(ORDO NEWS) — It’s been a rough week and you’re feeling frazzled and you suddenly find yourself crying at a pretty diaper ad.
Or maybe you caught a cold or contracted the coronavirus, and the fact that your partner used all the milk just makes you want to cry.
Perhaps you are really sad because you are sick or tired, but what are these tears for? Why can’t you control yourself?
Tears perform many psychological functions. Tears serve as a physical indicator of our internal emotional state, they appear when we experience intense sadness or intense joy.
Inside our brain, strong emotions activate the central autonomic network.
This network has two parts: the sympathetic system (which activates our fight-or-flight response when we perceive danger) and the parasympathetic nervous system, which brings the body back to its resting state.
Strong emotions activate the sympathetic part of this system, but when we cry, the parasympathetic part is activated, which makes us feel better.
What happens when we are stressed or tired?
From a very young age, we are taught to control our emotions, with socially stipulated times for expressing emotions while refraining from the physical manifestation of negative emotions.
For example, it’s okay to cry while watching a sad movie, but crying at work is generally considered less acceptable.
The prefrontal cortex, or the cold, thinking part of our brain, responds to emotional cues from the central autonomic network, helping us regulate our emotional response to deal with emotions in controlled ways. The prefrontal cortex is like the main processor in your computer, managing tasks to keep the system running smoothly.
Unfortunately, the more stressed and tired we are, or if we experience long periods of physical or emotional pain, the sympathetic system remains activated.
The prefrontal cortex becomes overloaded, like a computer running too many programs at the same time.
The brain becomes less able to regulate our emotions in the expected way, leading to visible emotional reactions such as tears or outbursts of anger.
We may not even realize how overwhelmed we are until tears run down our face after a seemingly insignificant incident or experience.
Some people are more prone to crying than others. Women tend to cry more than men, although the extent to which this is due to biological characteristics and societal expectations is unclear.
People who score high on empathy or neuroticism are more likely to cry.
Excessive crying can also be a physical sign of depression, as the brain is overwhelmed by emotional pain.
What is the meaning of tears?
In addition to psychological causes, tears play several social roles. While our society may frown on strong expressions of emotion, tears actually help create and maintain social bonds.
Tears can serve as a cry for help, visibly showing others that we are not all right and we need support.
Tears often evoke feelings of empathy in other people, helping us connect with them.
Tears can also occur when we feel deep empathy for another person, crying with them, which further strengthens social bonds.
In addition to psychological and social reasons, there are also physical reasons for crying.
For example, when we are tired, we make an effort to keep our eyes open, which dries out the eyes. Our bodies produce tears to resist dryness by keeping our eyes moist so we can see clearly.
Watery eyes are also common in respiratory conditions such as colds, flu, and coronavirus.
When an infection occurs in the body, white blood cells are mobilized to fight it. These extra white blood cells can inflame the blood vessels in the eyes, leading to blockage of the eye ducts, causing watery eyes.
Tears are a natural part of the human body. Especially with the pressure that the last few years have put on, sometimes there’s nothing better than a good cry to release the overwhelmed emotions.
But if you find yourself crying too often, it may be worth talking to your doctor about possible physical or psychological causes.
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