“The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears”. John Vance Cheney (Poet)

At times there’s nothing like a good old cry to help us feel better. Many experts subscribe to the view that tears act as a release valve by helping the body to disperse deep emotion which if left unexpressed may affect us both physically and emotionally.

However, excessive crying can be a sign of more serious conditions such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and postnatal depression which might necessitate professional therapeutic or medical intervention.

Neuroscientist and tear researcher Dr William H. Frey II, has spent 15 years studying the effects of crying. His research has shown that 85% of women and 73% of men felt less sad and angry after crying. According to Frey, “crying is not only a human response to sorrow and frustration, it’s a healthy one”. He found that there is an important chemical difference between emotional or stress-related tears and those simply caused by physical irritants such as when cutting onions.

In 1922 bacteriologist Alexander Fleming discovered that human tears contain a germ-fighting enzyme which he named lysozyme. Each tear that you shed contains a mass of these enzymes. So it seems there are many benefits from crying, for a start crying is a natural way to reduce emotional stress by flushing out the stress hormone cortisol. Too much of this chemical can lead to stress related health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity. A Japanese study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis found that the people who cried more easily had less pain and fewer symptoms than those that bottled-up their tears.

If you are in the company of someone that is crying the best thing you can do is just listen. Be patient and give of your time, don’t expect explanations as to why they are crying; they will tell you in their own time and of their own choosing. Some people may want a hug whilst others could find physical contact really uncomfortable so it is always best to check this out with them. Don’t be tempted to say ‘stop crying’ you could be preventing them from experiencing a cathartic emotional release which can be both healing and cleansing at the same time!