The Science Behind Why We Cry… Or Don’t

“Are you seriously crying?” is something I get asked almost every day. Yes, I said every day because I cry almost every single day.

It could be over something as small as a commercial or as a big as a broken heart, but the tears flow freely from these eyeballs of mine. And then there are people like Cameron Diaz from The Holiday. If you’ve seen it you know exactly what I’m talking about, if you haven’t seen it, go watch it now.

There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to how much crying is too much and how much is not enough. College has a funny way of making us figure out just what kind of crier we are. If you are still not sure what kind of crier you are, you can take this meaningless quiz for a few laughs.

But there obviously has to be a scientific explanation behind crying, so I did some research to find out why we cry.

I bet you didn’t know we have three types of tears.

  1. Basal tears. These tears are the ones we have all the time and don’t even know it. They cover our little eyeballs to keep them safe and free from debris and other irritants.
  1. Reflex tears. These are the tears we cry when something gets in our eye or we cut an onion… Been there, done that! They help wash away harmful substances and are released in larger amounts than the always steady basal tears.
  1. Emotional tears. Last, but not least, these are the tears most people think about when we talk about crying. These tears happen when we are too happy or too sad. Our body feels like it has lost control, so emotional tears are sent in to stabilize the mood as quickly as possible.

These emotional tears serve a few purposes:

  • Emotional. These tears contain higher levels of stress hormones containing endorphins and natural painkillers which calm our bodies down.
  • Social. Emotional tears signal pain to others. Whether to get a reaction from the people around you or for sympathy, tears are a physical way of letting people know something is up.
  • Biochemical. When you cry emotional tears, you are releasing stress toxins from the body creating internal biochemical reactions.
  • Survival. Emotional tears trigger other symptoms like an increased heart rate and slower breathing to try to combat the instability in mood that causes emotional tears.

Lastly, I doubt this comes as a shock to anyone, but crying is in a woman’s DNA. Literally. It is said that women cry 5 times more than men. It’s just the way it is. So don’t let any one make you feel bad for crying too much or not crying enough. There is no formula for how many tears we should cry in a day, month, or year. There will be seasons in your life where you will probably cry more tears than others (hello college), but that doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with you if you don’t cry either. It is simply our body’s way of releasing built up energy, either from being too happy or too sad. Crying over a boy doesn’t make you weak, and not crying over a boy doesn’t mean you don’t have a heart. It just means you’re human.

Image via Anna Schultz

Mackenzie Friedman

Mackenzie Friedman, Texas Christian University Major: Sports Broadcasting Her heart belongs to: Jesus Christ, golden retrievers, Dallas sports teams, and The Bachelor You can find her: probably stalking bloggers on Instagram, maybe working out, definitely online shopping

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