Picture this scenario: You have something on your mind that’s been bothering you. So, you decide to bring it up to your therapist in your next session. But, just a few sentences in, the waterworks start.
Do you ever wonder why you cry when you talk about your feelings or things that cause you stress? Do you wish you could just talk about difficult things without getting emotional?
While it may be frustrating at times, getting emotional when talking about your feelings is entirely normal. Here, we’ll explore the science behind crying, why it’s a healthy coping mechanism and a normal part of therapy, and other healthy responses to stress and discussing your feelings.
If you’re dealing with a mental health concern or emotional issue you’d like to work through, SonderMind can help. We can connect you with a licensed mental health professional who meets your needs within 48 hours.
There’s no shame in shedding a tear when feeling emotional — there’s scientific reasons behind the response, and it actually can help you feel better. Tears that are triggered by emotions contain a protein called prolactin, which is associated with stress relief. Tears help to remove toxins from our body, reduce stress hormones, and provide emotional release.
Not only is crying a natural human response, it’s also an important form of non-verbal communication. Crying encourages closeness, empathy, and support from others. For example, one study found that tearful crying facilitates social connections and is associated with an increase in sympathetic activity. Crying helps you communicate to others in a way that helps them better understand your feelings, so they can react to and support you appropriately.
Even though we might try to avoid it, crying is often therapeutic and can be beneficial to our mental health and well-being. It’s a healthy way to release pent-up emotions such as sadness, frustration, anger, or even joy. That’s why it’s not uncommon to feel better after a good cry. It helps us feel lighter, and may help us make progress in a difficult situation or conversation.
What’s more? According to research, people who cry in response to stress are less likely to experience physical or mental health problems later on. That’s because your mental and physical health are strongly connected. When difficult feelings are pent up or repressed, called “repressive coping”, it can cause negative health consequences. In fact, research has linked repressive coping with a weaker immune system, heart disease, and high blood pressure, and mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders and depression. So don’t hold your feelings and emotions inside, allow yourself to be emotionally vulnerable for the good of your mental and physical health.
No matter what your reasons are for seeking therapy, talking about difficult feelings, emotions, and situations is often a normal part of the therapeutic experience. So rest assured, crying in therapy is a normal and expected response. Therapy is a safe space to express yourself without fear of judgment. Therapists may even encourage you to cry if it feels natural, as it can be a powerful way to access and release emotions.
It’s okay to be vulnerable in therapy. Your therapist is there to help you cope and work through your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and being your authentic self in therapy is key to helping you make progress and reach your goals.
As beneficial as crying may be, it may not always feel like a comfortable or desired response in certain situations. So if you’re looking for other healthy ways to cope with stress or other emotions, try exercising, meditating, deep breathing, creative expression, or seeking support from friends and family. These activities help to reduce stress hormones, improve mood, and increase resilience. They can also prevent future health problems and improve overall mental well-being, as unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance misuse or social withdrawal can lead to mental and physical health problems.
While crying is perfectly okay, you can also work with a therapist to help you develop alternative healthy coping mechanisms and build resilience. Let them know that it’s something you’d like to work on and set as a goal to achieve in therapy. They’ll help you determine what success looks like, and work with you to create a plan that will help you get there.
If you’re feeling emotional due to a situation, experience, or challenge in your life that you’d like to get support for so you can better cope, SonderMind therapists are here to help. Our licensed mental health professionals specialize in a range of different mental health concerns and treatment approaches, and practice evidence-based care so you can get better, faster. You can meet with them online or in-person, and use your insurance to pay for therapy.
Just let us know what you’re looking for in a therapist, and we’ll connect you with someone who’s right for you within 48 hours.