The Many Reasons We Cry

woman-cryingDo you realize that you cry every day? There are three types of tears, and the human body produces basal tears constantly.

What are basal tears?

These are the tears your eyes produce all day. These tears have three layers and they protect your eyes from bacteria, dirt and dry eye. The average human produces 10 ounces of basal tears a day, or 30 gallons a year! Of course, these are not the tears we shed when watching a sad movie on Netflix, but they are an important part of eye health.

What about the tears you shed when you’re chopping an onion?

Your eyes also shed reflex tears. These are your eyes’ reactions to irritants or harmful substances such as smoke, wind or even an onion. These tears protect your eyes by attempting to flush out the irritants you encounter.

What type of tears are related to sadness?

Emotional tears are what most people think about when they describe crying. These are unique to humans, and are the body’s way of reacting to intense emotion. Sadness, happiness, anger, or just being overwhelmed can make us all cry. Some people cry when they see something overwhelmingly beautiful.

Women are more likely to cry emotional tears than men, but science still doesn’t completely understand if this is a cultural difference or an actual gender difference. It has been theorized that testosterone inhibits tear production in men, while prolactin, a more predominant female hormone, promotes crying in women. While emotional tears shed stress hormones, toxins, and release endorphins in the body, not everyone feels better after crying. Basically, emotional tears are a signal from your body about your emotional state, and if you are sad, a strong indicator that something is wrong.

Here are some interesting facts about tears:

  • Laughing until you cry is another form of releasing a strong emotion, although this is certainly more pleasant than crying from sadness!
  • Crying is an important form of communication for babies who cannot speak yet, but infants don’t produce actual tears until they are 1-3 months old. Babies use crying to express boredom, sadness, anger and pain. New parents quickly learn the difference between the their child’s cries.
  • When you cry, some tears fall down your face, while others drain into the nose. This is why you frequently need a tissue for your nose as well as your eyes when you cry.


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