Crying can occur when you’re in physical or emotional pain or when you experience an unexpected life event. Many mood-altering benefits occur when you cry.

Crying is a typical part of the human experience. Some people rarely cry, and others cry more frequently. There are many reasons why someone might cry; often, it can be relieving to express sadness, joy, anger, or frustration.

If you feel better after a good cry, this may be because crying releases endorphins and can reduce stress levels. There are many benefits to crying instead of holding your tears in. The science behind crying may surprise you.

Your mental health can be impacted if you hold back tears or try hard not to cry. But crying isn’t a sign of weakness, and there are many reasons why crying can benefit you.

One reason why people may cry is to signal distress. This is often seen in babies and infants who don’t have the words to vocalize what they need.

For example, in babies, crying often signals that they are hungry, in pain, or have dirty diapers. Crying may also signal physical or emotional distress in children, adults, and adolescents.

Feelings of being overwhelmed, stressed out, or angry are common reasons someone may cry in distress. Crying can also occur when you’re frustrated about a situation or have an unexpected life event.

Grief is one of life’s inevitable stressors you will face at some point in your lifetime. Grief can be overwhelming and make it challenging to complete your daily activities.

Many people cry to express their grief, which can be a typical part of the grieving process. Not everyone can cry when they experience a loss, and they may use other outlets to express emotion, like journaling or joining a support group.

There are many similarities in the experiences of losing both a loved one and a pet. Research suggests that people have similar language in online forums when talking about the loss of a human compared to talking about a pet.

They also suggest similarities in grief symptoms, such as sadness and crying, in both types of losses.

Depression is different than sadness, as sadness is an emotion, and depression is a mental health condition. But one symptom of depression is frequent crying.

Speaking to a mental health professional may be helpful if you’re frequently crying. By getting professional help, you can learn about your emotions and receive treatment for depression.

When you’re physically hurt, and in pain, crying is a natural response. Physical injury can signal that you’re in distress and need or want another person to help you.

When you’re in physical pain, your body becomes more stressed and releases cortisol, the stress hormone. Crying can release cortisol and help your body recover from the pain you experienced.

If you feel better after a good cry, this may be because of a release of endorphins. Endorphins are feel-good chemicals that can impact your physical and mental health.

When you cry, your tears can also lower cortisol. Older 2014 research suggests that one mechanism of crying that helps you self-soothe is the release of endorphins, such as oxytocin and cortisol, which can help improve mood.

Have you ever cried happy tears? For some people, the experience of joy produces tears. This is commonly seen during positive life events such as a child’s birth or weddings.

Crying doesn’t have to be reserved for times when you are in physical or emotional pain. Expressing happy tears when you’re happy is healthy.

People tend to feel more empathetic to those who cry. A comprehensive research study of 7,007 participants found that those exposed to faces with and without tears were more likely to support those with tearful faces.

The researchers propose that crying could be a form of social bonding for some, as those seen as tearful are viewed as warm. They also note that those who observe people crying often feel connected to people who are crying, which might increase social connection.

Crying has benefits for your eyes as well. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), tears protect your eyes, shielding them from dirt, debris, and irritants.

Tears can help lubricate your eyes and protect them from bacteria. So crying is a way to help ensure your eyes stay healthy.

What happens if I hold in my tears?

If you hold in your tears, you may not be able to express emotions in a healthy way. Since crying releases endorphins like oxytocin, you may generally experience a lower mood if you hold in your tears.

It may be challenging to cry because of the stigma of expressing emotions. Not crying and trying to hold back your tears could harm your mental health, as suppressing emotions can lead to depression, anxiety, or increased stress levels.

Some people generally cry less than others, which can be healthy. If you don’t cry much, you may express emotions in other ways and still have healthy outlets for dealing with physical or emotional pain.

Was this helpful?

Crying usually occurs in response to emotional or physical pain, but it can also be expressed as happy tears. When you cry, endorphins are released, causing you to feel calmer and reduce stress.

If you want healthy eyes, crying can help protect your eyes from harmful irritants and debris. On the other hand, if you hold in your tears and don’t allow yourself to cry, this could harm your mental health — although some people don’t cry much and have other healthy outlets.

If you think you may have depression or mental health challenges because you can’t cry or frequently cry, you may consider talking to a mental health professional. Consider visiting Psych Central’s resource page to find a mental health professional near you.