Everything makes me cry - is that weird?

Special to The Globe and Mail

The question: Everything makes me cry: corny movies, sad books, even greeting cards. Am I weird?

The answer: Last time I checked, “weird” was not a category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders … so being overly emotional is likely not a symptom of that.

But in all seriousness, being easily brought to tears can be reflective of a number of things.

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First, it is important to appreciate that there are tremendous individual differences in our baseline levels of sensitivity, in the types of triggers that lead us to have emotional responses and in how those responses manifest outwardly (tears, anger, avoidance and so on).

Is your tearfulness a transient state that’s tied to a situational event or a more long-standing trait? Are you someone who has always been sensitive, even as a young child? I’m not suggesting that you should dismiss your responses if you have always been this way, but it can at least help provide some understanding.

What is the intensity with which are you are reacting? Are you starting to uncontrollably cry your eyes out at every long-distance phone plan commercial? Or are you simply finding emotions swell up easily for you (e.g., you get a tear in your eye but are able to maintain composure and easily refocus)? The former would be disruptive to your life; the latter, likely not so much.

If the intensity is significant, pay attention to whether your tearfulness has been tied to any recent situational factors, such as changes in medications or health status, chronic sleep difficulties or, if you’re a woman, pregnancy or your menstrual cycle. If so, you may want to speak to your family physician to see if there is a medical or physiological contribution.

Are there some significant changes in your life, such as death or illness of a loved one, dissolution of a major relationship, a coming wedding or an impending move? Often big life changes and stressors (even those that are positive) can affect our emotional threshold and make us more sensitive than usual.

Ask yourself: Is your crying associated with significant mood changes, such as persistent sadness, loss of interest in activities that usually make you happy or overwhelming fear or anxiety? Are you isolating yourself, feeling less energetic than usual, experiencing sleep disruptions (sleeping more than usual or being unable to sleep) or noticing major changes in appetite or body weight? If so, your tearfulness may be reflective of an underlying mood disorder such as a depression or anxiety, and speaking to a mental health professional such as a psychologist can help guide you toward taking steps to improve your state of mind.

Send psychologist Joti Samra your questions at psychologist@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Dr. Samra.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.