Weston Psych Care Blog

Emotional Crying

I’m sure most of you have heard or said yourself, something about needing a good cry. That is actually a very interesting statement. Our tear ducts are part of our lacrimal gland, which sits between our eyeball and our eyelid. This gland is connected to our limbic system. Our limbic system is the part of our brain that is responsible for emotions.

It turns out that we tear up (or cry) for three different purposes. We make basal, reflex and psychic (emotional) tears. Basal tears are the ones produced to keep our eyes moist. Reflex tears are the tears used to clear out any irritants such as dust, eye lashes or onion vapors. Psychic tears are shed due to sadness, frustration, happiness, etc.

Part of our limbic system (the hypothalamus) is hard wired into our autonomic nervous system (we have no control over this system). It produces a molecule (neurotransmitter called acetylcholine) which stimulates the production of our emotional tears. What's even more interesting is that our emotional tears contain a natural pain killer called leucine enkephalin.

Crying is a natural emotional response to environmental stimulus. Emotional crying appears to be a primal non-verbal method of communication to others that you need help or support. In addition, your tears may actually mitigate some of your emotional pain. It seems there is some truth to the belief that having a good cry can make you feel better. So next time you are feeling emotionally drained, you might want to give yourself permission to cry and see if you don’t feel a little better afterwards.

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