Crying – we largely consider it an emotional reaction that could mean one of a million things. We cry when we’re stressed, sad, overwhelmed, happy, or angry. Pretty much every emotion can cause our eyes to leak and stimulate the sniffles.
Despite what we may think, crying is healthy. Instead of fighting back tears, letting them out has many health benefits – including washing some of that emotion away.
Then there are tears that come with things like onions that make us cry for no obvious reason. Don’t worry there is a reason, and we’ll get into that too.
However, we’re going to start with a reason that makes all of us cry without shame.
The Different Types of Tears
Tears have a lot of different causes, and the reason for your tears changes the type of tears you cry.
1. Irritant tears – There’s something in my eye.
Irritant tears are the go to to hide our emotions, but they are very much a real type of tear. It could be dirt, an eye lash, or pet fur, getting something in your eye is going to cause irritant tears. When something gets in your eye, glands located just under your eyebrow release irritant tears to start trying to wash the problem away.
When you get an irritant in your eye, these tears wash it out, then help your eye to be lubricated after some of the moisture was absorbed by whatever caused the tears.
Onions are irritants, so when you get too close to one of these little guys, it’ll get those irritant tears flowing.
2. Basal tears – You’ve got to keep your eyes working.
You actually deal with basal tears all day, they just don’t tend to overrun without something being in your eye. When you blink, basal tears are distributed over your eye to keep it wet, which helps keep your vision crisp and clear. As your eyelid spreads basal tears over your eye, it is also distributing oxygen and nutrients.
These tears help you to resist infection too. Since they are unobtrusive, you probably aren’t even going to notice them. When you are experiencing dry eyes, you’ll want to stimulate more basal tears – as well as looking away from your screen more often – to keep your eyes well lubricated.
3. Emotional tears – It’s healthy to have a good cry.
Emotions are the most well-known cause of tears, and contrary to what some people say, IN this incredibly healthy to just let those tears out.
No – literally, crying is healthy, and not just for your mental health.
Though it is still being researched, tears are thought to help wash away some of the hormones that are in excess when you experience emotions that make you cry.
So if you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or sad, crying is therapeutic because it helps to get rid of the hormones making the emotions so much more intense.
4. Tears are a pain reliever.
If you’ve ever been hit in the nose, you know just how quickly tears start to form. It may take a little longer when you hurt other parts of your body, but tears are a common response to pain. Just like emotional tears, when you cry because you are in pain, those tears act as a type of natural painkiller.
5. Tears are a way to develop or strengthen social bonds.
Take a few minutes to realize if you are feeling the room. When you really care about someone, you are more likely to cry when they do because you can much more easily understand their pain. You know them well enough to understand why they are upset, even if you haven’t experienced what they are going through.
For example, if you have a friend who just lost a pet, even if you haven’t ever had a pet, you may cry too. Your friend’s pain becomes your own. While you empathize with your friend, you are building stronger social bonds.
The next time you see someone crying, don’t feel obligated to try to cheer them up. What they may need is someone to just commiserate and support them. Sometimes just having someone there to listen and be a source of comfort is the best support you could ask for. There is no better way to build social bonds than that.
6. I don’t know!
That’s actually a perfectly legitimate reason to cry. There are times when we cry for no apparent reason.
If you realize that you are crying regularly, you should probably seek out some help because it could be a sign of a more serious problem. The most obvious potential reason for unknown tears is depression. If you realize that you are crying often and you don’t know why, seek professional help.