Whether it’s caused by an onion or a sad movie, we all cry at some point in our life. There’s a lot of stigma around it since it’s considered a trait of the weak, but in reality, there is not one person who doesn’t cry. Sometimes it just happens so unintentionally, but why is that? We’ll have to get into detail about that as there is no short answer.
Weirdly enough, humans are the only ones that cry because of emotions. Animals may shed an emotional tear or two but in no way do they do it as often as humans do it. In fact, humans don’t only cry out of sadness, we also cry out of happiness. That’s not all though, there are many more reason as to why we cry.
There’s actually three types of tear; Basal, reflex and emotional. Let’s start with basal tears first. These tears are always present in our eyes as they’re what keep our eyes from drying out. Without them, blinking would feel like rubbing your eyeballs on sandpaper. The human body produces about 5 to 10 ounces of basal tears. They’re drained out of the nasal cavity which is why you have a runny nose after a good crying session.
Next on the list are reflex tears. A reflex action is a quick action to protect the body from harm. So these reflex tears are used to protect the eye from any damage. These are also the same tears which you shed in a smoky area or while cutting onions. The sensory nerves in your cornea send an electrical signal to your brain which in turn send a hormone to the gland in the eyelids. These glands then produce tears to wash out to the irritant at from the eye.
The third and last type of tear is our favorite, the emotional tear. The start of a sob-fest starts from the cerebrum where the emotion is registered. Then the endocrine system is triggered to released hormones to the ocular area. And that is how an emotional tear is produced. You may be familiar with this type of tear if you love romantic movies.
Now that you know how crying works, we can move onto what causes it. Is it just a response to certain stimuli or is this some form of non-verbal communication technique exclusive to humans only?
Crying can be divided into spatial and temporal types. Spatial crying is when you cry over wanting to be somewhere. The latter is about an emotion that brews about when you look into the past or future, for example, your upcoming 3rd anniversary with your partner. One study shows that crying may be a result of evolution trying to display vulnerability.
To be straightforward, crying is just another humanly thing that’s done as display of emotion. It’s not something exclusive to women, unlike what society considers it to be. There are actually many benefits to crying. Emotional tears actually trigger the release of an endorphin that reduces pain and improves mood.
In conclusion, tears aren’t always bad and they show our connection with the world and our life. Since it’s exclusive to humans, this is something that just makes us more human.