How Crying Works

Cry It Out

The relative of a Medellin, Colombia, landslide victim cries during the funeral on June 2, 2008.
The relative of a Medellin, Colombia, landslide victim cries during the funeral on June 2, 2008.
Raul Arboleda /AFP/Getty Images

As already mentioned, many people and even scientists believe crying is beneficial. Frey believes that crying could be a safety mechanism of sorts because it rids the body of stress-related toxins. Whether or not you buy into this theory, most psychologists believe that holding your emotions in can be dangerous over the long-term. In fact, some research indicates that stifling emotional tears can cause elevated risk of heart disease and hypertension. Other studies have shown that people suffering from such conditions as colitis or ulcers tend to have a less positive attitude about crying than their healthier counterparts. Psychologists recommend that people suffering from grief express their emotions through talking and crying, rather than keeping their emotions in check.

Unfortunately, many diseases and conditions feature crying as a main symptom, rather than a solution. For example, postpartum depression (PPD) is a substantial period of emotional upset experienced by about 9 to 16 percent of women following childbirth. It can result in excessive crying, among other symptoms (see for a full description of the disorder and its symptoms).

Increased crying is also common in individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), often endured by those who experience violent crime or another serious emotional upset, as well as soldiers returning from war (visit for more information on the possible emotional repercussions of military deployment).

Overall, it's important to remember that crying is a critical part of the human emotional makeup, just as laughing is. While you may not want to cry in front of your boss or an ex-boyfriend who's with his beautiful new girlfriend, it is largely believed to be better both emotionally and physically to "let it out" rather than keeping it all inside.

See the links below for more information on crying, emotions and related topics.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • American Psychological Association. "Postpartum Depression." APA Online.
  • China "The Benefits of Crying."
  • Flintoff, John-Paul. "Why We Cry." The 30 Aug 2003.
  • Hingston, Sandy. "Why We Cry." Women's Health. Oct 2006.
  • Kary, Tiffany. "Crying Over Spilled Semen." Psychology Today. 10 June 2008.
  • LaRaia, Barbara. "Gender Differences and the Health Benefits of Crying." San Mateo Daily Journal. 12 Jan 2006.
  • Munsey, Christopher. "Operation Cope and Heal." APA Monitor. April 2007.
  • PBS Kids. "Dealing with Death: Let it Go, Let it Out."
  • PBS Kids. "Dealing with Death: What is Grief?"
  • Thomson, Desson. "Why We Cry at the Movies." Seattle Times. 12 Nov 2007.
  • U.S. Library of Congress. "Why does chopping an onion make you cry?"
  • Witchalls, Clint. "Join the Blub: The Benefits of Crying." The Independent. 10 April 2007.