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Why Is My Teenager Crying All the Time?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

For teens, everything feels more intense, whether it’s good or bad. And crying can help a teen process and move through those emotions. Teenage crying isn’t necessarily a warning sign. However, a teenager crying all the time, for no apparent reason, may be experiencing an underlying mental health disorder.

Because of harmful societal expectations about how boys and men should behave, teen girls often feel more comfortable than boys expressing their emotions through crying. But just because a parent doesn’t see their teenage son crying doesn’t mean they’re not experiencing sadness, loneliness, or other painful emotions.

Is It Normal for a Teenager to Cry Every Day?

A teenage son crying frequently or a teenage daughter crying all the time can be confusing for parents. “My teenage daughter cries every night” is a common concern parents bring to mental health professionals.

Teens crying about the hard things they go through is natural and healthy. In fact, if teens don’t allow themselves to cry, they may instead express their emotions through anger and aggression, internalize them as self-judgment and self-criticism, or numb them with substance abuse or disordered eating.

But sometimes there’s no obvious catalyst for a teenager crying. And they may be unwilling to talk about it, or may not even understand themselves what’s triggering the tears. Consequently, “Why does my teenage daughter cry for no reason?” is another question therapists often field. Let’s look at some of the reasons for a teenager crying all the time.

Causes of Teenage Crying

Why does a child cry all the time? For young children, crying is a way to express frustration, release emotional energy, and seek comfort. Kids that cry all the time often haven’t yet learned to channel their emotions into words or how to think rationally about an emotional situation.

But what makes a teenager cry? There are numerous reasons for a teenager crying: losing a game, doing badly on a test, having an unrequited crush, fighting with parents, feeling alienated from peers, worrying about what’s going on in the world, or simply releasing the everyday stress of being a teen. According to Tim Elmore, author of Generation iY: Secrets to Connecting with Today’s Teens & Young Adults in the Digital Age, disappointment, fear, and feelings of inadequacy are three of the biggest reasons why kids and teens cry.

Moreover, many teens haven’t yet developed the emotional regulation skills that support them to cope with what they’re feeling. This is particularly true during early adolescence, when teens experience higher rates of mood variability between happiness, sadness, and anger. Research shows that the parts of the brain connected to emotion (the limbic system) react more strongly in teens than in either children or older adults. Meanwhile, the frontal cortex—the rational and calming part of the brain—isn’t fully mature in adolescents.

Does a Teenager Crying All the Time Mean They’re Depressed?

Neurobiology, in addition to the many inner and outer changes adolescents are going through, helps to explain teenage crying. But that doesn’t mean parents can ignore a teenager crying all the time. Excessive crying in a teenager may indicate they are struggling with an underlying issue, such as adolescent depression. The ongoing feelings of sadness and worthlessness associated with depression can prompt frequent crying spells with no single, identifiable cause. If this is the case, a teen will typically exhibit other signs of depression as well, such as problems with sleep, social withdrawal, lethargy, self-harm, and/or suicidal thoughts.

A crying teenager could also be suffering from an anxiety disorder. Shedding tears can be a way to release the overwhelming feelings of worry and dread that often accompany anxiety. In addition, teenage crying can be a sign of bipolar disorder, which encompasses extreme highs and lows. A teenage daughter crying all the time might be suffering from premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a severe form of PMS that affects a small percentage of women.

PTSD or traumatic grief can also cause excessive crying in a teenager. A teen’s grieving process for a loved one, a breakup, or another significant loss may take time. Sometimes it takes more time than parents hope or expect. And teens may need professional support to process the loss, so they can move through it and find joy in life again.

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“Grief is different for every person and every loss. It can last for weeks, months, or even years. This is why working with a mental health professional can be so important and beneficial in healing.”

—Michael Roeske, PsyD, Newport Academy Executive Director

How to Help a Crying Teenager

Witnessing a teenager crying all the time is extremely difficult for a parent. It’s natural for parents to feel frustration and helplessness along with concern for their child. Here are some ways to take supportive action.

  • Give them tools to head off the stress that can lead to frequent crying spells. Stress-relief strategies, like breathing exercises, progressive relaxation, exercise, and reframing negative thoughts, can make a big positive difference.
  • Make sure they get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation in teens has been shown to significantly decrease their levels of happiness and reduce their ability to manage difficult emotions.
  • Let them know that crying is a natural and cathartic way to express and release emotions. Stigma and shame around crying—which particularly impacts boys—can increase a teen’s discomfort and embarrassment about their tearfulness. And trying to hold back the tears, rather than allowing themselves to cry openly, can actually increase a teen’s crying frequency and intensity.
  • Encourage them to work through their emotions using creative expression, such as journaling, writing songs, dancing, or making visual art.
  • If there is a specific problem, fear, or frustration triggering the tears, help your teen work toward a solution. Trying to have a rational conversation with a crying teenager may not be useful. But once they’re calmer, talk about what happened to prompt the emotions. Even if there’s nothing that can be “fixed,” simply acknowledging and validating the issue will help your teen feel supported.
  • Get a mental health assessment. A high percentage of adolescents are struggling with anxiety, depression, and collective trauma right now. If you have concerns about your child’s well-being, reach out for professional support immediately.
Mother comforting crying teenager

Treatment for Teen Depression and Trauma

A clinical professional can help determine whether a teenager crying all the time is a symptom of a mental health disorder. The next step is to determine what level of care a teen and family need. Treatment can help address an adolescent’s underlying conditions while guiding them to strengthen their emotional regulation and executive functioning.

At Newport Academy, we take an integrated approach to treating teen mental health conditions, including trauma and PTSD, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and co-occurring disorders. Our treatment model is proven to reduce anxiety and depression while increasing adolescents’ well-being.

Contact us today to learn more about how our clinical model supports teens to find hope, connection, motivation, and excitement for what the future holds.


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