What Causes Crying Jags?

A jag is described as overindulgence in an activity such as crying hence the term crying jag. Crying jags are uncontrolled bouts of crying which may last for long periods and can be cathartic. Developmental psychologist Dr. Aletha Solter states that “crying removes excess stress-related chemicals from the body and serves the purpose of restoring the body’s chemical balance after a stressful event has occurred. Crying is a beneficial physiological process that allows people to cope with stress and can be considered an inborn healing mechanism”. Excessive crying can be brought on by a number of factors; it can start suddenly or begin after a period of depression. Factors that may trigger excess crying is clinical depression, bipolar disorder, pregnancy, changes in hormones, death of a loved one, high levels of fear, anxiety or stress, alcohol and drug abuse. Crying jags also occur in infants where the baby may be in pain or discomfort as in the case of colic.



Depression is a medical condition brought on by the imbalance of brain chemicals and other factors. Depression can result from physical conditions, trauma and stress, family history, pessimistic personality and psychological disorders. It can change the way a person thinks, feels and behaves as well as changes in their physical well-being. Changes in behavior during depression are reflective of the negative emotions being experienced and because of the chronic sadness, excessive crying is common.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse includes the use or over use of substances such as drugs, alcohol, and tobacco which occurs for varied, unexplainable or complicated reasons. Abused substances produce some form of intoxication that alters judgment, perception, attention, or physical control. Many substances can bring on a withdrawal effect caused by cessation or reduction in the amount of the substance used. Withdrawal can range from mild anxiety to seizures and hallucination and depression. Continued feelings of sadness or depression are also symptoms of ongoing drug abuse and triggers crying jags.

Bipolar Disorder

The primary symptoms of bipolar disorder are dramatic and unpredictable mood swings. There are several types of bipolar disorder; all involve episodes of depression and mania to a degree. The symptoms of bipolar disorder are categorized as Mania symptoms and Depression symptoms. Mania symptoms may include excessive happiness, excitement, irritability, restlessness, increased energy, less need for sleep, racing thoughts, high sex drive, and a tendency to make grand and unattainable plans. Depression symptoms may include sadness, anxiety, irritability, loss of energy, uncontrollable crying, change in appetite causing weight loss or gain, increased need for sleep, difficulty making decisions, and thoughts of death or suicide. High mood swings do not necessary occur right after or before low mood swings.


Crying is seen as a physical symptom of hormonal imbalance. Women who are in menopause will experience mood swings which can suddenly trigger crying jags. Menopausal mood changes will lead to extreme irritability, concentrated anxiety, depression and nervousness. Since the changes in levels of hormones such as progesterone and estrogen which are known to affect the brain, menopause is highly likely to lead to mood swings. Serotonin (hormone that acts both as a chemical messenger that transmits nerve signals between nerve cells and that causes blood vessels to narrow) and progesterone are stress relievers and women in menopause experience low levels of both which will also trigger excess crying.

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