Crying is so much a part of our lives and whether we do it freely before people or in private spaces where no one can see us. Sometimes, the condition of built up emotions and any number of factors lead to the tell tale stream of liquid descending from our eyes. Using a Ted Ed Video by Alex Gendler, titled; “Why Do We Cry? The Three Types of Tears,” where he attempts to explain the physiology of tears using three classifications, we will now explore some teary facts.
We actually cry every second of our lives, and this is not at all gender dependent. Every second, every woman and man is crying and producing the same type of tears. The physiology is that the lacrimal gland which is located in the outer part of the upper eye, constantly secretes a protein rich antibacterial liquid. This liquid is continually going from the outer edge of the eyeball towards the cornea and lubricates the entire surface of the eye anytime we blink.
What we are however, more familiar with and term crying is when excess liquid overwhelms the drains of the nasal canal of the tear duct and the liquid then overflows, sliding down our cheeks. in this it would seem that women more than men shed more tears. Women cry an average of 5.3 times a month while men cry an average of 1.3 times a month. This could be attributed to a biological wiring which has it that female tear glands are much smaller than men’s, according to a study published in the Journal of Research in Personality in 2011.
With those understandings now planted, we can consider the three types of tears Alex Gendler speaks about:
Basal Tears: These tears are always in our eyes and are there for the sake of lubricating, nourishing and protecting the eyes.
Reflex Tears: These type of tears protect the eyes from irritants like wind, onions, vapors and smoke. They will most likely flow freely in the face of any discomfort, leaving you teary eyed.
Psychic Tears: Psychic tears are produced by emotion and they contain protein-based hormones including the neurotransmitter leucine enkephalin, which is a natural painkiller that is released when we are stressed. They also help signal our emotional state to other people around us.
Next time you need to have a good cry, you should feel free to do so, it is one of the most natural things on earth and it does a lot for stress levels or in the case of basal and reflex tears; protection of your eyes and surely there can be no shame in that.