Have Yourself a Good Old Cry

“We need never be ashamed of our tears.” - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Go to the profile of Nicola Vanlint
May 09, 2016
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Some of us have difficulty with crying or feel an inability to cry, we may have been told that watery eyes are a sign of weakness or like myself, I was told I was melodramatic, a ‘drama queen’ for crying. Some people experience an intense fear of starting to cry and never being able to stop. Some of us feel shame around crying or even shame for wanting to cry.

How long has it been since you’ve had a good cry? Crying requires strength in the form of vulnerability.

There are three types of tears these can either be basal tears, reflex tears, or tears produced by emotion / stress.

Basal Tears

We all need the layer of protective fluid covering our eyeballs known as continuous or basal tears.

This fluid is secreted by the lachrymal glands, which sit above each eye, and without it our eyes would be in danger of drying out and become susceptible to bacterial attack.

Eye Watering / Reflex Tears

One of the most important functions crying can have is to protect our eyes from irritants and foreign bodies, such as dust or getting rid of the acidic fumes when cutting onions.

These tears are known as reflex tears. When our eyes come under attack from irritants, the lachrymal glands in our eyes start stimulating more fluid to wash away the irritant and drain it from the eye.

Emotional/Stress-Related Tears

Emotional tears contain leucine enkephalin (a natural painkiller)

Tears that are produced by stress help the body get rid of chemicals that raise cortisol, the stress hormone.

Crying Improves Mood and Relieves Stress

A good cry can provide a feeling of relief, even if our circumstances still remain the same. Crying is known to release stress hormones. When we're upset and stressed, we have an imbalance and build-up of chemicals in the body and crying helps to reduce that by removing the toxic substances which reduces tension. Crying is a safe and effective way to deal with stress. It provides an emotional release of pent up negative feelings, stresses, and frustrations.

Deep crying is generally felt to be good for you in that it exposes and expresses deep emotions, which means they can then be dealt with.

'The Freudian theory is that it's beneficial to get feelings out, that if you let them fester they can affect you physically and psychologically,' says Professor Gail Kinman, an occupational health psychologist who has carried out research on crying in the workplace.

Too Many Tears

A 2008 study from the University of South Florida found crying can be self-soothing and elevate mood better than any antidepressant. The shedding of tears improved the mood of almost 90 percent of criers compared to the eight percent who reported crying made them feel worse; this is a helpful indicator, as well as frequent crying, that it may be beneficial to seek professional advice. As you may possibly be experiencing depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress or postnatal depression.

Controlled Crying

Some of my clients express a fear of losing control if they cry, or once they start crying they are anxious that they will not be able to stop, I suggest controlled crying;

‘You choose’ the time and place where to cry

‘You choose’ which form of stimulus to encourage tears. Weepy film, listening to a song, reading a sad story….

‘You choose’ the duration; set a timer, ask a friend to call you in five minutes, use a distraction to come out of ‘crying time’

Counting the Tears

  • On average women cry 47 times a year and men a mere seven.
  • Until puberty, crying levels are much the same for each gender – testosterone may reduce crying in boys while oestrogen and prolactin increases the tendency in girls.
  • Men may excrete more of the toxins related to emotional stress in their sweat because they have higher sweat levels than women.
  • The mantra to children 'Be brave, don't cry' might not be the most helpful because some believe crying can actually help reduce pain.
  • Go to the profile of Nicola Vanlint

    Nicola Vanlint

    Psychotherapist / CBT Counsellor / Wellbeing Radio Presenter

    Who am I? A constellation of events and experiences which have formed who I am today, just like everybody else. I have experienced emotional imbalance in different forms during my life, one of which was the horror of panic attacks. These encounters lead me to expand my self-awareness, firstly through attending therapy, then through various workshops and years later attaining a qualification in counselling. I have a passion for acquiring and sharing knowledge of how to gain and maintain our psychological wellbeing and increase mental health appreciation. I am far from a journalist, in fact I am dyslexic, which I did not discover until the age of twenty eight. I have learnt to accept and embrace my imperfections. Join me on a voyage of self-awareness and psychological wellbeing, where your thoughts and feelings are very welcome!

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