Handling Crying Outbursts in Front of Others

October 16, 2023 Natasha Tracy

I'm far too acquainted with crying outbursts in front of other people. I have been experiencing them since, almost forever. Depression has been my companion, off and on since, almost forever. And I have experienced the shame and embarrassment that comes with them since, almost forever. And yesterday was one such experience. Today, I want to talk about what it's like to have a crying outburst in front of others and how to handle it when it happens to you.

What Is the Deal with Crying Outbursts?

People experience depression differently, but for me, it involves a lot of crying and a lot of emotion just below the surface of my day. And because my sadness lives just a blink away from my everyday, it means I frequently end up with crying outbursts in front of others. 

Believe me when I tell you I'm desperately trying to control my tears. I'm using all my powers, perfected over multiple decades, to stuff those tears down. It just happens to be the case that it's impossible so much of the time. My crying outbursts are not because I'm weak; they're because I'm sick. They're because my brain doesn't work like yours.

Yesterday's Crying Outburst

I've been going through a rough time. It involves illness outside of bipolar disorder. It involves complications from those illnesses. It involves surgery on my eyes. All in all, it's been pretty rough.

One impact is that I couldn't drive for a few months (I couldn't see well enough to drive). And then, when I went to start my car for the first time, it wouldn't start. Apparently, car batteries don't like it when you don't drive your car. 

And as I was trying to deal with this problem, I ran into my building manager. We started chatting, he's a lovely fellow, and as I told him what was happening, I just burst into tears. I didn't mean to. No one had died. It was just that the car was the last straw. I couldn't deal with it without a crying outburst, apparently.

Handling a Public Crying Outburst

The building manager was very nice about it. He was supportive and offered me a hug. It was the best outcome, clearly from a good person.

And I can tell you what I did at that point: I apologized profusely. I said, "I don't know what's wrong with me," when I obviously did. And then I apologized some more.

This is not the best way to handle a crying outburst. I think it's normal, but I also think it's not the best way. See, crying, whether in front of someone else or not, is human. We all do it. We all have things that push us beyond what we can reasonably handle, and sometimes we cry about those things. It would be more convenient if these crying outbursts happened when we were alone, but we don't necessarily get to choose. And even though it may feel embarrassing and shameful, in my experience, most people do understand. Most people have been there. Most people know what uncontrollable tears feel like.

So, if you find yourself in a crying outburst in front of someone else, try this:

  • Instead of apologizing, say thank you. As in, "Thank you for allowing me to express my strong emotions." Or "Thank you for being so supportive." (You can combine that with an apology if you must, but don't apologize for your emotion. Your emotion is real and normal.)
  • Don't lie. You don't need to. You also don't need to share every detail. If you like, just say, "I'm feeling very overwhelmed right now."
  • Forgive yourself and practice self-care. If you burst into tears in front of someone else, it's not a great day.

In short, while I wish none of us burst into tears in public, for many of us, it has happened and will happen again. When it happens, be gentle with yourself and remember you did nothing wrong. You just showed your humanity.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2023, October 16). Handling Crying Outbursts in Front of Others, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

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