Some of us cry at the drop of a hat, while others tend to be more stoic. In very simple terms, we cry when we are happy or when we are sad.

But crying is more complicated than that. According to Stephen Sideroff, PhD, a staff psychologist at Santa Monica–University of California Los Angeles & Orthopaedic Hospital, ”people cry in response to something of beauty. There, I use the word ‘melting.’ They are letting go of their guard, their defenses, tapping into a place deep inside themselves…it’s a build-up of energy with feelings.”

Additionally, it is believed that crying releases stress hormones. Crying is often referred to as a “good cry”. This is generally the case, but some may feel worse if they are already suffering from depression.  And women cry more than men because that’s always been more socially acceptable. However, that may be changing. People who show their emotions are usually thought of as more honest. When someone cries, it shows their vulnerability, Sideroff says. “I think in general, people are uncomfortable with vulnerability.” When the crier exhibits vulnerability, “it’s shifting the level of intimacy of the environment.”

“Those who suppress emotions and cannot cry may be jeopardizing their physical health”, says Jodi  DeLuca, a neuropsychologist at Tampa General Hospital.  She cites a saying attributed to British psychiatrist Henry Maudsley, among others: “The sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep.”

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