6 Health Benefits of Crying

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  • Is crying good for you? Experts say yes. While crying is expected in babies and young children—whether it’s due to pain, anger, lack of communication skills or other reasons—adults also cry from time to time. On average, women cry more than five times per month, and men cry at least once a month. These crying episodes range anywhere from having tears well up in the eyes or full-fledged sobbing. In addition to emotional tears, your body also uses tears to physically protect your eyes from harm. Find out other health benefits of crying here.

  • 1
    There are three types of tears, all with different purposes.
    Young woman with tear rolling down cheek

    Crying has both physical and emotional benefits, and your body has different ways of producing tears to achieve those benefits. The physical benefits of crying include keeping your eyes lubricated and clean; tears wash away debris and germs that could damage your eye or cause infection. Researchers are still studying the health benefits of emotional tears, which they say may include stress relief. The three types of tears include:

    • Basal tears: These tears are continuously in your eyes and maintain eye health. They lubricate your eyes and protect your cornea.
    • Reflex tears: These also protect your eyes; your body uses them to flush out things, such as a stray eyelash, dust, smoke, or even the fumes from onions.
    • Emotional tears: Our body produces tears in response to various emotional states: not only sadness, but also happiness and fear.
  • 2
    Emotional tears may help the body release stress.
    Young African American man with tears coming down face sitting at support group

    Psycho-emotional tears have no physical benefits for the health of your eyes. However, emotional tears may flush out stress hormones and other toxins from the body. Some research has found higher concentrations of certain proteins in emotional tears than in basal or reflex tears. Scientists say more research is needed for conclusive evidence, but some hypothesize that emotional tears purge the body of these stress-related substances.

  • 3
    Children’s tears signal a need for care.
    Little girl crying on couch

    While it may be frustrating for adults, it’s important for children to cry—for their physical and emotional health. Without hearing an infant cry, parents and caregivers would not immediately know that the baby needs assistance of some sort, whether it’s emotional comfort, feeding, diaper changing or some other type of care. Babies and children also cry because of pain as a nonverbal method to request the care of an adult.

  • 4
    Crying in a supportive environment makes us feel better.
    Comforting a friend

    Emotional tears can also be a communication tool for adults, indicating a need for social support. When someone cries with a close friend nearby, the person often feels better after crying. That social support can help the person resolve a conflict or help the person who’s crying better understand the event that happened that caused the tears. This results in the person feeling better after the cry. In contrast, people who try to avoid crying or who cry and don’t receive social support are less likely to feel better.

  • 5
    Tears help fight infection and prevent our eyes from drying out.
    A young woman applying medicine drops on her eyes

    Basal tears lubricate our eyes, but as we get older, we make fewer basal tears. When tear production slows down, it can cause uncomfortable dry eye. This eye condition may also make it harder to fight off infection. To counteract dry eyes, blink more often to lubricate the eyes, and consider using a humidifier to increase moisture in your environment. Eating healthy fatty acids found in nuts and fatty fish, like salmon, may also help. If these home remedies don’t improve your dry eyes, talk to an ophthalmologist.

  • 6
    Some emotional tears signal when it’s time to seek professional help.
    Young Caucasian woman through window looking sad while standing at kitchen sink

    Frequent emotional crying can sometimes be a sign that the person needs to call a medical professional for help with a mental health issue, such as depression. Other signs of depression include: feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness; difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much; having trouble making decisions; losing interest in things that were once pleasurable; and thoughts of suicide. When frequent crying is coupled with other signs of depression, call your doctor.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Sep 2
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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  2. Why we cry. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/02/cry
  3. Benefits of crying. Michigan State University. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/benefits-of-crying
  4. Gračanin, A., Bylsma, L. M., & Vingerhoets, A. J. (2014). Is crying a self-soothing behavior?. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 502. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00502
  5. Overview of the Eyelids and Tears. Merck Manuals. https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/eye-disorders/eyelid-and-tearing-disorders/overview-of-the-eyelids-and-tears?query=crying
  6. Millings, A., Hepper, E. G., Hart, C. M., Swift, L., & Rowe, A. C. (2016). Holding Back the Tears: Individual Differences in Adult Crying Proneness Reflect Attachment Orientation and Attitudes to Crying. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1003. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01003
  7. Murube J. Hypotheses on the development of psychoemotional tearing. Ocul Surf. 2009;7(4):171-175. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1542-0124(12)70184-2
  8. Facts About Tears. American Academy of Ophthalmology. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/facts-about-tears
  9. All About Emotional Tears. American Academy of Ophthalmology. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/all-about-emotional-tears
  10. Four Ways to Fight Dry Eye. American Academy of Ophthalmology. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/four-ways-to-fight-dry-eye
  11. Bylsma LM, Gračanin A, Vingerhoets AJJM. The neurobiology of human crying. Clin Auton Res. 2019;29(1):63-73. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6201288/

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