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Health & Balance

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.
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Benefits of a Good Cry?

People often refer to a cry as a good cry and say they feel better afterward.

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 others do.

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.

So, how can you -- and how should you -- respond to a crier? Here are four tips:

  • Be aware that if you do nothing, you can make the crier feel worse, Bylsma says.
  • Try to do something supportive. What that is depends on the situation and how well you know the person, ''So hugging someone you aren't very close with might not be appropriate, while simply listening in an empathetic way would be suitable," Bylsma says.
  • Don't assume you know how to comfort them. ''The less intimate the relationship, the more it is appropriate to begin by asking how you can help and be supportive," Sideroff says.
  • Know that criers who tear up in a very large group generally feel more uncomfortable than those who cry in front of one or two people they're familiar with. But even in a large group, the criers welcome support from those they didn't know well, Bylsma has found. 

 

Trying Not to Cry

Sometimes, it's just not cool to let the tears flow -- you are trying to put up a brave face while accompanying a loved one to a medical treatment, for instance. Or your boss has just told you your hours will be cut in half.

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