top of page

To Cry or Not To Cry

Nowadays everything can be construed into something controversial for the pure sake of passionately arguing one side or another, and crying is amongst one of them.

People cry for various reasons e.g., anger, arousal, cleansing, happiness, love, sadness, etc. We incarnated into this world with the unconscious thought of crying, but rather just do it naturally. As infants it’s our way of communicating something is going on. We do not begin to express emotional tears until after the age of 3 months.

Moreover, crying is not unique to the human race; it’s also witnessed in the animal kingdom as well. If you pick up a very young kitten, it will set to the same sort of noisy unhappiness a human baby will exhibit. Other animals can whimper, howl, or wail and do so for the same sorts of emotions that cause us to cry. The difference is they do it dry-eyed. So why does it seem so difficult for some and not so difficult for others to cry?

A couple of reasons why I can think of either a person lacks tears which in such a case would be considered a medical condition, and the other is a belief around crying. For the sake of this article I'll be sharing information on the benefits of crying.

Some evidence suggests crying helps regulate the immune system. In a study in 2006, scientists asked 60 patients with eczema and an allergy to latex to watch the Meryl Streep weepy Kramer vs Kramer movie. Before and after the film the team placed latex on their skin, and measured the reaction.

Compared with those who remained dry-eyed, volunteers who cried had a reduced skin reaction to the latex after the movie. Their skin also had lower levels of inflammatory markers called immunoglobulins, which increase at the site of an allergic reaction.

A Japanese study of patients with the auto-immune disease rheumatoid arthritis revealed that those who cry easily have less pain and fewer symptoms than those with a stiff upper lip.

Blood tests revealed that immediately after crying, the levels of naturally-occurring immune chemicals that usually aggravate the condition were lower, and that the criers had better control of their condition a year later.

Many experts have pointed to this finding as evidence that tears act as some kind of release valve — helping the body to dissipate a build-up of stress hormones that could otherwise harm the body.

Crying is accompanied by activity in our parasympathetic nervous system; its job is to calm the body after a stressful event, causing a drop in heart rate — and shedding a tear may encourage this.

Some studies suggest crying increases levels of oxytocin — a so-called cuddle hormone — which prevents the release of the stress hormone cortisol.

Women generally cry more than men explain Professor Ad Vingerhoets, a psychologist and leading researcher on crying, based at the University of Tilburg, Holland.

What did not seem surprising was both sexes cry equally at major life events such as bereavement. However, what did seem surprising was men tend to cry at 'positive' events whereas women cry at 'negative' ones. This quite possibly has to do with the different hormones each gender secretes.

Crying is essentially a release valve that rids your body of excess stress and tension, so when a ‘sobfest’ is on the horizon and you hold it in; your body's sympathetic nervous system (or fight-or-flight response) kicks into gear, says Nicole Van Groningen, M.D., an internist at NYU Langone Medical Center. Your brain signals your adrenal glands to release stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. These chemicals boost your heart rate and blood pressure, which can translate into chest tightness and heavy breathing as you force yourself not to cry. These hormones can also mess with your appetite and blood sugar levels, hence the pre-meltdown butterflies and energy surge.

"Suppressing an emotion (such as frustration or sadness) actually heightens it and makes you feel worse," says psychologist Nikki Martinez, Psy.D. "So while you might think you're distracting yourself, the stress is actually growing." The occasional tear detour is one thing (bawling mid-meeting probably wouldn't go over well with the boss), but doing so on the regular gives your body's stress response more opportunities to cause trouble, she adds. In the short-term, it can cause pesky problems like irritability, anxiety, and poor sleep, and over time high blood pressure, heart problems, and diabetes.

I'd like to share 6 surprising health benefits of shedding a few tears from Medical Daily, and before so doing I’d like to share a smidge more information.

We produce 10 ounces of tears per day and 30 gallons a year. These tears can either be basal tears, reflex tears, and lastly, psychic, or tears produced by emotion. Although emotional tears do contain higher levels of stress, they have the ability to calm the iris down and signal the emotional state to others.

1. Releases Toxins

Crying does not only mentally cleanse us; it can cleanse our body too. Tears that are produced by stress help the body get rid of chemicals that raise cortisol, the stress hormone. A study conducted by Dr. William H. Frey II, a biochemist and director of the Psychiatry Research Laboratories at the St. Paul-Ramsey Medical Centre, found like other exocrine processes, including exhaling, urinating, and sweating, toxic substances are released from the body when we cry. Several of the chemicals present in emotional crying are the protein prolactin, adrenocorticotropic hormones, and the endorphin leucine-enkephalin, which reduces pain.

2. Kills Bacteria

A good cry can also be a good way to kill bacteria. Tears contain the fluid lysozyme — also found in human milk, semen, mucus and saliva — that can kill 90 to 95 percent of all bacteria in just five to 10 minutes. A 2011 study published in the journal Food Microbiology found tears have such strong antimicrobial powers they can even protect against the intentional contamination of anthrax. Lysozyme can kill certain bacteria by destroying bacteria cell walls — the rigid outer shell that provides a protective coating.

3. Improves Vision

Tears, made by the lacrimal gland, can actually clear up our vision by lubricating the eyeballs and eyelids. When the membranes of the eyes are dehydrated, our eyesight may become a little blurry. Tears bathe the surface of the eye, says the National Eye Institute, keeping it moist, and wash away dust and debris. Crying also prevents the dehydration of various mucous membranes.

4. Improves Mood

Tears can elevate our mood better than any antidepressant available. A 2008 study from the University of South Florida found crying can be self-soothing and elevate mood better than any antidepressant. The shedding of tears improved the mood of almost 90 percent of criers compared to the eight percent who reported crying made them feel worse. Individuals with anxiety or mood disorders were less likely to experience the positive effects of crying.

5. Relieves Stress

A good cry can provide a feeling of relief, even if our circumstances still remain the same. Crying is known to release stress hormones or toxins from the body, and as a result, reduces tension. Martin believes crying is a healthier alternative to punching the wall or “stuffing your feelings,” which can lead to physical health problems like headaches or high blood pressure. “Crying is a safe and effective way to deal with stress,” he said. “It provides an emotional release of pent up negative feelings, stresses, and frustrations.” 6. Boosts Communication Crying can show what words cannot express, especially in a relationship. This is mostly seen when a person in the relationship is having a different reaction to a situation that isn’t transparent until tears begin to show. For example, “Someone may be trying to play it cool, or hold it together, or be out of touch with emotions — that are suddenly apparent when one person starts to cry,” April Masini, relationship expert and author, told Medical Daily in an email.

I know for many somewhere along the way you’ve learned to stifle your tears, avoid them at all costs, and even feel weak in sharing them. For others it’s not even something you think about, you freely experience them as you feel they need to release.

Like any/all of our beliefs I encourage my clients to regularly evaluate their thoughts and beliefs to see if they still serve a positive beneficial value to their daily. If they don’t, then we work with the dealings of their Inner Critic (that inner voice of ours that never want us to change), and determine where there may be some stagnation or fear around their thoughts and beliefs (yes, even around whether crying is ‘good’ or ‘not’), and address them.

I leave you with this final quote by Sir William Boyd, Pathologist, "A sorrow that has no vent in tears makes other organs weep!!"

To learn more about who I am and what I do, please visit my website, Strength In Sensitivity. You are also encouraged to join my private Facebook group, Be Your Own Hero for daily support.

bottom of page