How to Stop Crying

Despite the fact that most people have been crying regularly since birth, it can still feel extremely uncomfortable. While babies tend to cry easily, there is no shortage of social expectations causing this behavior to become less acceptable as people age. For this reason, you may find yourself working hard to avoid crying when you feel the urge to do so.

If you find yourself crying more than usual, you may feel embarrassed, which may even prompt more tears. While crying can be a healthy emotional outlet, how you feel about crying may impact your experience of that.

For instance, if you associate the act of crying with weakness, you are less likely to be comfortable with tears. In this way, if crying makes you feel such discomfort, then you are more inclined to attempt to stop crying than if you viewed this act more positively.

How to Stop Crying

Should you find yourself feeling the urge to stop crying, you may want to think more about the factors that influence your views on this. Despite how uncomfortable crying may feel, tears do not tend to cause any physical harm, and there is limited research on how to actually stop crying. In this way, it makes sense to understand how crying may be sending you a message—are there other areas of your life you are unhappy with? What is underlying your emotion?

At the same time, we may not always be able to understand the reasons behind why we are crying, and that is okay. Oftentimes, people report feeling relieved when they are able to cry without judgment in a safe space.

It may be more important to release what you are feeling rather than trying to stop yourself or trying to justify a reason for your tears.

However, if you are not in a place where you feel comfortable crying and want to prevent it from happening, certain tactics work better than others. One study found that distraction was be a more effective approach than focusing on not crying.

Likewise, "putting on a brave face" is more likely to prevent crying than suppressing the feeling of sadness itself. Reframing one's perspective and reassessing the emotional stimulus were the most effective strategies. In other words, if you are able to shift your perspective and tell yourself a different story in a more positive light, that can help curb your emotional response to that situation and prevent crying.

Distraction

Unfortunately, it may not always be easy to do the deep cognitive work to reappraise the situation, and depending on what you try to suppress, it may not be effective, so distraction may be best.

Practically speaking, it can help to distract yourself. You could watch or read something that is unlikely to evoke any sadness. You might listen to a really happy song to boost your mood.

Physical Approach

Another approach can be physical. You may take deep breaths or engage in a grounding technique such as moisturizing your hands with lotion, using a stress ball, or engaging in some kind of physical activity to shift your focus to your sense of touch.

Why You May Be Crying

In his book, Why Only Humans Weep: Unravelling the Mysteries of Tears, the psychologist Ad Vingerhoets identifies some reasons why people cry. While it may be impossible to develop an exhaustive list, he outlines various examples, including loss, weddings, loneliness, orgasms, failure, victory, pain, and more.

In a 2011 study of 1,004 crying episodes among 97 women, the most common reasons listed for crying episodes were conflict (16%), loss (13%), and the suffering of others (13%). Low mood was a common underlying factor. Participants tended to have worse-than-usual moods not only on the day of the crying episode, but also in the two days before and after the episode. Low mood is a symptom of depression, which also includes frequent crying as a symptom.

Benefits of Crying

While you may have heard that crying is beneficial, there is little definitive research on the benefits of crying, as it is impacted by different factors, such as how you view the act, where it happens, and more.

For instance, tears may prompt you to reflect more on a situation than you would have had you not engaged in crying. In this way, the benefits of crying may depend on how the individual interprets that experience.

For example, a 2019 study of 202 people found that participants who believed that crying was positive were increasingly aware of their feelings, which bodes well for both expression and regulation of emotions, while those who viewed crying negatively were less cognizant of their feelings, which limited their ability to express themselves effectively.

In this way, it may be well worth the work of unpacking negative feelings about crying given the impact of those beliefs on your ability to express your emotions in a functional manner.

A 2020 study of 197 students suggests that the physical act of emotional crying may provide the benefit of regulation of such factors as breathing and heart rate.

While some may feel a sense of release after crying, it is unclear whether this has to do with the act of crying or the realizations and actions that follow the tears. For instance, if you seek support from a loved one after crying, which helps you feel better, you may link that improvement with the act of crying.

Why You May Want to Stop Crying

While you may want to prevent crying or stop tears once they begin, if you are concerned that you may be crying too often, it is important to unpack why you may be crying as much and understand how tears can provide a healthy emotional outlet.

Unfortunately, the act of holding yourself back from crying can cause you to store a great deal of tension in your body.

Social Stigma Surrounding

You may find that you want to stop crying because there is a ton of social stigma surrounding crying. For instance, crying is often perceived in society as weakness and oversensitivity.

It's important to remember that if someone shames you for crying, this person is probably uncomfortable with authentic expression of emotions—they likely suppress emotions themselves—so you may want to remember this so as not to be hard on yourself for showing tears.


While it is unfortunate that in the mainstream, crying is often viewed as weakness, the truth is that most people cry whether they admit it or not.

Stigma surrounding crying perpetuates a cycle wherein a person shamed for crying may continue to shame others for crying. But remember, there is nothing shameful about it. In many cases, you'll feel better for having cried and expressed your genuine emotion rather than holding it in.

However, it's true that some spaces are safer for crying than others. Crying can be distracting, so if you are trying to support someone else or quietly observe rather than distract from a situation by crying, you may want to try some self-soothing techniques until you are in a private and safe space to release your tears.

A Word From Verywell

When dealing with challenges, you may be more prone to crying—especially if you are marginalized by such factors as race, gender, class, and more, you should be gentle with yourself if you are getting overwhelmed to the point of tears. Crying can be your body's way of telling you that some of your needs are not being met and prompt you to make a change. Tears may help you understand that you may benefit from reaching out to your support system for additional assistance or reassess how much you may be juggling.

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