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Valentina Carlile Osteopata
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  • Writer's pictureValentina Carlile DO

Health in tears

Health in tears

Crying, a phenomenon unique to humans, is a natural response to a range of emotions, from deep sadness, to pain, to extreme happiness, to joy.

But is crying good for your health?

The answer appears to be yes. The 'medical' benefits of crying have been known since classical times. Thinkers and physicians of ancient Greece and Rome hypothesized that tears act as a purgative, draining and cleansing us. Today's psychological thinking largely agrees, underlining the role of crying as a mechanism that allows us to release stress and emotional pain.

Crying is an important safety valve, especially for those who keep difficult feelings inside, a situation that psychologists call repressive coping: it can be harmful to our health.

Studies have linked repression to a less resilient immune system, cardiovascular disease and hypertension, as well as mental health conditions, including stress, anxiety and

depression. Crying has also been shown to increase attachment behavior, encouraging closeness, empathy, and support from friends and family.

Are all tears the same?

Science divides the liquid product of crying into three distinct categories: reflex tears, continuous tears and emotional tears. The first two categories perform the important function of removing debris such as smoke and dust from our eyes and lubricating our eyes to protect them from infections. Their content is 98% water.

It's the third category, emotional tears (which flush stress hormones and other toxins from our system), that potentially offers the greatest health benefits. Researchers have determined that crying releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, also known as endorphins. These feel-good chemicals help relieve both physical and emotional pain. Popular culture has always known the value of a good cry as a way to feel better, and perhaps even experience physical pleasure.

But what about what is said about male crying?

“I know a man shouldn't cry,” goes the lyrics, “but I can't keep these tears inside” (I Heard It Through The Gravine, by Marvin Gaye).

These words succinctly summarize many of a man's dilemmas regarding the expression of emotion. From the beginning, boys are told that real men don't cry. As these kids grow up, they may stuff their feelings deep inside and withdraw emotionally from their loved ones, or self-manage with alcohol or drugs, or even become suicidal. Many men, therefore, need to learn skills on how to reconnect with their emotions. In the 1990s, poet Robert Bly led workshops for men in which he taught participants how to get in touch with their long-buried feelings of sadness and loss and to cry openly if necessary.

Ideally, however, such education should start early, at home or at school, adults should give children confidence to talk about difficult feelings.


Valentina Carlile - Osteopath expert in Osteopathy applied to voice and speech disorders since 2002. For information and reservations visit the page Contacts

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