If you think about it, the relationship between the physical act of crying and the emotions that often provoke it (such as sadness, fear or joy) is not very obvious. We are used to seeing it as something natural (because it is) but we rarely consider the mechanisms by which this happens.
The peculiarities of crying
Specifically, the lacrimation that is produced by a certain emotional state is called crying , to differentiate it from other forms of secreting tears for other reasons.
Crying is a curious phenomenon for several reasons. On the one hand, because it is thought to be exclusive to the human species (although there are scientific voices that have questioned this). On the other, because it involves a loss of biological resources (such as water or salts) that does not fulfill its usual functional purpose (protect the eyeball from external threats).
Furthermore, it is known that the tears produced by this cause have a different chemical composition than other types, for example with a higher concentration of certain types of hormones.
What are we crying for?
What is not clear, on the other hand, is why or what we cry for. The theories are varied, and range from making analogies between physical pain (when it is a response to this stimulus, tears do fulfill a clear function, since they are analgesic) and emotional pain, to attributing endocrine functions to them.
For example, one of these theories states that crying would be a second use that human beings found for tearing as a form of non-verbal communication. This thesis relies heavily on the fact that it is babies’ way of making their needs known to their caregivers.
In this sense, the zoologist Oren Hasson believes that crying can make individuals show their vulnerability to their peers, awakening their protective instincts and increasing cohesion in the group.
Another hypothesis, formulated by biochemist William Frey, is that tears are a homeostatic regulatory mechanism . In fact, this is linked to the higher concentration of certain hormones in crying tears that we mentioned earlier.
And, in fact, several of these hormones, such as adenocorticotropin, are related to very high stress levels, so their expulsion would be, according to this idea, a way to return to more normalized (and less harmful) levels of the same.