It’s okay to cry. It may even be beneficial to you. If you feel the need to cry, don’t hold back your tears. Tears are a normal, healthy way to express emotion.
Johannesburg, South Africa (17 November 2020) – Our bodies are absolutely incredible, and I love learning new things about something I have lived with my whole life. So here’s a fact that you might find interesting: Our tears contain natural pain killers to help us cope with whatever is causing us distress.
This is why we cry under immense pressure or anger… or trauma.
Tears literally enable us to see. They lubricate our eyeballs and eyelids, thus preventing our eyes from dehydrating. They also provide a smooth surface for refracting light, supply oxygen, and are a vital component of the ocular defence system that protects against a range of pathogens.
But one of the most interesting things about our tears is how they play a beneficial role in our emotional well-being. And humans are the only mammals known to produce tears as part of an emotional response!
We have 3 types of tears: Basal, Reflex and Psychogenic.
- Basal – these tears are constantly at the front of the eyeball and form the liquid layer over the eyeball to keep it lubricated.
- Reflex – these tears appear when the eye is irritated, such as when the eyes feel gritty or when we get dust, sand or other small foreign objects in our eyes.
- Psychogenic – these tears are sparked by emotion. They possess a higher protein level than basal and reflex tears, which makes them thicker, causing them to stream more slowly. Psychogenic tears are made up of higher concentrations of stress hormones such as adrenocorticotropic hormone and leucine enkephalin (a natural painkiller). This suggests that emotional tears play an important role in balancing stress hormone levels.
In nearly all human cultures, crying is associated with tears trickling down the cheeks and accompanied by characteristic sobbing sounds. Emotional triggers are most often sadness and grief, but crying can also be triggered by anger, happiness, fear, laughter or humour, frustration, remorse, or other strong, intense emotions. Crying is often associated with babies and children.
Some cultures consider crying to be undignified and infantile, casting aspersions on those who cry publicly, except if it is due to the death of a close friend or relative. In most Western cultures, it is more socially acceptable for women and children to cry than men, reflecting masculine sex-role stereotypes.
In some Latin regions, crying among men is more acceptable.
There is evidence for an interpersonal function of crying as tears express a need for help and foster willingness to help in an observer. Some modern psychotherapy movements, such as Re-evaluation Counseling encourage crying as beneficial to health and mental well-being.
Crying in response to something that makes you happy or sad is normal and healthy. Don’t shy away from shedding tears if you feel the need to release. Excessive crying is something you should chat about with your doctor, however. If crying starts to interfere with your everyday activities, it may be a sign of depression.
But it’s okay to cry. It may even be beneficial to you. If you feel the need to cry, don’t hold back your tears. Tears are a normal, healthy way to express emotion.