Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Social and psychological consequences of not crying: possible associations with psychopathology and therapeutic relevance

  • Dale C. Hesdorffer (a1), Ad J.J.M. Vingerhoets (a2) and Michael R. Trimble (a3)

Abstract

Objective

Emotional crying is hypothesized to serve intra- and interpersonal functions. Intrapersonal functions are assumed to facilitate the capacity to recover from emotional distress, thus promoting well-being. Interpersonal functions are postulated to have a major impact on social functioning. We hypothesized that non-criers would have lower well-being and poorer social functioning than criers.

Methods

Study participants included 475 people who reportedly lost the capacity to cry and 179 “normal” control criers. Applied measures assessed crying, well-being, empathy, attachment, social support, and connection with others. Prevalence estimates of not crying by gender were obtained from a panel survey of 2,000 Dutch households.

Results

In the main survey, tearless cases had less connection with others, less empathy, and experienced less social support, but were equal in terms of well-being. They also reported being less moved by emotional stimuli and had a more avoidant and less anxious attachment style. In multivariate analyses, being male, having an avoidant attachment style, and lacking empathy were independent predictors of tearlessness. Some 46.1% felt that not being able to cry affected them negatively; however, despite these findings, only 2.9% had sought any kind of professional help. Loss of the capacity to cry occurred in 8.6% of the men and 6.5% of the women in the large panel survey.

Conclusions

Despite reduced empathy, less connection with others, and a more avoidant/less anxious attachment type, well-being is maintained in tearless people. Additional clinical and therapeutic investigations of tearlessness may lead to clarification of bidirectional associations between psychiatric disorders (e.g., alexithymia, posttraumatic stress disorder, psychopathy) and tearlessness.

Copyright

Corresponding author

*Address correspondence to: Dale C. Hesdorffer, Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center and Department of Epidemiology, Columbia University, 630 West 168th Street, P&S Unit 16, New York, New York 10032. (Email: dch5@cumc.columbia.edu)

Footnotes

Hide All

The authors would like to thank the people who participated in our study. This research did not receive any specific grants from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Footnotes

