Iam 22years and I want to be able to cry again. Its so depressing

Martha says:

Like many of these posts I would also like the ability to cry. I’ve never been Anke to shed tears when feeling low or sad or angry or even happy. I feel so abnormal when everyone ekes around me can turn on the waterworks at the first upset they have or hearing good news. I have so much emotion going through me. I feel so sorry for others who are misfortunate or sad or bereaved but can’t show my emotions. The last time I remember crying my heart out was 19 years ago when I lost my sister to Cancer. That was it I think.

Pete says:

I’m 16, and my father died when I was 4, I was to young to understand what happened but than I didmt cry at all about it. Now as I get older and family starts to die, I’m still not crying. I’ll get the occasional teared eye from stubbing a toe or something like that , but when it comes to emotional pain, I’m just numb. I used to joke about being depressed when I was younger but now I think I’m actually depressed. I’ve had a hard time having never known my dad and having only shitty things saoidnabout him to me, he was a drug addict, a loser, he didn’t care about you. But I never got to know him, I feel like I have underlying causes of abandonment, because to this day I can’t bring myself to ever really put my 100% to anyone. I kind of prepare myself to lose people close to me at any given time, friends, family, I’m prepared for if they just leave or die or something. I’ve been feeling kind of isolated for awhile now, and I think its starting to show. I feel like I need some sort of guidance but I can’t bring myself to go to anyone because I always put on this solve your own problem attitude. And if I reach out ill be weak, and people won’t treat me the same. I don’t know what to do.

Lee says:

I was mentally and physically abused just about every single day by my mother and step-father for the first 15 years of my life,they used to beat me with belts and force me to stop crying with threats there would be more to come if I didn’t,I finally escaped the house of evil but have never been able to cry ever since and I am now aged 45,almost 30 years and not 1 single tear have I shed,I feel heartless.

Lori says:

I have trouble crying about real things even when very upset and should be crying. I am depressed, maybe that has something to do with it? What’s weird is that when I watch something sad on TV or in the News I can cry. Why is this?

Emerald says:

I can’t cry… I just can’t. I’ve always found it hard to cry or feel emotion (in book scenes where everyone says that they bawled their eyes out, I didn’t even feel sad), but recently I’ve been finding myself unable to cry at all. The last time I remember crying was almost a year ago when my mum threatened to break my laptop. I have shed tears of eye irritation, but they weren’t even teardrops – just unformed tears that I would use to rub my eyes. I’ve never really worried about it, but I feel like crying often and it’s really bothersome that I physically CAN’T. No particular event has happened to trigger this. It just happened randomly, without any event to mark the occasion.

molly says:

I’ve never cried in 30 years my eyes go watery and red that’s it, I get agitated tight chested and an overwhelming feeling. Just lost my mum and thought I should cry and I didn’t what’s wrong with me. I do have sjogrens.

Jared says:

I had 3 family members die within a year from eachother and I cried only to one of them the rest I couldn’t cry to. My parents thought it was shock but its not. Currently after everything I’ve been through I’ve never been able to cry since. And I’m getting worried that I’ll never be able to again and it makes me sad. But again I still can’t cry.

Kuck says:

It sounds like last night was anmizag. So neat to hear from the guys. I hope you all have a great final day at your mission sites!! We miss you and can’t wait to see you tomorrow!!Kim, Lilly and Lukey

otsile says:

I cant cry ever since my uncle’s death when I heard his death I swore to myself I wouldn’t cry. Then my granny, then grand pa , then my uncle , then my sister but I still cant cry still. this were shocking events in my life people who were close to me and practically raised me . I don’t know why I cant cry I really need your help here.

Andi says:

I’m 13 years old and I didn’t cried since I was 5 or 6, I don’t even remember when i cried last time. First I was thinking I can tear, but I can, but only when a substance like pepper goes in my eyes, but I can’t cry. NOTHING can make me cry. I got hurt pretty bad many times and even when i was like 7, and every kid at that age would cry, but me not. I can get upset and sad somethimes but never cry. Im also a very happy guy, laughing from almost everything, I mean laughing more than a normal person.. That’s strange.. I really don’t know why I can’t cry..

Andi says:

Can’t tear*, my mistake

Ken says:

Hello, i’m 25yrs, i used to cry at will when i was much younger & could cry at a happy moment just to piss off someone.. But, i haven’t cried since 2009 & even when i caught my girl on the act, i just laughed & each time i think of such sad moments, i still laugh. I have been having a heavy heart of recent & was on drugs last year because it felt like my heart was gonna burst open. Although i shed a tear each time before sleeping & i just dont know if that’s normal.

Quinn says:

I had depression (undiagnosed, but it was definitely there, I know the feeling, it’s not here anymore so I’ve gotten myself out of it) and I used to cry literally daily. I once made a tally over the span of a couple of weeks of the times I cried and it came to about 12. I used to cry over the smallest things, like someone kicking the back of my chair on the bus repeatedly or someone calling me ugly (this was about 6 months ago) but now I am literally unable to cry, like properly cry. I might get a lump in my throat, watery eyes and maybe, say, 2 tears will leave my face, but I haven’t been able to properly cry. Even when I had an anxiety attack a while back I literally shedded one tear. I’m not sure whether it’s a good thing or not because I have so MUCH emotions I wanna let out, and sometimes it feels like my head is blowing up with all of these feelings inside of me, and there’s nothing I can do about it. If anyone could help it would be greatly appreciated :)

R white says:

I’m a 43 year old women and I have never shed a tear in my life…I’ve cried…red blotchy face..madethe whaling or moaning sounds..felt that ache in my chest but never in my life shed a tear…not even when my husband passed away from cancer..not even at his funeral…yes I had pnd after I had my son…but that was in my 30’s so don’t see how no tears can be associated with depression…as I wasn’t depressed for the 29 years before that…some answers would be good as doctors just don’t seem as interested to find out the answers that I want

Lawsu says:

I’m a 15 year old boy who cry when I get very sad and emotional when I was still in kindergarten to grade 8 but when I’m in the 2/3 of my grade 9 I stop crying even if I want to … I still don’t know why I don’t cry anymore …

vince says:

Eish my gf has similar problem she cant cry at all.dnt know how to help hee


about $500,000 a year or more . He lied about everything and even though I loaned himm $93,000 he still accused me of stealing from him. I lost all
my inheritance to that horrible sociopath. I took But I just live one day at a time, wasting my life and not helping others – can’t seem to do it. My credit was so ruined by my ex I cannot even rent an apartment and I was
evicted from the one i livved in before because I forgot to pay the rent – I was 7 days late. Wow! I had the money I just forgot to pay. The manager of the apts wanted a ton of money to stop the eviction and that did not set right with me as I have always had very high standards and cannot stand liars. I am crushed beyond belief to know my ex is such a bad person and has done such harm to our hcildren – he stole our twin’s educational inheritance to have more money for his tranny that he might be married to by now.
Wow – I cannot seem to figure out how to get out of this mess. I have a
psychiatrist who only gives me pills and lately prescribed additional meds
for Alzheimers. It only dulls the pain of life yet I don’t beleive in suicide.
What can I possibly do to overcome this horrible way of life? No energy, etc
but I do take a ton of ADD pills daily just to function. Wow this is terrible.
Also I have been in about 3 or 4 really horrible accidents and am certain I had brain damage from them. The cancer treatment that was delayed for six months due to the ex’s deliberate lies also caused brain damage. I don’t get angry – I just have checked out and I never cry. Never. I stopped crying when my first love died in front of me and I gave him mouth to mouth resesitation while everyone stood by and watched. This alone is pretty sad.
I didnt know he was dead. All these adults just stood around watching – and no one said anything.

