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Why do We Cry? Emotions, Hormones and Other Reasons

Updated on July 24, 2017

At a college about an hour away from where we live, we toured the dorm rooms where my last child would go to start her educational career.

‘Why are you such a bitch?” she asked me that night. I couldn't seem to answer because the answer would be too complicated. All impending emotions (concern, sadness, loneliness) along with a zillion other things welled up in me and produced one thing – an unlivable, unlovable person. I determined to go to bed and have a good cry, but instead I tried my hand at a crossword and it distracted me. Somewhere in between 13 across and 55 down, I fell asleep.

Bad move!

I could not for the life of me drag myself out of bed the next day. I was late for work and still feeling miserable. At the office, I rambled around sending out some way-too-curt emails. I probably offended a friend and possibly ruined another relationship; so finally, I bought some coffee machine sludge and called a friend. I closed my office door and found myself crying.

My friend said some really smart things like, "this being a new chapter in my life” and “what a great person I am”, but I think it is the tears that were most effective. (Kudos to to my friend for getting me there.)


Emotional Tears from a Scientific Point of View

In an article by Alia Hoyt on How Crying Works, she says there are three kinds of tears. Basil tears, says the article, keep our eyes moist and reflex tears protect us from irritants, but emotional tears are different. Emotional tears, says Hoyt, "all start in the cerebrum where sadness is registered. The endocrine system is then triggered to release hormones to the ocular area, which then causes tears to form." These are the tears of sad stories and personal losses.

"Do you know what your manganese level is?" asks Therese Borchard on She goes on to explain that, "Chances are that you will feel better if it’s lower because overexposure to manganese can cause bad stuff: anxiety, nervousness, irritability, fatigue, aggression, emotional disturbance and the rest of the feelings that live inside ....." According to Borchard's article, "the act of crying can lower a person’s manganese level."

Hoyt would agree, "The phrase 'having a good cry' suggests that crying can actually make you feel physically and emotionally better...Some scientists agree with this theory, asserting that chemicals build up in the body during times of elevated stress. These researchers believe that emotional crying is the body's way of ridding itself of these toxins and waste products."


  • Crying rids the body of toxins
  • Crying forces you to ask questions about what's going on underneath
  • Crying prevents new hurts from getting buried
  • Crying produces a calming effect

Emotional Tears from a Psychological Point of View

Is that too scientific for you? Temma Ehrenfeld in a Psychology Today article says, "Psycho-dynamic therapy rests on a core concept that we are hobbled by old emotions or thoughts and that crying can prevent new hurts from getting buried or release those old ones--i.e. its good to get it out of your system."

"Crying forces you to ask yourself questions about what's going on underneath your surface," says Anna Davies in Redbook who quotes author John Ryder, Ph.D. "When tears seem to spring out of nowhere," says Ryder, "play detective and figure out if you're crying because you feel overwhelmed, powerless, criticized, or any other emotion. The better able you are to pinpoint the reasons behind your tears, the less the situation will escalate in your mind."

"Criers do show calming effects," says a Science Daily article, "such as slower breathing...What is interesting is that bodily calming usually lasts longer than the unpleasant arousal. The calming effects may occur later and overcome the stress reaction, which would account for why people tend to remember mostly the pleasant side of crying."


Go Ahead, Have a Good Cry!

SO Guns and Roses gave us some bad advice when they sang, "Don't Cry". Be it psychological or scientific, have yourself a good cry. Read a sappy book, watch a sad movie, listen to a heart-breaking story, join a group of mourners, bury a dog, bury a grandparent, get married, get divorced, break a bone, break up with your boyfriend, get a promotion at work, get screwed over at work (time and time again), watch a baby being born, hold the hand of your dying mother, watch someone succeed, watch someone fail, drink too much, don’t drink enough, say goodbye to an old friend, say goodbye to youth, or send your youngest off to college.

Pick your poison and then have a good cry – it will, scientifically and psychologically, do you good!

Let's see if you were really reading my hub

Crossword Puzzle 55 down - who directed the movie, Grease?

See results


Borchard, T. (n.d.). 7 Good Reasons To Cry Your Eyes Out | This Emotional Life. PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved June 19, 2013, from

Cry Me A River: The Psychology Of Crying. (2008, December 19). Science News. Retrieved June 14, 2013, from

Davies, A. (n.d.). Why It's Good to Cry - Benefits of Crying - Redbook. Anti-Aging Beauty, Fashion Under $100, Health and Relationships - Redbook. Retrieved June 19, 2013, from

Ehrenfeld, T. (2013, February 4). Is Crying Good for You?. Psychology Today. Retrieved June 16, 2013, from

Hoyt, A. (n.d.). HowStuffWorks "The Purpose of Crying". HowStuffWorks "Science". Retrieved June 19, 2013, from


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