Breakdown of the Need for a Breakdown
While it is possible for other animals to express sadness, crying for emotional purposes is a bodily function exclusive to humans. In fact, researchers and neuroscientists are unsure of why it is even necessary in the first place, as everyone inevitably experiences it for a multitude of reasons. However, through more research on these physiological processes behind crying, these can give hints to the psychological need for a tear.
The human eye can produce a number of tears, depending on what the body demands. The first type is known as basal tears, and these exist even when an individual does not experience extreme emotions and supplies nutrients to the rest of the organ. These tears have three layers, in order to protect the eye from bacteria and from drying out. The second type of tears are reflex tears which are mostly made up of water, but they are produced in larger volumes in order to prevent microorganism invasion. For example, reflex tears are commonly produced while cutting up onions, as the vegetable contains a chemical irritating to the eyes.
The last tear is the only type associated with feelings: emotional tears. This type is produced when the body experiences overwhelming happiness or sadness, in order to counteract these emotions. Additionally, the production of these tears triggers other organs, such as an increasing heartbeat, and a lower respiratory rate. Emotional tears also alter hormone levels, such as enkephalin, an endorphin and natural painkiller (which is why people feel better after an emotional cry). Altogether, these bodily processes can help humans present their wellbeing towards others.
Despite crying being portrayed as a “sign of emotional weakness,” research ultimately demonstrates that there are plenty of benefits to shedding a tear! In fact, restraining emotions such as sadness eventually corresponds to the restraining of other, more positive feelings like happiness and love. As said by UCLA psychiatrist Dr.Judith Orloff, "Crying and honoring your own needs and sensitivities is a critical part of self-care and being loving with oneself, being aware of one's needs and honoring them to benefit the health of the body, mind and spirit” (Rogers, 2020).