Having A Big Cry Can Actually Be Good For You

Though without the right support it can make us feel worse.

28/06/2016 1:33 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:56 PM AEST
Own those tears.

Whether it's photos of your best friend's newborn or an Adele song that's pushed you over the edge, sometimes having a good cry just feels right.

And there's good reason for this.

"Crying can absolutely be good for us. Crying provides an outlet for emotion, and helps us to communicate our feelings and emotions to others," Aliza Werner-Seidler, research fellow and clinical psychologist at the Black Dog Institute told The Huffington Post Australia.

Experts agree crying is critical for problem-solving, the recognition of emotion and as an extension of that, our overall wellbeing.

"Research has shown that people are more willing to provide support to people who are visibly crying, relative to those who are not," Werner-Seidler said.

What's more is individuals living with a condition where they are unable to cry have more difficulty identifying their own feelings, relative to those can cry.

While babies use crying as a primary form of communication, for adults it's more about expressing and processing our emotions.

Why do women cry more than men?

Seminal work conducted in the 1980s suggested that women cry about fives times a month, while men cry on average once a month.

These figures are still relevant according to some recent research carried out by leaders in the field in 2011 (Lauren Blysma, Journal of Research in Personality, 2011).

"There are several reasons for this, including the fact that biologically, greater testosterone may inhibit crying in men, while women produce more prolactin, which may increase propensity to cry.

"That said, there are significant cultural factors which are likely also to account for this gender difference," Werner-Seidler said.

"We know that when individuals experience intense emotion but do not express it, this can lead to negative consequences," Werner-Seidler said.

These include the unwanted expression of bottled-up emotions later, at a less than ideal time.

"Holding in strong emotion can be like a pressure cooker –- at some point it has to come out," Werner-Seidler said.

When crying signals emotion to others it can be helpful and therapeutic, provided they receive support and help to problem solve the issue that led to crying in the first place.

When the floodgates do eventually open, Werner-Seidler explains whether a cry will be carthatic or not depends on the reason for crying in the first place, as well as the level of support available.

"When crying signals emotion to others it can be helpful and therapeutic, provided they receive support and help to problem solve the issue that led to crying in the first place," Werner-Seidler said.

Whereas crying in situations where someone is likely to feel ashamed or embarrassed because of the crying will likely leave the individual feeling worse, Werner-Seidler said.

On top of that, research shows crying can have a negative effect on mood if you are with unsupportive people or if you cried because you saw suffering.

The takeaway? We're humans, not robots. Crying is a part of the human experience and tears can be for both joy and happiness as well as feelings of overwhelm, sadness and suffering. And making sure you have the right support around in times of adversity will make all the difference.

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