The Science Behind Crying

143717521[1]I’m a crier. I cry when I’m angry. I cry when I’m sad. I cried when my son accidentally hit me in the face with a baseball. Sometimes my characters are criers too because all of them has various aspects of me in them (along with other loved ones in my life). While Lilah, in The Wild Half, definitely was not,  Beth, in Shadows of the Soul was. In fact, at one point I went through the manuscript searching for “tears” because I felt like she cried too much.

Anyway. . .in general our society frowns upon tears, especially male tears. This has never set quite right with me. As far as I know no other animal cries other than to protect its eye. I always figured that there’s got to be a reason behind humans crying, even if none of us every talked about it.

So I looked it up one day, probably when I was supposed to be doing something a lot more important, like right now (I’m supposed to be paying bills. I will pay them–when I’m supposed to be doing something else important, like folding laundry). What I discovered is that emotional tears, unlike you’ve-got-something-in-your-eye tears contain more than just salt, they contain various hormones, such as prolactin (kind of explains the stickiness too). These are hormones that we accumulate when we’re stressed out. When we cry, we release these hormones;  the more we cry the greater release. That’s why when we’ve had a good cry we feel relieved and calmer. We think it’s the physical energy it takes to cry, and that might be partly true, but it’s also the release of these hormones. That also explains why some people, like me, occasionally have tearful reactions to rage.

As for men, at least one person has theorized that men don’t cry as much because they don’t start with as high a level of prolactin as women. Not sure if that’s true, and I can’t see that it’s been proven, but it would explain a lot, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, tears are good. Society makes us think they are weak, and if you’re doing something like trying to drive or, in an evolutionary sense, trying to run from a saber tooth tiger, yeah, they’re a weakness. As in they could get you killed.  But in general, tears help us feel better and function better because we are, quite literally, crying out the stress that comes from pain, anger and frustration.

I’m including a few links below. I confess, I only skimmed them, but I’m including them in case someone else wants more in-depth reading.  I will say I’m not like one of these people who says she cries whenever she can. I don’t do that. Too exhausting, but I do try to remember when the tears come on that there’s a reason for them, and holding them in is NOT in my best interest.

Oh, and I’ve got no clue as to why our noses run when we cry. I’m sure there’s a good reason. I’ll google it someday when I have to unload the dishwasher. Or shovel snow.



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