There are many possible depression types. While sadness and crying can be part of any depression, and it may be the dominant symptom, it can be absent as well. The unrelenting sadness experience of depression causes people to feel deeply sad and usually cry often. They don’t get much or any relief from crying, they sometimes still feel this way long after a loss occurred, and sometimes feel sad without having had a loss.
I recently saw a movie called Off the Map in which Sam Elliot brilliantly plays a severely depressed man. In his case, sadness and crying are the major symptoms of his experience. He doesn’t seem anxious or angry, he is able to function when he needs to, he doesn’t seem to be hating himself, he doesn’t try to kill himself, but he feels so sad all the time and cries so often that he has to drink water constantly to replenish his fluid level. In his case, the depression seems to be purely chemical. He has a life he loves, and family he loves; he hasn’t lost anything, he’s not grieving, yet he suffers terribly.
Unrelenting sadness and crying most often happen as a result of losing someone or something dear. In that case, the sadness, hurt, anger, or other intense feelings from the loss don’t resolve with the natural grieving process, as they normally do. While sadness and crying is a normal part of grieving—even an essential part of healing—people can get stuck in feeling tearful and sad and find no relief from crying or anything else.
Sometimes guilt and regret about an unforgivable act is involved, and impedes the healing process after a loss. When people blame themselves for the loss, or feel guilt because they can’t forgive, their sadness can go around and around, consumed by guilty thoughts, without change or growth.
Usually, this type of depression is very treatable. If it is chemical, medication can shift it effectively. If it is guilt, regret, or stuck grief, usually working these thoughts and feelings through with a therapist will relieve the pain that goes with it.
To give an example of the kind of situation I mean, imagine a woman’s husband has left her, and she thinks over and over about all the things she could have done differently to prevent his leaving. She can’t sleep at night, because she thinks about this, and cries for hours. Even after a year, none of this has changed. She has decided he left because she is unappealing, unlovable, and worthless. Working together, we realize whether through eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) trauma treatment or just talking, that her husband’s leaving triggered the previous trauma of her father’s leaving when she was 4 years old. At 4, she hadn’t understood why he left, and she tried to understand by deciding she had caused it. In the present, she is stuck in the sadness of believing she is worthless, because of the power of both incidents. Given this, it is very difficult or impossible ever to resolve her grief about her husband, until she resolves her grief about her father.
Within a few sessions of EMDR, she likely realizes from an adult perspective that she had not caused her father to leave, and his leaving meant nothing about her or her worth. Once that is resolved, she is able to see her husband’s leaving from an adult perspective as well. Then she realizes that her relationship with her husband had become estranged and not satisfying to either of them, and that he had actually done her a favor by leaving. She realizes she could be very happy in another relationship, and free to move on. The unrelenting sadness would be over.
© Copyright 2011 by Cynthia W. Lubow, MS, MFT, therapist in El Cerrito, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.