What do a particularly tough day at work, the birth of a new family member and watching The Notebook have in common? They are all examples of times when it’s perfectly normal to shed a few tears. We all get choked up every now and again, but crying hasn’t always enjoyed broad social support. Crying used to be seen as a sign of weakness, especially for men. Fortunately, times are changing, and it’s becoming much more acceptable to cry as a way to express emotion in a healthy manner.
If you’ve ever wiped your eyes dry and then wondered, “Is crying good for you?”, you’ll want to read on to discover why we cry, how it can actually help us and what do to if crying is a symptom of deeper issues.
What Is Crying Exactly?
Everyone knows what it’s like to cry, but not everyone knows that our bodies actually produce three distinct types of tears. Basal tears lubricate your eyes and produce a secretion that protects your corneas. Reflex tears eliminate irritants or foreign objects found in your eyes. Finally, emotional tears are the ones your body makes when presented with overwhelming emotional stimuli.
Scientists don’t fully understand why we cry when we’re emotional. However, there’s good evidence to support that crying serves a few different functions, including self-soothing after a painful experience and signaling to others that we need support. Women report crying more often than men, with women shedding tears an average of 30 to 64 times per year as compared to men with 5 to 17 times per year. The reasons behind this are also subject to debate, however, there’s research to suggest that this is because women have less testosterone — a hormone thought to inhibit crying — and because of persistent, negative social attitudes about men crying.
Is Crying Good for You and Healthy?
Crying is one of the most important tools we have for relieving stress and negative feelings. Research indicates that crying releases oxytocin, which is a natural chemical that helps ease emotional or physical distress and discomfort. This is why crying does make you feel better, especially if the tears come after an emotionally turbulent time.
Crying can also help you develop stronger bonds with other people. The act of crying has been shown to assist us with developing attachments to other people and eliciting sympathetic feelings. Sharing a tearful, tender moment with someone else requires a level of vulnerability that’s key to deepening a platonic, romantic or familial relationship.
Furthermore, crying is also a way to let others know that you are in distress. Physical displays of emotion like crying have always been a primary method of communication between humans. It should come as no surprise that babies are quite familiar with using crying to seek attention or comfort.
It’s certainly not healthy to keep emotions bottled up and not express your feelings in a healthy way, which may include crying. Crying is often a healthy expression of emotions that should be celebrated as a sign of strength and not weakness.
When Can Crying Be Unhealthy?
Tears are healing and beneficial to an extent, but crying may also indicate that you’re having trouble coping with stress in your life. Crying that interferes with your ability to function or manage your daily tasks can be the result of negative or traumatic events in your life. Too much crying can also inhibit your capacity to form and maintain healthy relationships both personally and professionally.
Your tears may be trying to tell you that it’s time to address areas in your life of unnecessary hardship or strife. For example, if you find yourself excessively crying over your job or a relationship, it might be a good idea to re-evaluate these situations to determine if you need to seek other employment opportunities or end the relationship.
Is Crying Indicative of Another Disorder That Needs Examination?
Most commonly, frequent crying is a symptom of depression. Excessive crying — along with other symptoms such as dissatisfaction with life, trouble getting out of bed or falling asleep — is usually a sign that you need to seek professional help for mental health issues. You should take note of your crying patterns and mention them to your health care provider.
In addition to depression, crying can occur as a result of exhaustion. Not getting enough sleep leads to irritability and reduces your ability to properly process your emotions. Further examination may be required to determine if the exhaustion is related to an underlying condition, like iron deficiency or kidney issues. Some practical steps for trying to combat exhaustion include proper diet and exercise and turning your phone and other screens off at least one hour before bed.
Crying typically isn’t a symptom of something more serious, but crying is sometimes a telltale sign of an underlying condition. In rare cases, crying can be a sign of rare neurological disorders such as pseudobulbar affect (PBA). Contact a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing bouts of uncontrollable or unexplained crying.
It’s Okay to Cry, and It’s Okay to Seek Help
Whether it’s in response to cutting onions or cutting ties with a long-time friend, tears are a normal part of life. In fact, there’s some evidence to show that sometimes having a good cry really is what you need to feel better.
However, talking to a professional about your emotions can help you regulate them and take proactive steps to ensure a healthy emotional state. Everyone needs help from time to time, and Restore is here to work with you so you stay in control of your well being and develop effective coping mechanisms to manage life’s ups and downs. Contact Restore to get in touch with mental health professionals who are able to support you in maintaining your emotional health.