Among the most commons reasons we cry are frustration, stress and seeing or reading something sad. Serious events like illness, crime and death make it almost impossible not to shed tears. In most cases, crying is a way of releasing pent-up emotions that can be quite harmful if held back -- it's sort of a safety valve. Research has shown that refusing to cry it out can increase the risk of hypertension and heart disease. However, not all crying is caused by emotional trauma or stress. In many conditions and diseases, crying is a major symptom; an example is postpartum depression, which affects between about 9 and 16 percent of women after childbirth.
Crying is intrinsic to human nature and runs the gamut from children to adults, men (yes, grown men do cry) and women. It's interesting to compare people's crying patterns at the different stages in their lives.
- Newborns cry for any need or difficulty they have: hunger, gas, sleepiness, etc.
- At around 10 months, babies add other crying reasons to their repertoire, such as getting attention. Some specialists claim this is the start of manipulative crying.
- During childhood, boys and girls are thought to cry equally.
- In adolescence, differences in crying patterns emerge, with boys crying less and girls crying more.
- This pattern continues until middle age, when it reverses. Men tend to cry more and women cry less. In addition, men tend to cry over major losses, whereas women tend to cry when frustrated.
And what about the composition of tears? Most people think of them as containing only salt water, and they certainly taste that way. However, tears may also contain mucus, protein, oil and, in some cases, even hormones (mainly when tears are shed for emotional reasons). Tears come in three varieties:
- Basal tears, which prevent the eyes from becoming completely dry; the body actually produces about 5-10 ounces (150-300 milliliters) of these tears every day
- Reflex tears, which protect the eyes from irritants like dust, onions and smoke by washing them out
- Emotional tears, which are released when a sad event occurs and the brain signals the release of hormones that cause tears to flow
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