Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Greater Understanding- Tears

  Crying. We all do it, for many reasons and through all stages of our lives. Yet it's not something we seem to talk about much is it? I did a little reading into the psychophysiology behind tears; what I found was pretty interesting and I thought you guys might think so too.  So here we are (I skipped over the twenty-five letter chemical and hormonal names to keep it from sounding too dry).

  There are three basic types of tears. Basal tears help keep the cornea wet and nourished. Some of the substances in this fluid fight against bacteria. Reflex tears result from irritation of the eye by foreign particles, or by reaction to irritating substances such as onion vapours or direct sunlight. They attempt to wash out any irritants that come in contact with the surface. Pretty straightforward so far right? In the 1980s Dr. William Fey (a researcher at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis) determined that reflex tears are composed mainly of water (98%), where emotional tears also contain the stress hormone prolactin.

  The third kind, Emotional (weeping) tears, are what I was most curious about. This type of crying is generally brought on by strong emotional stress, mourning, physical pain or suffering. As most of us know it can also be brought on by extreme happiness. It's a necessary biological reaction triggered by the body to release toxins. In addition it evokes that "feel good" factor we need after a good cry. Emotional tears contain more protein-based hormones, including a natural pain-killer, than basal or reflex tears.  Among these are endorphins, the same hormones that are released during intense physical exercise or sex.  Which explains why some people cry after experiencing orgasm. (More on this in a future post).

  The sight of someone crying triggers protective instincts, drawing us to them to help and provide comfort. Therapist Marisa Peer said, "Our need for and ability to offer protection, sympathy and empathy play a crucial role in crying." Crying is an attention-grabber, as babies know all too well.

  This primal notion dates back to the early days of the human race, when men would go off hunting and leave their women and children behind. Since they were on their own, the women required a natural "signal" if they needed help (some say this may explain why most men aren't as open about expressing emotion and are generally less comfortable crying in public than women). This is something that's been biologically ingrained in the sexes over thousands of years.

  People generally feel better, usually more relaxed, after a good cry. Even though it's often done under stressful or traumatic circumstances, crying is a significant way to release stress and is an essential reaction
for our emotional health.

Photo credit here.


  1. Wow.. who knew ... Thanks for such a great post!! You are always amazing me, with the great information you share with us readers. xo HHL

  2. I thought that this one was really interesting.Emotional tears contain more protein-based hormones, including a natural pain-killer.

    And this one too, The sight of someone crying triggers protective instincts, drawing us to them to help and provide comfort.

    I really love learning about the human body, and how it works and affects you. It's like one of my top interests! x3 its so interesting and fun to read these things.

  3. Excellent post. Kabbalah states that crying purifies the soul.

  4. I like this post very much. It's very true. We cry when the need for human touch becomes overwhelming. Crying is the starting point that leads to all the end goals that satisfy our deep need for happiness. The touch of human skin against skin, being enveloped in someone's protective embrace, a simple hug, or even the intimacy experienced between two people through communication, does wonders for our mental wellbeing, the resulting release of endorphins being euphoric.

    Our ability to cry is a gift, indeed. :)

  5. This is really interesting. I have found that the feeling I have inside after I finally let it all out and cry is usually a peaceful one. I never really thought about any of this before so I'm glad you posted it.

  6. I get a headache or a migraine EVERYTIME I cry. No feel good factor for me. It's been that way for as along as I can remember.

  7. I usually get a headache after I cry a lot too, but sometimes ya just gotta let it out and then you feel better.

  8. I get sleep and tired from crying...Great post Barry!

  9. What a great post that speaks so many truths. Crazy thing is, I cry way too often...I think I've shed my fair share of tears...