Overview of uncontrollable crying

Have you ever experienced uncontrollable crying? You may feel that you are crying for no reason, and you seem to be unable to stop. If so, you may worry about why you are crying or feel uncontrollable.

Although uncontrollable crying may be a symptom of certain mental health disorders, it may also be a sign of underlying neurological problems. Therefore, your treatment plan and coping strategies will vary from disease to disease.

Signs of uncontrollable crying

Not sure if crying beyond your control is normal or a problem? Take a look at this list of signs that something may be wrong, or more than just normal tears:

  • You have uncontrollable crying, laughing, or both
  • Your crying does not seem to have an obvious trigger, or it is related to something that does not seem to be a natural trigger
  • Your crying seems to have nothing to do with sadness
  • Your laughter can easily turn into crying
  • You avoid being with people because you are afraid of crying or breaking out
  • The plot of your cry is unpredictable

Causes of uncontrollable crying

If you find yourself crying often for no reason, it doesn’t make you a bad person. But this may mean that you are dealing with an underlying physical or mental health condition. Here are some of the most common explanations behind crying that you cannot control.

Neurological reasons

If you find yourself crying uncontrollably during happy things or laughing hysterically during sad things, you may have a condition called pseudobulbar emotion (PBA).

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PBA is a neurological disease, which means that it is caused by damage to the nervous system. It is characterized by sudden, uncontrollable, inappropriate crying or laughing. PBA is usually caused by traumatic brain injury or other neurological diseases, such as:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Stroke

Many people with PBA do not know that they have a real condition and rarely tell their doctors about their symptoms (so they are not receiving treatment). Doctors usually don’t screen for PBA because many people don’t know it. However, this situation has been recorded for more than 100 years.

Nearly 2 million people in the United States know they have PBA. Many cases have not been diagnosed, so the actual number may be as high as 7 million.

There are different theories about which brain structures are involved in PBA. One theory is that the brain-pontine-cerebellar pathway is damaged, and laughter or crying can be adjusted according to the situation. Another theory is that the motor areas of the cerebral cortex have impaired pathways that inhibit laughter and crying.

Mental health reasons

Crying often for no reason can also be a sign of mental health problems. Crying can be a symptom of various forms of grief. Acute grief caused by the loss of a loved one is a type. In addition, there is chronic sadness, which is usually related to ongoing conditions in your life (for example, infertility).

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Generally speaking, crying as part of grief will only be treated if it is considered part of depression or severely disrupts a person’s function.

Major depression also includes crying; however, it has other characteristics such as sleep problems, lack of pleasure in daily activities, and changes in appetite. PBA is sometimes mistaken for depression. One way to distinguish them is based on triggers; PBA seems to lack triggers or trigger in an inappropriate way.

The effects of uncontrollable crying

Uncontrollable crying can have a negative impact on your life. Here are some things you might encounter:

  • Social embarrassment due to uncontrollable crying
  • Distress in social situations, workplaces and families
  • Feeling mentally exhausted
  • I choose to isolate myself because of crying
  • Change your life to avoid things that might cause you to cry
  • Secondary depression caused by chronic, untreated, uncontrollable crying

Treatment of uncontrollable crying

The treatment of uncontrollable crying depends on the underlying cause. Complex grief and depression are usually treated with therapy and/or medication.

PBA can be treated with low-dose tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as citalopram or fluoxetine.

Another drug, Nuedexta (dextromethorphan hydrobromide and quinidine sulfate) has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of PBA. It was actually discovered by accident while testing it to treat ALS patients. Although it was never specifically approved for use in ALS, it was later approved for use in PBA.

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This medicine contains the active ingredient dextromethorphan, which is found in many cough syrups; however, you cannot use cough syrup to self-medicate because it has a different formula.

Occupational therapists can also help people with PBA learn how to deal with daily life.

Coping with uncontrollable crying

There are many things you can do yourself to deal with uncontrollable crying that interferes with your life. Here are some ideas:

  • Explain the problem to others so that they don’t feel surprised or confused.
  • Talk to other people who have the same problem and seek advice.
  • Use something that is the opposite of crying to distract yourself, such as asking someone to tell you a funny joke.
  • Practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques.
  • Get up and walk around to change your position.
  • Record your episodes to track triggers, length, related emotions, and adverse effects.
  • Check life pressures and how to deal with them.

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If you live with uncontrollable crying, which interferes with your daily life, be sure to seek answers from your doctor. If you have certain neurological diseases, PBA may be a problem.

On the other hand, if your grief adversely affects your life or depression, medication or treatment may help. Regardless of the cause, your doctor can prescribe the best treatment plan.