Montana says:

A tough informative but deeply unhelpful read. I was a ‘cry baby’ easily able to secrete excess cortisol build up, almost until i was 20, in hindsight losing the ability to cry (due to the very medication that was supposed to ‘help’ me stop feeling so depressed all the time), now i can’t and either must cut up quite a few onions to get my tears flowing or observe very heroic sacrifice (and death of said hero in the sacrifice) or other ‘outside myself’ overwhelming feelings to just shed a single burning acid tear, it feels just absolutely unbelievably good to cry (which stops the cry almost instantly if i think about it). But i can’t cry still from my own pain, horror, joy, or sadness. I was really hoping a way to ‘reclaim’ my premedication cry baby state would be mentioned somewhere here. It is desperately needed the cortisol build up (keep in mind we are supposed to cry when cortisol levels reach a dangers amount from stressors, and without the ability to cry 95% of it goes unsecreted for extended periods of time till you’ve pissed it all out and ravaged your endocrine cleaning organs and lymphatic systems, and a ‘crybaby’ cries because they are senstive and suffer large and quick cortisol build ups from even seemingly minor ‘traumas.’ Do the math what it is doing to my body).

So far the only solution i’ve found is to lead a simple and stress free life just so i don’t get the buildups of stress hormones since I can’t cry, but that is becoming increasingly difficult, and it is stressful in its own right.

Amberglas says:

Not a very comprehensive look at this condition. There are other not uncommon illnesses or conditions that can lead to this state. I have Sjogren’s syndrome, and a hallmark of that condition is dry eyes – extremely dry in my case. I haven’t cried in years, even when I desparately wanted to. Can’t cry when chopping onions either, which is quite painful when you can’t get rid of the stinging sensation. Actually found some of the comments more helpful and interesting. I had not heard about crying and its use in controlling cortisol levels in the body. That may explain some of my other physical issues.

So if you have very dry eyes, as well as a dry mouth, ask your doctor to check you for Sjogren’s, especially if you are a woman approaching menopause. That’s what I did, and I was right. Wish I’d been wrong, but it was a relief to find out what was going on.

rat says:

i seem to cry from emotional things but never physical pain atleast not anymore no matter how painful it may be tears wont shed at all.

Caspian says:

I have never been able to shed tears my whole life. I can sob but no tears will come out. This can cause some incidents of people accusing me of fake crying. The doctor said that this is because my tear ducts are to big so tears can’t overflow so nothing will come out of my eyes, but I have not found anything online about this condition.

I was diagnosed with bipolar 15 years ago I’m 62 I use to cry but after my mother died it’s been a year but I have not cried since her passing. While she was living i use to cry a lot because she had Alzheimer’s disease,she stayed with my brother and when him and his wife goes out of town i would keep her at my apartment.It was just overwhelmed to me. I talked to my doctor and he said the medicine that I’m taking at night is causing me to not cry so he wanted to give me a lower dose, I told him to just leave my med. alone because I’m feeling just fine.My eye doctor said my eyes is dry and some kind of way my eyes does not cry. I have came to a solution the Lord said that I have cried so long in my life time all the things I have been through I’m going to be just fine. After searching about bipolar I do not have any symptoms like other people. Have a blessed day and Prosperous New Year.

Clowly says:

I wonder……… what if you cry a lot or too much will you lose your tears??
Is this a cause of this bipolar disorder??? Are there signs that inform you ahead of time before having this disease? If there are signs what are there?? Migrants??
Thank You for the consideration and Time my concerns and questions

Stephanie says:

I’m 40 years old and I’ve always been a very emotional person. I’d cry if I was sad or mad or angry or hurt or frustrated. I’d cry if my husband was mad at me. Id cry if I saw some one else crying. I’d cry while watching sad movies. I’d probly cry atleast once a week if not 2 or 3 times. Then about 8 months ago my marriage starting going down hill and I’d cry and cry and then after about a month I just stopped and haven’t cried a tear, he can be yelled at and cussed and I have no emotions and before it would just break my heart and I’d cry like a baby. But now nothing makes me cry. It’s like im numb inside and I have no emotions what so ever and after about 7 months of this it’s getting kind of scary. Would depression cause this or what could be the cause? Please help!!

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