No mammal, apart from humans, sheds emotional tears, although most animals can produce tears when suffering pain.
Only humans from birth to old age can respond to crises such as grief, laughter, fear, even anger by crying. Emotional tears are a necessary part of the human makeup.
The act of crying releases emotional tensions and has a beneficial effect on both the mind and body.
The composition of tears brought about by an emotional event differs from the normal tear fluid that we produce as a constant to clean and lubricate the eyes.
They contain more protein based hormones and a naturally produced pain killer (leucine enkephalin). These tears are called psychic tears, often referred to as ‘weeping’ or ‘crying’ tears.
From birth we are programmed to produce psychic tear fluid, although a newborn child may cry without shedding tears until its nervous system develops.
All adults, but particularly mothers, will respond to a crying baby instinctively and attempt to comfort the child and alleviate any obvious causes of discomfort.
The human brain is programmed to find the sound of an infant crying to be irritating so that a quick response is triggered. This is a reason why some parents or child minders with limited self-control mistreat babies.
Tears form very easily in the young, especially as they respond to outside influences such as pain, hunger and temperature differences and are a subconscious way of bringing attention to themselves and their plight, real or imaginary.
As we grow older and gain more control over our emotions, only the more severe crisis in our lives will lead to the shedding of psychic tears.
In western and many other cultures it has been considered unmanly for males to exhibit their emotions by crying although this seems now to be breaking down.
Nevertheless females do seem to produce psychic tears more readily than men possibly due more to age-old habits than any difference in the brain mechanism.
As we approach old age so the lachrymal gland behind the top eyelid of each eye begins to lose its ability to produce copious quantities of tears.
The aged can still cry emotional tears and in many cases the amount of tear fluid is noticeably reduced. This does not mean that they are suffering any less emotional tension than if they were younger.
Do not be afraid or embarrassed to cry, try to remember that letting your emotions out will relieve your stress and is good for your health and well being.