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...
Crying does serve an emotional purpose, says Sideroff, also an assistant
clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.
"It's a release. There is a buildup of energy with feelings."
It can also be a survival mechanism, notes Jodi DeLuca, PhD, a
neuropsychologist at Tampa General Hospital in Florida. ''When you cry," she
says, "it's a signal you need to address something." Among other things, it may
mean you are frustrated, overwhelmed or even just trying to get someone's
attention, which DeLuca and other researchers call a ''secondary gain''
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.