All humans cry. It’s good for you. It’s healthy. Crying releases stress and toxins. Of course, we don’t want to be crying all the time. Especially, because we know what it feels like to be so sad, so hurt, so lost, so broke, so frustrated, so confused, etc.. We don’t want to feel that way. We want to feel happy and enjoy the sweetness of life. But sometimes that makes us cry too! Why is that? Why do we cry when we’re happy? Is our happiness making us sad?


In our brains, we have a tiny almond sized hypothalamus. This little part of the brain can’t really tell the difference between happy or sad, or other emotions. It just gets a strong neural signal from the amygdala (which registers our emotions), and then it activates the autonomic nervous system (which is involuntary). That involuntary system has two parts: sympathetic (fight or flight, affects our bodily reactions during stress) and parasympathetic (rest and digest, calms us during stress).


That calming part of the nervous system is actually connected to our tear ducts and that’s how they’re activated. So basically, we feel an intense emotion of any kind, our brain communicates within itself to calm us which results in tears.


From a psychological perspective, there’s a theory that says “all emotional crying arises from the notion of perceived helplessness, or the idea that one feels powerless when one can’t influence what is going on around them.” So no matter what kind of emotion we feel, it could also be attached to a reflexive response to the uncontrollable. There’s another theory that says “crying is a social cue designed to show vulnerability, solicit sympathy from bystanders, and advertise social trust and a need for attachment.” That’s why people respond to our crying and why they’re responses make us feel better (assuming they respond comforting).


This all explains why we feel better after crying. That release feels good. That comfort feels good. Even if we’re happy. We shouldn’t hold back our tears because we’re meant to cry. If our body is triggering tears, it’s because our brain says we need it. Some people do cry more than others. This doesn’t make their tears worth any less. They probably just feel more intensely than others. Regardless, an involuntary part of the brain is involved in the process of activating our tears. However, it’s worth looking into if you’re always crying; to see why you feel so much, so intensely, and why you’re tears are easily and frequently triggered.


If you or someone you know experiences frequent crying and intense emotions and thoughts, contact Crownview Medical Group to get in touch with a medical professional who can provide some advice based on your individual needs.




Hasson, O. Emotional tears as biological signals. Evol Psychol 7: 363-370 (2009).


Miceli, M. and C. Castelfranchi. Crying: Discussing its basic reasons and uses. New Ideas Psychol 21: 247-273 (2003).


Mitchelson, F. Muscarinic receptor agonists and antagonists: Effects on ocular function. Handbook Exp Pharmacol 208: 263-298 (2012).