Inability to Cry & Depression

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iwoman in solutude and depression image by Allen Penton from

Also called clinical depression and major depressive disorder, depression is a complex medical illness that affects the mind and body. Depression can be debilitating, making day-to-day activities impossible. Some people with depression lose interest in activities that used to bring them pleasure, become unable to care for their families and, in the worst cases, commit suicide. This chronic illness can have a wide variety of emotional and physical symptoms, including an inability to cry.

Symptoms of Depression

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of depression include feelings of unhappiness or sadness, excessive irritability or frustration, loss of interest or pleasure in a wide range of activities, reduced sex drive, excessive sleeping or insomnia, changed in appetite, restlessness or agitation, slowed thinking or speaking, tiredness and fatigue, indecisiveness, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, trouble concentrating or making decisions, frequent thoughts of death or suicide, and crying spells or the inability to cry.


Crying has long been understood as a fundamental human behavior that communicates distress. Its purpose is both a call for help and a means of reinforcing bonds between individuals by eliciting empathy. According to an article in Science Daily, the social benefits of crying depend on the context for the tears, but the physiological benefits are consistent regardless of context and include slowed breathing and reduced heart rate and blood pressure. However, research also shows that individuals suffering from a mood disorder like depression are less likely to experience the positive effects of crying.

Crying and Mood Disorders

In a pilot investigation for the journal Depression and Anxiety, researchers investigated the relationship between mood disorders and crying. While there has been shown to be a correlation between depression and crying (both increased crying and an inability to cry), the empirical record is unsettled. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) does not require changes in crying behavior for diagnosing depression and other mood disorders. However, in the course of this study, researchers found a correlation between the severity of depression and an inability to cry. Evidence supported the conclusion that the more severe the mood disorder, the more consistent the crying inability.

Gender Difference

According to the study in the journal Depression and Anxiety, women were far less likely to report an inability to cry than men. While the mechanism is not understood, the study posits that mood disorders in men may affect a different set of neurotransmitters, resulting in the varying results.


Depression is a serious illness and symptoms, like an inability to cry, can be treated. Untreated depression can result in a host of problems that can affect every area of your life. Seeking treatment at the first signs of mental disorder can help you avoid the full manifestation of the illness. There are many treatment options for depression, and most people who seek treatment see an improvement in their symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic.