One of my readers put in a special request for a post concerning the effects of crying. They were reading my post The Medicine of Laughter and in their comment, asked about advantages and disadvantages to crying. I thought that was an excellent contrasting post to the other, so here it is folks.
We’ll go over what causes us to cry and some of the good and bad that may be associated with it. Also how our bodies react to it and the toll on our emotions it may take.
What Causes Crying
Most of us know the act of crying as associated with emotions. When our bodies are overwhelmed with a sensation of sorrow, pain or even great moments of joy. The act of crying is also known as lacrimation, this is because of the link between emotional states and the lacrimal glands. More commonly known as tear ducts.
Scientists believe that humans are the only creatures that are capable of producing tears in relation to emotional states. I tend to disagree with this however. I think it’s very possible that other animals have the ability to cry when their emotions are provoked.
But one theory is that the act of crying is nothing more than an unconscious behavior that is a way of seeking help in others. More of an instinctual act that is recognized by others and may in return produce an emotional reaction known as “feeling sorry” for another individual. Now in my opinion I’m not sure if this is an instinctual behavior or if it may be a learned behavior, but none the less it seems to ring true.
Is Crying Harmful
There are actually a few different types of tears that may produce different chemicals. The Basal Tears are produced as a means of lubrication for the eye. Reflexive Tears are produced in order to protect the eye from irritants, such as getting a grain of sand in your eye. Then we have the Psych Tears which are caused due to emotional responses.
As all of these categories of tears have an intended purpose, is it harmful to cry? I would say certainly not, except possibly to your own ego. I feel like the act of crying is an emotional outlet that we all need at one time or another. The human body is made up of so many complex systems and not having an outlet for emotion can be very dangerous to your health. Now if you are crying more than you feel is normal or doing it uncontrollably, then your hormones may be out of balance and a trip to the doctor could be in order.
There are some medical conditions that are not healthy forms of crying such as Bell’s
Palsy. Sufferers from this may experience crying while trying to eat. There really is no emotional cause for this, but is due to faulty regeneration of the facial nerve. There are also conditions that may causes infants to cry uncontrollably and also this same condition may exist in adults. There is a condition that is an epileptic episode known as gelastic seizure, the main symptom being uncontrollable laughter or crying.
The only harmful thing I can attribute to the act of crying would be the emotions associated with it. Times of sorrow or worry can be quite harmful to our bodies. They can cause a great deal of stress and nervousness which can often times lead to sickness. But I still believe these emotions in moderation are good for us, as we’re only human, and humans need these reactions as a learning experience.
The Joy of Crying
Now let’s talk a bit about the tears of joy. Crying when you are happy is such a rewarding experience. It’s hard to explain exactly the feeling you get, as it may differ depending on the individual. Some people explain tears of joy as a response to human kindness. Like when someone does something so exceptionally nice for you that it overwhelms your emotions. Or when you experience an amazing feat of compassion in others.
Have you ever been watching a funny movie and get to laughing so hard that you start crying? This is actually very common and is caused due to the pressure that’s produced against your tear glands while laughing. There is a drain in your eye that allows excess tears to flow into when crying, this is why your nose runs, it’s from the overflow. But when laughing, that drain is closed off so the normal build up of lubrication overflows out onto your eyelids. So tears of joy I don’t believe are actually caused from the happy emotions, it’s just the lubrication has no where to go so it spills out. But don’t let me be a kill joy, for all practical purposes we’re going to look at tears of joy as an awesome thing!
Benefits to Crying
So let’s take a look at some of the benefits to crying. Even though tears are mostly associated with emotions, they do serve a legitimate purpose where our health is concerned.
First and foremost, tears help us to see more clearly. Tears are constantly being produced by your eyes in order to lubricate and protect them. They will also keep your eyes hydrated, without them we would all eventually become blind.
Tears also act as an antibacterial and antiviral agent. They are known to contain lysozyme and it can kill up to 95% of bacteria in a matter of minutes. Very helpful in preventing sicknesses like the common cold. They are also useful in removing toxins from your body. Tears produced during an emotional episode will be loaded with toxins, this could be why we feel so much better after a “good cry”.
Tears are also an outlet for excess manganese in your body. Manganese is responsible for stressors and emotions such as nervousness, irritability, aggression and fatigue. Sounds like a build up of these types of emotions may be one reason we cry while under stress.
Speaking of stress, if we tend to hold our emotions in, this can lead to the build up of certain endorphins in our body that cause stress. Crying is an outlet for these endorphins, this is why over time we can become quite stressed and have a spike in blood pressure if we haven’t cried in a while.
One of the major benefits of crying is it brings people together. Showing emotion is the beauty of being human and it’s a form of unspoken communication between us. When you simply don’t have the words to express how you’re feeling, a nice cry can get the message across just fine.