References

Hide All
1. Gračanin, A, Bylsma, LM, Vingerhoets, AJ. Is crying a self-soothing behavior? Front Psychol. 2014; 5: 502. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4035568/. Accessed January 26, 2017.
2. Vingerhoets, A, van de Ven, N, van de Velden, Y. The social impact of emotional tears. Motiv Emot. 2016; 40: 455463. Epub ahead of print Feb 8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4882350/. Accessed January 26, 2017.
3. Bylsma, LM, Croon, MA, Vingerhoets, AJJM, Rottenberg, J. When and for whom does crying improve mood? A daily diary study of 1004 crying episodes. J Res Pers. 2011; 45(4): 385392.
4. Frey, WH, Hoffman-Ahren, C, Johnson, RA, Lykken, DT, Tuason, VB. Crying behavior in the human adult. Integr Psychiatry. 1983; 1(3): 94100.
5. Vingerhoets, AJJM, Bylsma, L. The riddle of human emotional crying: a challenge for emotion researchers. Emot Rev. 2015; 8(3): 111. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1754073915586226. Accessed January 26, 2017.
6. Vingerhoets, AJJM. Why Only Humans Weep: Unravelling the Mysteries of Tears . Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2013.
7. Rottenberg, J, Cevaal, A, Vingerhoets, AJ. Do mood disorders alter crying? A pilot investigation. Depress Anxiety. 2008; 25(5): E9E15.
8. Vingerhoets, AJ, Rottenberg, J, Cevaal, A, Nelson, JK. Is there a relationship between depression and crying? A review. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2007; 115(5): 340351.
9. Novak, B. Hitler and Abductive Logic: The Strategy of a Tyrant. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books; 2014.
10. Linton, SJ. A behavioral treatment for inability to express emotions. Scand J Behav Ther. 1985; 14(1): 3338.
11. Toepoel, V, Das, M, van Soest, A. Effects of design in web surveys comparing trained and fresh respondents. Public Opin Q. 2008; 72(5): 9851007.
12. Denckla, CA, Fiori, KL, Vingerhoets, AJ. Development of the Crying Proneness Scale: associations among crying proneness, empathy, attachment, and age. J Pers Assess. 2014; 96(6): 619631. Epub ahead of print Apr 14.
13. Wei, MF, Russell, DW, Mallinckrodt, B, Vogel, DL. The experiences in Close Relationship Scale (ECR)–Short Form: reliability, validity, and factor structure. J Pers Assess. 2007; 88(2): 187204. https://public.psych.iastate.edu/wei/manuscript/short%20form.pdf. Accessed January 26, 2017.
14. Nelson, JK. Clinical assessment of crying and crying inhibition based on attachment theory. Bull Menninger Clin. 2000; 64(4): 509529.
15. Mehrabian, A, Epstein, N. Measure of emotional empathy. J Pers. 1972; 40(4): 525543.
16. Bech, P, Olsen, LR, Kjoller, M, Rasmussen, NK. Measuring well-being rather than the absence of distress symptoms: a comparison of the SF–36 Mental Health subscale and the WHO–Five Well-Being Scale. Int J Methods Psychiatr Res. 2003; 12(2): 8591.
17. Zimet, GD, Dahlem, NW, Zimet, SG, Farley, GK. The Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support. J Pers Assess. 1988; 52(1): 3041.
18. Aron, A, Aron, EN, Smollan, D. Inclusion of Other in the Self Scale and the structure of interpersonal closeness. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1992; 63(4): 596612.
19. Beck, AT, Beck, RW. Screening depressed patients in family practice: rapid technique. Postgrad Med. 1972; 52(6): 8185.
20. van der Veen, FM, Jorritsma, J, Krijger, C, Vingerhoets, AJ. Paroxetine reduces crying in young women watching emotional movies. Psychopharmacology. 2012; 220(2): 303308. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3285754/. Accessed January 27, 2017.
21. van Leeuwen, N, Bossema, ER, Vermeer, RR, et al. Crying without tears: dimensions of crying and relations with ocular dryness and mental well-being in patients with Sjögren’s syndrome. J Clin Psych Med Settings. 2016; 23(1): 7787.
22. Davis, D, Lamberti, J, Ajans, ZA. Crying in depression. Br J Psychiatry. 1969; 115(522): 597598.
23. Steer, RA. Self-reported inability to cry as a symptom of anhedonic depression in outpatients with a major depressive disorder. Psychol Rep. 2011; 108(3): 874882.
24. Benecke, C, Cierpka, M, Kast, V. Lachen, um nicht zu weinen [in German]. Psychotherapeutische. 2009; 54: 120129. http://www.zentrum-psychische-gesundheit.at/artikel/Lachen%20und%20Weinen.pdf. Accessed January 27, 2017.
25. Provine, RR, Krosnowski, KA, Bricatim, BW. Tearing: breakthrough in human emotional signaling. Evol Psych. 2009; 7(1): 5256. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/147470490900700107. Accessed January 27, 2017.
26. Keller, MC, Nesse, RM. The evolutionary significance of depressive symptoms: different adverse situations lead to different depressive symptom patterns. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2006; 91(2): 316330.
27. Cornelius, RR. Prescience in the pre-scientific study of weeping? A history of weeping in the popular press from the mid-1800’s to the present. Paper presented at the 57th Annual Meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association, New York, New York; April 1986.
28. Vingerhoets, AJ, Bylsma, LM. Crying and health: popular and scientific conceptions. Psychol Top. 2007; 16(2): 275296.
29. Hare, RD, Neumann, CS. Psychopathy as a clinical and empirical construct. Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2008; 4: 217246.
30. Eichhorn, S, Brahler, E, Franz, M, Friedrich, M, Glaesmer, H. Traumatic experiences, alexithymia, and posttraumatic symptomatology: a cross-sectional population-based study in Germany. Eur J Psychotraumatol. 2014; 5: 110. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4149745/pdf/EJPT-5-23870.pdf. Accessed January 27, 2017.
31. Vingerhoets, AJJM, van den Berg, MP, Kortekaas, RTJ, Van Heck, GL, Croon, MA. Weeping: associations with personality, coping, and subjective health status. Pers Individ Dif. 1993; 14(1): 185190.

Keywords

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed