Why We Cry: The Truth About Tearing Up
The lowdown on tears: Why some cry easily, others don't cry, and how to handle all those tears.
Why Do You Cry? continued...
On top of that, crying may have a biochemical purpose. It's believed to
release stress hormones or toxins from the body, says Lauren Bylsma, a PhD
student at the University of South Florida in Tampa, who has focused on crying
in her research.
Lastly, crying has a purely social function, Bylsma says. It often wins
support from those who watch you cry. Sometimes, crying may be manipulative --
a way to get what you want, whether you're asking a friend to go shopping with
you, your spouse to agree to a luxurious vacation, or your child to get their
math homework done.
Crying Out Loud: Who's Most Likely?
Women tend to cry more than men do, most experts concur. "Women have more
permission to cry. To some degree it's changing," Sideroff says. But not
entirely. "It's still viewed by many, particularly men, as a sign of weakness,"
When it comes to crying habits, the population as a whole is on a spectrum,
experts say, with some crying easily and others rarely. Experts aren't exactly
sure why, though temperament probably plays a role. "Some people are just more
prone to crying," Sideroff says. "Others ignore or are not as fazed by certain
things [that provoke tears in criers]."
People with a history of trauma have been found to cry more, Sideroff says.
That's especially true, he says, if they dwell on that past. "If you keep
referring back to the past of trauma or emotional pain, it will generate more
feelings of hurt.''
Women who report anxiety, as well as those who are
extroverted and empathetic, are more likely to say they feel comfortable
crying, according to Bylsma. Those were the results of a study Bylsma and
others published in Personality and Individual Differences in 2008.
Benefits of a Good Cry?
People often refer to a cry as a good cry and say they feel better
But is that always true?
Usually, but not always, says Bylsma. In a study of nearly 200 Dutch
women, Bylsma found that most did say they felt better after crying. But not
everyone. "We found that individuals who scored higher on [measures of]
depression or anxiety were likely
to feel worse after crying."
Exactly why isn't known, she tells WebMD. It could be that those who are
depressed or anxious simply don't derive the same benefits from crying as
Coping With Crying
If you're not a world-class crier but are often around those who cry, it can
make you feel awkward, useless, or just uncomfortable. That's because when
someone cries, it shows their vulnerability, Sideroff says. "I think in
general, people are uncomfortable with vulnerability.'' When the crier exhibits
vulnerability, Sideroff says, "it's shifting the level of intimacy of the
environment.'' Just being in that more intimate environment makes the other
person uncomfortable in some cases, he says.