Crying Has These Surprising Health Benefits

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Crying Has These Surprising Health Benefits
Photo © Chepko Danil –

Everybody needs a good cry here and there. Whether it’s because of an intense emotion like sadness or anger, we’ve all had situations where we cried our eyes out. You might think that you are weak and vulnerable whenever you shed tears, but crying is a natural response to a stressful or intense situation.In fact, it can be a healthy way to release the emotions that are bottled up inside you. So the next time you feel like crying, don’t hold it in! Remember that crying can improve your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Listed below are ways crying can benefit your health.

1. Crying Flushes Toxins From The Body

In the 1980s, Dr. William H. Frey, a biochemist and director of the Psychiatry Research and Laboratories at St. Paul-Ramsey Medical Clinic, focused on crying; specifically the biological effects of crying on the body. Dr. Frey reported that tears caused by emotion had higher levels of protein and manganese compared to normal tears that simply lubricate the eyes. Because of this, he theorized out that tears can rid the body of potentially harmful, stress-induced chemicals. Like the body’s excretory processes such as urinating, sweating, and defecating, crying can release toxins from the body by getting rid of chemicals released due to stress, or vice-versa. [1][2]

2. Crying Helps Improve The Way You Communicate Your Emotions

Crying can show emotions that we cannot express through words. In fact, according to Dr. Frey, crying episodes were typically triggered by interpersonal communication problems, like an argument. He states that crying, in general, is largely affected by our environment and the way we communicate with others. Judith Nelson, a psychotherapist who published a book on crying and attachment, says that crying can also reflect our attachment styles. People who are comfortable with crying are usually have no problems with attachment while people who have problems expressing their tears usually have insecure or dismissive attachment styles. The latter attachment styles are typically seen in people who have difficulty communicating and connecting with others. On the other hand, crying too much suggests clingy attachment or people who are overly dependent on others. [2]

For infants, crying serves as the only communication tool they have if they are hungry, in pain, or are experiencing discomfort. As adults, the book Evolutionary Psychology, reports that crying can also affect the way we interact with others. A study mentioned in the book found that people who looked at pictures of faces with tears found them sadder than pictures of essentially the same faces but without any tears. This has an effect on how we communicate with people who are crying; tears become a “social lubricant” by facilitating communication and changing the way we do it. [3]

3. Crying Is Cathartic

Crying is one of the best ways to release all that pent-up feelings and frustrations, thereby reducing stress. According to a study conducted among 5,096 people, 70% said that crying proved to be positive and comforting. However, the study also reported that instances that began with attempts to suppress crying or involved feels of shame during crying were less likely to be cathartic. [4] Psychologists believe that crying is healthier than keeping all your emotions to yourself.

4. Crying Can Help You Come To Term With Loss

A New York Times article reports on several examples of people coping better with loss through crying. They insisted that crying allowed them to think more clearly about something that they had lost, that it let them recover mental balance after a loss and helped them “absorb a blow”. However, we must all be aware that there are different types of crying, and that not all crying is beneficial since the act is very personal and its effects vary from person to person. Protest crying, or the act of crying that is a call of help (typically seen in infants and small children), can be detrimental if the person or child is unable to soothe themselves or be soothed by their loved ones afterwards. [5]

5. Helps Improve Your Mood

Researchers have found out that crying has mood-enhancing effects and can lift your spirits better than anti-depressants. Gracanin, et. al. found that crying was able to improve mood only after a certain period of time had elapsed. This may also explain why various publications have consistently reported crying being unable to do so – because mood “measurements” were only done immediately after crying. In people who do not suppress crying, crying can be seen a self-soothing behavior and reduces the onset of anxiety and depression. [6]

6. Kills Bacteria And Keeps The Eyes Moist

Our tears contain lysozyme, an enzyme that kills bacteria. Lysozyme is similarly found in semen, saliva, and breast milk. A fascinating study found out that lysozyme prevents the growth of bioterror agents such as smallpox and anthrax. Similarly, a study by McDermott in 2013 focused on the antibacterial properties of tears, focusing on lysosome and mucosal fluids. Physiologically, tears act as a protectant that wash away dust and debris from the eye surface, as well as lubricate the eyeballs and the eyelids which keeps the eye moist. [7]


[1] Brody, J. 1982. Biological Role of Emotional Stress Emerges Through Recent Studies.

[2] Harvard Health Publication. Four sob stories.

[3] Collier, L. (2014). Why we cry.

[4] Bylsma, L. et al. 2008. When Is Crying Cathartic?

[5] Carey, B. 2009. The Muddled Tracks of All Those Tears.

[6] Gračanin, A. et al. 2014. Why crying does and sometimes does not seem to alleviate mood: a quasi-experimental study.

[7] McDermott, A. (2013). Antimicrobial compounds in tears.

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