Why Can't I Cry Even Though I'm Sad?

Black male looking sad against a blue background

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Have you ever found yourself needing a good cry but unable to cry? Maybe when you are sad, anxious, or in pain? It can feel confusing and distressing not being able to cry when you want to or when you feel like you should.

Research shows that crying can help you release emotions in certain stressful or distressing situations. It can even help you physically clean your eyes out and help you communicate feelings.

However, there are some circumstances in which people can have difficulty crying. Read on to understand more about why you can't cry even when you are sad and what you can do about it. 

Reasons Why You Might Not Be Able to Cry

There are several reasons you can't cry even when you are sad. The first thing you should understand is that you are not alone, and in most cases, there's nothing to worry about. There are physical, emotional, and psychiatric reasons why crying may be affected.

Here are some common reasons why people find themselves unable to cry.

Medical Conditions 

Certain medical conditions simply make it physically difficult or impossible for you to shed tears. Conditions like dry eye syndrome physically impact the production or release of tears from your tear ducts. Dry eye syndrome is prevalent in older people and people who use contact lenses. 

Medications 

Being on certain medications can reduce or stop your ability to produce tears. One study showed that 46% of people who use antidepressants experience blunted emotions. Certain other medications may affect tear production and contribute to dry eyes.

Climate changes 

If you once found it easy to cry and are now finding it difficult because you relocated, it might be because you moved to a drier climate. While it's not the most common phenomenon, living in an arid environment may cause your tears to dry up even before you realize it. Your body is also more likely to produce fewer tears. 

Surgery 

If you've had eye surgery, you could experience difficulty crying. Laser-assisted in situ keratomileuses (LASIK) is a surgical procedure used to help people with vision problems improve their eyesight. One of the side effects just after the surgery is dry eye, making it difficult for you to cry. 

Mental health conditions 

While some people might find themselves crying more due to living with mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, others find that they become unable to cry. Conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder can sometimes cause you to feel muted emotions that might prevent you from crying. 

Emotional repression 

People deal with emotions in different ways. While some people have a very expressive style, others are more subdued, repressed, or find it hard to express their feelings, including crying. Frequently with repressed emotions, you might not even realize you are unconsciously avoiding your emotions, which is why you might be confused at your inability to cry when sad. 

Abuse 

Surviving emotional and physical abuse can have a negative impact on the way you process emotions. One of these is learning not to cry, especially in situations where crying had spurred further abuse from abusers in the past. Abuse survivors also sometimes experience numbed or muted emotions.

Societal expectations 

Certain societal and cultural standards sometimes ascribe shame to crying. Gender stereotypes can also play a role here. Hearing statements like "boys shouldn't cry" or "crying is a sign of weakness" often makes boys grow up thinking that it's wrong to cry. 

Why We Need to Cry 

Crying is a healthy way to express your emotions, and can help you feel a sense of relief in stressful, sad, or anxious situations. Crying also has a myriad of physical and psychological benefits. Some of them include: 

  • Pain relief: If you are in emotional or physical pain, crying can help you feel some relief from your pain. When you cry, your body releases hormones such as endorphin and oxytocin that help reduce pain.
  • Communication: When expressing your emotions, tears can sometimes help people understand what you are feeling. Tears are an early way we learn to communicate distress to those around us.
  • Cleanse your eyes: Tears can help give your eyes a good cleanse when you are most in need of it. 
  • Mood booster: While it sounds counterintuitive, crying can sometimes help boost your mood. After a good cry, you may be likely to feel more relaxed and in a better mood. 

How to Cry If You Want to 

Being unable to cry isn't necessarily a problem. Some people have honed healthy ways to feel and process emotions of sadness without crying. However, if you are concerned about your inability to cry and are looking for ways to fix that, here are a couple of tips to consider: 

  • Find a safe space: Sometimes, you might not be crying because you don't feel like you've found a safe enough space for it. You can consider crying alone, for starters, or finding a private place to cry when you feel the emotions rising.
  • Consider therapy: In many cases, you might not be crying because you are not equipped with the tools to handle your emotions properly. Therapy can help with this. A therapist can provide you with guidance as you explore and learn about your feelings and emotional defenses that may inhibit your ability to more freely cry.
  • Lean on your support system: Sometimes, you might not be crying because you keep all of your emotions bottled up and do not share them with your support system. Confiding in loved ones about your emotional struggles may allow you to feel less alone and better able to share your emotions and tears.

A Word From Verywell

Crying is a natural expression of emotion that might not come easily to everyone. If it doesn't come easily to you, that doesn't mean you don't have emotions or are not healthily expressing them. Many reasons beyond your control could make it difficult to cry. However, if you feel there is something getting in the way of necessary tears, it may be time to reach out to a mental health professional.

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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