Is Not Being Able to Cry A Sign of Depression: How Emotional Numbness Ruins Your Life?

Are you one of those people who can never seem to cry no matter how hard you try? It may feel like a bit of an odd question, but it could actually be indicative of something more serious – depression.

That’s right: not being able to cry can actually suggest that you’re in the midst of a depressive episode. But don’t worry; this doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is wrong with you!

We’ll explore this further in today’s blog post and discuss why some people struggle to shed tears even when they feel very emotional.

Is Not Being Able to Cry a Sign of Depression – 6 Major Symptoms

When it comes to mental health issues, not all the signs are visible. It’s important to recognize that depression can manifest itself in different ways for different people, and one sign may be a lack of ability to cry – even when you feel like you should.

In fact, this symptom is included in the criteria used by doctors to diagnose depression. Here, we’ll explore six major signs that may indicate a lack of ability to cry could be a sign of depression.

  1. Emotional blunting: One of the telltale signs of depression is a numbing of emotions. People with depression may feel constantly emotionally drained like they can’t access the full spectrum of their feelings. This means that they won’t be able to show healthy emotions in response to events, or even cry when it would otherwise be appropriate.
  2. Flat affect: Related to emotional blunting is a flat affect. This means that facial expressions don’t match the emotions that someone is feeling, or even that they may be completely expressionless. People with depression can feel intense emotions but not show them outwardly.
  3. Chronic sadness: Just because someone with depression isn’t able to cry doesn’t mean that they don’t feel sadness. Chronic, low-level sadness is a common symptom of depression and it can manifest in different ways. Someone might not be able to access the tears that would release from crying, but their other behaviors or words could indicate sadness.
  4. Anhedonia: Anhedonia is the inability to experience pleasure from activities that were once enjoyable. People with depression may still be able to cry in certain situations but will find themselves unable to emotionally engage in anything meaningful.
  5. Anxiety and agitation: While sadness can lead to a lack of crying, anxiety can also prevent someone from being able to access their emotions fully. People with depression often experience high levels of anxiety and agitation, which can make it hard for them to express their feelings.
  6. Avoidant behaviors: A final symptom of depression that can lead to an inability to cry is avoidance. When people are overwhelmed by their emotions and unable or unwilling to process them, they may choose to avoid the situation altogether.

A Sad Man Without Tears - Is Not Being Able to Cry a Sign of Depression

7 Possible Reasons for Not Being Able To Cry in Depression

Not being able to cry can be a very confusing symptom of depression. It can feel like you are emotionally numb, and it can be hard to access the full range of emotions that should come with feeling sad or upset. But why is this?

Here, we will explore possible reasons for not being able to cry in depression.

  1. Reduced emotional response to stimuli: When someone is depressed, their emotional responses to certain stimuli can be greatly reduced or blunted. This means that they may not respond with tears even when faced with a situation that would normally induce them.
  2. Cognitive dissonance: Cognitive dissonance refers to the feeling of discomfort one experiences when forced to confront two conflicting ideas or beliefs. When someone is depressed, they may find it difficult to reconcile their emotional response with what they feel they should be feeling in the moment, and thus not cry.
  3. Fear of vulnerability: Being vulnerable or displaying emotions publicly can be a source of fear for some people. Someone who is suffering from depression may be scared to show how they really feel, and thus not cry in order to avoid feeling exposed.
  4. Repressed emotions: When someone is depressed, it can be difficult for them to access their emotional responses. This means that they may have difficulty expressing themselves in any sort of way, including being unable to cry.
  5. Reduced activation of specific brain regions: Research has shown that certain areas of the brain can be less active when someone is suffering from depression. This includes the amygdala, which helps regulate emotions and control emotional responses. When this area of the brain is not as activated, it can lead to difficulty in expressing emotions, including crying.
  6. Altered neural connections: It has also been suggested that depression can lead to changes in the brain’s neural networks. These alterations may prevent someone from accessing their emotions and expressing them outwardly, leading to a lack of tears.
  7. Hormone imbalances: Depression can be linked to a variety of hormone imbalances, including cortisol, serotonin, and oxytocin. These hormones all play an important role in regulating emotions and if they are not at optimal levels, it can lead to a blunted emotional response which prevents someone from crying.

4 Types of Treatment or Support for Those Experiencing Depression

Depression can be a difficult and isolating experience, but there are ways to get the support and treatment you need to cope. Here, we will explore 4 types of treatments or supports that can help those experiencing depression.

1. Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, can be an effective treatment for those struggling with depression. During psychotherapy sessions, patients are able to explore and process their feelings in a safe environment. They can work through any unresolved issues from the past and develop new coping strategies for dealing with their current symptoms. Here are a few types of psychotherapy:

  1. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT:) This type of treatment helps individuals learn to recognize and modify negative thoughts and behaviors. This can help them understand the underlying causes of their depression, which may help them find ways to work through it.
  2. Interpersonal therapy (IPT): IPT focuses on improving interpersonal relationships in order to reduce symptoms of depression. This form of therapy helps individuals gain insight into their patterns of behavior and interactions with others, allowing them to make positive changes in their lives.
  3. Psychodynamic therapy: This form of treatment helps individuals explore their deeper emotions and beliefs, allowing them to gain insight into the root causes of their depression. By understanding these underlying issues, they can work through them in order to alleviate their symptoms.

2. Medication

Medication can also be a helpful tool in managing depression. Here are a few types of medications:

  1. Antidepressants: Antidepressants are the most common type of medication used to treat depression. These drugs help balance the levels of chemicals in the brain that regulate mood allowing individuals to better manage their symptoms.
  2. Mood stabilizers: Mood stabilizers can be effective for those who suffer from severe depression or other mental illnesses, as they help reduce the severity of symptoms and regulate emotions.
  3. Antipsychotics: These drugs are used to help individuals with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, but may also be useful for those who suffer from depression. They can help reduce some of the symptoms associated with depression, including anxiety and agitation.

3. Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes can also be beneficial in managing depression. Here are a few simple lifestyle changes that may help those who suffer from depression:

  1. Exercise: Regular exercise can help boost mood and energy levels, as well as reduce stress. Exercise helps to release endorphins which can improve one’s sense of well-being and help fight depression.
  2. Eating healthy: Eating a balanced diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals can help to nourish the body and keep it functioning properly.
  3. Sleep hygiene: Getting enough quality sleep is essential for overall health and can help to reduce symptoms of depression. Establishing a regular sleeping schedule and avoiding stimulants before bed can help improve sleep quality.
  4. Relaxation Techniques: Relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Taking time to relax each day can help to alleviate depressive symptoms.

4. Social Support

Having social support is also an important part of managing depression. Here are a few types of social support that can be beneficial:

  1. Friends and family: The support of friends and family can be invaluable when dealing with depression. They can provide comfort, understanding, and a listening ear which can help to ease the burden of depression.
  2. Support groups: Joining a supportive community or group of people who understand what you’re going through can be beneficial as well. Being able to share your experiences with others who understand can help to reduce feelings of isolation and provide hope.
  3. Professional help: Finally, seeking out professional help such as a therapist or psychiatrist may be necessary if symptoms of depression are severe or persistent. Professional help can provide an understanding environment in which you can work through your issues and find healthier coping mechanisms.

Man Doing Meditation


Overall, it is clear that not being able to cry can be a sign of depression depending on the individual. There are numerous underlying reasons for an inability to cry. Understanding these factors through therapy and counseling is important in order to ensure you receive the right therapy and treatment plan.

If you are unsure if not being able to cry is a sign of depression, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider or reach out to a mental health professional who can assess your situation more closely. It is paramount that we take the time necessary to understand our emotions, how they make us feel, and why we respond the way we do.

Ultimately, being mindful of these feelings will help guide us down a path toward emotional well-being. So remember—if your tears are stuck beneath the surface, take the necessary steps toward finding some understanding and healing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean when you can’t cry?

When you can’t cry, it can be a sign of depression or another mental health issue. Not being able to cry is linked to an inability to process and express emotion. If you find that you are not able to cry, it may be helpful to speak with a medical professional about your symptoms.

Is it unhealthy to not cry when sad?

It is not necessarily unhealthy to not cry when feeling sad, and it can be healthy to find other ways of expressing your emotions. However, if you find that you are unable to cry even when in a very emotional state, it may be indicative of an underlying mental health issue. It is important to consult with a medical professional if you experience this.


Robert A Steer (June 2011).  Self-reported inability to cry as a symptom of anhedonic depression in outpatients with a major depressive disorder.

Dale C. Hesdorffer (August 23, 2017). Social and psychological consequences of not crying: possible associations with psychopathology and therapeutic relevance.

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