Do tears of joy, laugh, grieve, and others contain different things or are they all the same?
are always in our eyes to serve the purpose of lubricating, nourishing, and protecting the eyes.
protect the eyes from irritants, including wind, smoke, or onions.
Tears produced by emotion
Although these tears contain higher levels of stress, such as ACTH and enkephalin, and endorphin and natural pain killer, they can also work by directly calming the iris down while signaling the emotional state to others.
Secretion of tears
The lacrimal gland, located in the outer part of the upper eye, is constantly secreting a protein-rich, antibacterial liquid. This fluid goes from the outer edge of the eyeball toward the cornea and lubricates the entire eye surface every time we blink.
Why We Cry and What Tears Are Made Of
Wondering what are tears good for? Well, lots of things. According to wellness expert Michael Roizen, MD, tears are extremely useful. They help you see clearly. They wash debris from your eyes. They communicate all kinds of feelings.
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On the subject, you may also be wondering other things like what are tears made of? Why do tears taste salty? Do women cry more than men? Or what happens when you make too many tears?
Dr. Roizen walks us through all of the amazing facts about the fluid that fills our eyes each and every day.
Why do we cry?
We cry for a variety of reasons. “Crying for emotional reasons makes you feel better, releases tension and gives you a psychic reboot,” Dr. Roizen says. “Crying also happens for physical reasons to deliver nutrients and wash out stress-related toxins. And we cry for social reasons to communicate distress, sincerity, attraction, aversion – depending on the context.”
The fluid that makes up tears contains water, for moisture and oils for lubrication and to prevent evaporation of tear liquid. Tears also contain mucus for even spreading of tears on the surface of the eyes as well as antibodies and special proteins for resistance to infection. Oxygen and nutrients are also transported to the surface cells of the eyes by tears, since there are no blood vessels on the eyes.
There are three kinds of tears, and each has very different jobs. Some tears keep your eyes moist, some wash away debris and protect your eyes from infections, Dr. Roizen says. Some tears are paired with our emotions.
Here’s why without all three kinds, life would look much blurrier.
The 3 kinds of tears
- Basal tears. These are your basic tears. The eyes roll around in them all day. They contain oil, mucus, water and salt, and help to fight infections. The oil keeps your tears in place and prevents them from evaporating into the atmosphere. Blinking spreads them evenly over the surface of the eye.
- Irritant tears. These are your eyewash tears. They come gushing out of glands under the eyebrows when you peel onions, vomit or get dust in your eye. They flush out irritants to keep your eyes clean.
- Psychic or emotional tears. These tears gush in response to strong emotions like sadness, grief, joy or anger. They all contain the same chemical makeup, but more stress hormones and natural painkillers than other kinds of tears. Humans and animals have compounds in our body fluids that give off subtle messages to other members of the species. That’s why sometimes our tears can relay chemical messages (either intended or unintended) to someone close by like, “stay away,” for example.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology emotional tears are triggered by empathy, compassionate and societal pain, physical pain, attachment-related pain, and sentimental or moral feelings. Some studies also suggest people are more likely to feel better after crying if they received social support while doing it.
Why are tears salty?
All fluids in the body have a little salt in them, Dr. Roizen notes. The salt content in tears is about the same as the salt content of blood plasma. Salt is necessary to the proper functioning of the body overall.
Do women cry more often than men?
Yes. About 60% more in fact. Nobody knows why. But a chemical in psychic tears is associated with the production of breast milk. So that’s something research does consider. Men also have smaller tear ducts which may factor in.
Why do tears come out of your nose?
This is not pretty, but it’s nature’s way. The nose and eyes are connected by tiny passages. Tears are, in fact, meant to drain down your nose and throat.
When you have too many tears
The tiny openings in the inner corner of your eyelids are drains. When you get a cold, they can swell and get blocked. Then tears overflow onto your face. Sometimes the tear glands produce too little oil for the basal tear mix. This can also cause an ongoing tear spill. If you have this problem, talk to your doctor because there are treatments that can help.
Why do my eyes get dry?
Your eyes can temporarily dry out because of atmospheric conditions. But they can also dry out from disease. Some medications and cancer treatments can also cause dry eyes. “Drug stores carry different types of artificial tears to treat dry eyes,” Dr. Roizen recommends. “But if this sort of thing goes on, see your doctor to obtain treatments that can help with any eye conditions you may have and treat the underlying causes.”
There’s a neurological condition called pathological laughing and crying. It’s caused by Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and other brain diseases. If this happens, be sure to consult your doctor and details your symptoms so you can receive the proper treatment, Dr. Roizen says.
True or false?
If the first tear comes from the right eye, it means happiness and if it comes from the left eye, it’s sadness. Short answer: No. Long answer: Not true.
“Remember, all tears are there for the greater good,” Dr. Roizen says, “so there’s absolutely no need for you to ever hold them back.”
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The Whole Bushel
We all do it, even if we don’t all want to admit it. Everyone cries, whether it’s while watching a sad movie, attending a funeral, peeling onions, or maybe feeling like it’s all just too much for today. In fact, we’re all crying just a little bit all the time, we just don’t notice as much as we do when we find ourselves crying the more obvious types of tears.
The tears that we’re crying all the time are called basal tears. Produced by our lacrimal glands, they’re constantly dripping into our eyes and flushed away through drainage tubes called lacrimal puncta. These tears are there to protect our eyes from dirt and debris as well as to make sure the surface layer is kept clear. When all is well with basal tears, we don’t even know that they’re there.
There’s also one of the most notorious types of tears—emotional tears. These are, of course, the kind of tears that are cried when we’re upset, in pain, or even incredibly happy. The makeup of these tears is different from other types of tears emotional tears contain high levels of hormones like ACTH, which is involved with the regulation of stress in the body. When we’re crying emotional tears, it’s part of our body’s emergency response system to help re-balance our mood and emotions by flushing some extra hormones out of the body. These tears also contain enkephalin, which is a sort of all-natural painkiller that might also have something to do with why we tend to feel a sense of emotional relief after we’ve had a really good cry.
It’s also been found that emotional tears have another effect—a decrease in libido. An experiment by researchers at the Weizmann Institute exposed male volunteers to the scents, both detectable and non-detectable, from tears that had been cried by female volunteers watching a sad movie. In spite of tears being odorless and absolutely indistinguishable from saline solution, men who were asked to smell samples of the clear liquid and then rate the attractiveness of members of the opposite sex were shown to react much, much less favorably to a pretty face after they’d smelled tears.
It wasn’t just an emotional thing, either physiologically, the men demonstrated decreased levels of testosterone when they were smelling the tears, supporting the long-held but never-proven idea that there’s something about emotional tears that includes a chemical signal that alerts others to emotional or physical distress.
Reflex tears are another type of tear that our eyes are capable of producing. These are the ones that happen when you get dust or dirt in your eyes, or you’ve been peeling onions. Not only do the eyes produce these tears in greater quantities, but they also contain antibodies to help protect the eye from any germs or bacteria that might have been deposited there by irritants.
Some tears are just one part of what’s going on in our body when they happen, and they can be associated with a whole host of other effects. Emotional tears might be accompanied by an increased heart rate and a tightening in your throat, but not all types of tears trigger this reaction.
Tears also look pretty incredible under a microscope, no matter what type they are. Photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher got interested in the microscopic appearance of tears after a few difficult years in which she shed a lot of her own, and the results are stunning. When tears dry, they form some pretty amazing patterns that are reminiscent to something you might see freezing on your window during a snowstorm or anywhere on Google maps.
Where do tears come from and why do we cry?
Tears are made by little glands above our eyes, called tear glands, or lacrimal glands. There is one gland above each eye each produce tears that travel to the eye through tiny pipes, called ducts. There are a number of these tear (lacrimal) ducts behind our upper eye lids.
Our tear ducts are constantly producing tears, to keep our eyes clean and moist, but we don’t usually even notice. When we blink we wipe the tear fluid over our eyes, keeping them moist. This fluid is then drained off from the eyes through more ducts. It is only when we start producing a lot more tears that we start to notice them. The ducts that drain the fluid away cannot cope with all the extra tears and they start to run down our cheeks.
What are tears made of?
Tears are basically made of slightly salty water. They also contain enzymes that kill bacteria and vitamins and minerals. Some tears contain proteins, called hormones, that can change how we feel.
Why do we cry?
Scientists are still working this one out. We do know that we cry different kinds of tears in response to different things. Science defines crying as the process of producing tears in response to an emotion – be it sadness, fear, anger or happiness. When we produce tears to clear something out of our eye or to moisten the eye… Then we call this lacrimation.
So how does it all work? Well, the emotional crying seems to be triggered as a response to activity in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. This part of the brain responds to our different emotions and can produce chemicals, called neurotransmitter, that will travel to specific parts of the body and induce a response. In the case of crying, the neurotransmitter produced is called acetylcholine and it triggers tear production in the lacrimal gland.
The reason why our brain responds in this way to emotions can vary. Babies, for example, cry to communicate with us… Telling us the are tired, hungry or in pain. This makes sense as they do not have many other forms of communication available to them. But why do we still cry here we are all grown up? It may be that crying creates other responses in our bodies, our heart rate changes, our breathing alters and other chemicals are released into the body. Crying can make us feel better.
Crying also allows us to show people how we feel! We may have evolved our crying mechanism to let people know what we are feeling, or to get sympathy or support.
Sometimes we cry when we see others hurt or sad and this created empathy, something that allows us build strong bonds and create supportive communities.
What different types of tears are there?
As I said above, we have three types of tears and they are…
Basal tears – these are the ones we produce to keep our eyes moist
Reflex tears – we produce these in response to something else, usually something that is irritating our eye… From a small piece of dirt to a strong chemical, such as the vapour off a cut onion.
Emotional tears – these are the ones that get switched on by our emotions, even if we try to suppress them! These tears make us human!
Do emotionally-driven tears release toxins from the body?
Sometime ago I'd heard someone trained in child psychology claim that crying for emotional reasons (as opposed to getting something in your eye for example) released toxins from the brain and/or body. More specifically, she claimed that emotionally-based tears, when collected and fed to rats in their food, resulted in a markedly increased statistical rate of disease and mortality in comparison to reflex-based tears or no tears at all. The explanation seemed a little hand-wavy, was uncited, and I was a little bit suspicious.
However, I have noticed for some time that emotionally-based tears taste different depending on the "bitterness" of the experience. Then, I recently went through an extremely stressful time where I experienced levels of emotional stress higher than I ever have in my life. I found to my surprise that my tears during this period, if allowed to drain down my throat, caused extreme soreness for a short period of time (mitigated by drinking liquids) whereas if I was careful not to allow them to, no soreness resulted. A friend also experiencing extreme emotional stress found that the specific areas on her cheeks that her tears touched became visibly red and raw. Again, her experience was that the rawness correlated with contact vs no contact in specific incidents--rather than frequency. These responses seemed too specific to be psychosomatic.
Now, "toxins" is very vague and it's clear that crying is an important emotional tool regardless of whether its significance is psychologically- or physiologically-based. My sample-space is unsatisfactorily small, but has intrigued me. Is there any scientific evidence that:
- Emotionally-driven tears contain substances harmful to the body, and if so which substances and by which mechanisms.
- Emotionally-driven tears contain substances which are in some way specifically related to stress.
- And, if either of the above are true, is it scientifically plausible that the substances in emotionally-driven tears are in any way originating in the brain?
I'm especially interested any evidence which suggests there is a good reason to fully expel emotionally-driven tears from the body, and any that suggests failure to cry under emotional stress prevents the release of a substance which ought to be released for body/brain health. Does anyone have any good research on these topics? My apologies for the length and detail of the question.
Edit: I've also recently experienced stinging cheeks after an especially poignant (yet low tear volume) cry. Since this is now a topic of curiousity for me it's hard to rule out a psychosomatic effect, but it was a distinct enough feeling to bump this post with an edit. No hard sources out there, anyone?
Your eyes produce three types of tears: Basal, Reflex, and Emotional
• Basal tears coat your eyes on a day-to-day basis to keep to keep them moist. Blinking throughout the day spreads tears across the surface of the eyes so they stay clean and comfortable. In a 24-hour period, you produce about 1 gram of basal tears this rate slows with age.
• Reflex tears are the eye’s response to irritants onions, wind, pollen, dust, etc. Reflex tears protect and soothe the eyes by was … hing away irritants.
• Emotional or psychic tears are caused by extreme emotions happiness, sadness, even intense humor. Emotional tears can be accompanied by sobbing, coughing, irregular breathing, and runny nose. Emotional tears have a different chemical make-up than basal or reflex they contain more protein-based hormones.
Tears are produced by lacrimal glands located between the upper lid and brow of each eye.
No matter the type of tears, over-production causes the eyes to overflow and tears to run down your face.
The under-production of tears can lead to eye discomfort and dry-eye syndrome.
Crying Science: Why Do We Shed Tears When We're Sad? (VIDEO)
We're all too familiar with tears welling up in our eyes--brought on by stress, sadness, or even laughter. But why exactly does feeling things make liquid come out of our eyes? And why is that uniquely human? After all, we're the only species that sheds emotional tears.
To unravel the science behind sobbing, I spoke with expert Dr. William H. Frey, who also serves as director of the Alzheimer's Research Center at the HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research in St. Paul, Minn. He explained that not all tears are the same.
Check out the video above and/or click on the link below to learn more. And don't forget to leave your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of the page. Come on, talk nerdy to me!
CARA SANTA MARIA: Hi everyone. Cara Santa Maria here. Crying is a pretty weird behavior, no? Smoky rooms and strong wind makes us teary-eyed. And chopping onions releases sulfur, which makes sulfuric acid when it hits our wet eyeballs. If you get poked in the eye or an eyelash is caught under your lid, ugh, that's the worst! Definitely gets me teared up! But why do strong emotions like sadness or frustration make water come out of our eyes?
WILLIAM FREY: This is the only physiological function that humans have that other animals don’t have. We have a lot of cognitive abilities and mental abilities that other animals don’t have but when it comes to actually a bodily secretion and excretion, this is the only thing we have, emotional tears, that other animals don’t have. And it’s there for a reason.
CSM: That's Dr. William H. Frey. He's the director of the Alzheimer's Research Center at the
HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research in St Paul, Minnesota. He wrote the book on tears, literally! It's called Crying: The Mystery of Tears. He says not all tears are the same--there are actually three different kinds. Basal tears are sort of always present. They keep our eyes from drying out. Reflex tears fill our eyes when we're in a smoky room, when we're chopping onions, or when an eyelash gets in there. And appropriately named emotional tears are shed when we're. you know. emotional--and about anything, really. Even physical pain.
WF: For a long time it was thought that all tears were basically the same and then we conducted some studies and we showed that emotional tears were different from those that you might produce in response to eye irritation by onions for example. And what we reported in the American Journal of Ophthalmology was that emotional tears have a higher content or concentration of protein.
CSM: Specifically, stress hormones like prolactin and adrenocorticotropic hormone. Some even hypothesize that crying is the body's way of shedding these hormones to literally reduce your levels of stress. But I'm not convinced. I haven't seen any good evidence to support this idea, and who's to say that leaky hormones isn't a by-product of the fact that circulating levels are high when we're emotional? Oh, and would you believe that scientists have actually studied how tears affect sexual arousal? Turns out that crying is not sexy. Men who smelled female emotional tears showed reduced levels of sexual arousal in multiple studies. Also, emotional tears aren't reflexive, like the other types. Our lacrimal glands have a neural connection to the limbic system of the brain, the structures that work together to process emotional information. So okay, this tells us how we cry, but why do we do it?
WF: We do know from our studies of many men and women, adult men and women, that people feel better after crying. Eighty-five percent of women and 73 percent of men report feeling better. People feel less angry, less sad, so crying does appear to alleviate stress.
CSM: Researchers also found that when subjects were shown photos of people crying alongside photographs where tears had been digitally removed, they (surprise, surprise) rated the tearful portraits as more sad. The researchers concluded that “emotional tears resolve ambiguity." This may seem obvious at first, but think about it. With tears, more sad. Without them, less sad. See, evolutionary psychologists think that tearfulness may have evolved as a strong emotional cue--a signal to others that you're upset, in pain, need help--especially before we developed language. Those who cried and felt empathy when others cried may have had an evolutionary advantage.
Perhaps criers bonded the group, helped build communities and social support, and eventually this trait found its way into all of us. And because tears aren't easy to see from far away, they may have evolved to tell your friends you're in need, but not your enemies. We wouldn't want them to know we're vulnerable, now would we? So, when's the last time you had a good cry? How did it make you feel? Let me know on Twitter, Facebook, or leave a comment on The Huffington Post. Come on, talk nerdy to me!
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Darwin's original plan was to include his findings about expression of emotions in a chapter of his work, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (Darwin, 1871) but found that he had enough material for a whole book. It was based on observations, both those around him and of people in many parts of the world. One important observation he made was that even in individuals who were born blind, body and facial expressions displayed are similar to those of anyone else. The ideas found in his book on universality of emotions were intended to go against Sir Charles Bell's 1844 claim  that human facial muscles were created to give them the unique ability to express emotions.  The main purpose of Darwin's work was to support the theory of evolution by demonstrating that emotions in humans and other animals are similar. Most of the similarities he found were between species closely related, but he found some similarities between distantly related species as well. He proposed the idea that emotional states are adaptive, and therefore only those able to express certain emotions passed on their characteristics. 
Darwin's principles Edit
In the 1872 work, Darwin proposed three principles. The first of the three is the "principle of serviceable habits", which he defined as we have certain habits or we perform different actions in certain states of mind, which get associated when again our that state of mind is induced even when its not needed then. He used as an example contracting of eyebrows (furrowing the brow), which he noted is serviceable to prevent too much light from entering the eyes. He also said that the raising of eyebrows serves to increase the field of vision. He cited examples of people attempting to remember something and raising their brows, as though they could "see" what they were trying to remember.
The second of the principles is that of antithesis. While some habits are serviceable, Darwin proposed that some actions or habits are carried out merely because they are opposite in nature to a serviceable habit, but are not serviceable themselves. Shrugging of the shoulders is an example Darwin used of antithesis, because it has no service. Shoulder shrugging is a passive expression, and very opposite of a confident or aggressive expression. 
The third of the principles is expressive habits, or nervous discharge from the nervous system. This principle proposes that some habits are performed because of a build-up to the nervous system, which causes a discharge of the excitement. Examples include foot and finger tapping, as well as vocal expressions and expressions of anger. Darwin noted that many animals rarely make noises, even when in pain, but under extreme circumstances they vocalize in response to pain and fear. 
Paul Ekman is most noted in this field for conducting research involving facial expressions of emotions. His work provided data to back up Darwin's ideas about universality of facial expressions, even across cultures. He conducted research by showing photographs exhibiting expressions of basic emotion to people and asking them to identify what emotion was being expressed. In 1971, Ekman and Wallace Friesen presented to people in a preliterate culture a story involving a certain emotion, along with photographs of specific facial expressions. The photographs had been previously used in studies using subjects from Western cultures. When asked to choose, from two or three photographs, the emotion being expressed in the story, the preliterate subjects' choices matched those of the Western subjects most of the time. These results indicated that certain expressions are universally associated with particular emotions, even in instances in which the people had little or no exposure to Western culture. The only emotions the preliterate people found hard to distinguish between were fear and surprise.  Ekman noted that while universal expressions do not necessarily prove Darwin's theory that they evolved, they do provide strong evidence of the possibility.  He mentioned the similarities between human expressions and those of other primates, as well as an overall universality of certain expressions to back up Darwin's ideas. The expressions of emotion that Ekman noted as most universal based on research are: anger, fear, disgust, sadness, and enjoyment. 
A common view is that facial expressions initially served a non-communicative adaptive function. Thus, the widened eyes in the facial expression of fear have been shown to increase the visual field and the speed of moving the eyes which helps finding and following threats. The wrinkled nose and mouth of the facial expression of disgust limit the intake of foul-smelling and possibly dangerous air and particles. Later, such reactions, which could be observed by other members of the group, increasingly become more distinctive and exaggerated in order to fulfill a primarily socially communicative function. This communicative function can dramatically or subtly influence the behavior of other members in the group. Thus, rhesus monkeys or human infants can learn to fear potential dangers based on only the facial expressions of fear of other group members or parents. Seeing fear expressions increases the tendency for flight responses while seeing anger expressions increases the tendency for fight responses. Classical conditioning studies have found that it is easier to create a pairing between a negative stimulant and anger/fear expressions than between a negative stimulant and a happiness expression. Cross-cultural studies and studies on the congenitally blind have found that these groups display the same expressions of shame and pride in situations related to social status. These expressions have clear similarities to displays of submission and dominance by other primates. Humans viewing expression of pride automatically assign a higher social status to such individuals than to those expressing other emotions. 
|Expressed emotion||Initial physiological function||Evolved communicative function|
|Fear||Increased visual field and speed of eye movement from widened eyes||Warning of potential threats. Appeasement to aggressor.|
|Surprise||Increased visual field from widened eyes||More research needed|
|Disgust||Constriction of face openings reduce dangerous inhalations||Warning of dangerous foods, behaviors, and ideas|
|Happiness||More research needed||Absence of threat|
|Sadness||More research needed||Vision handicapped by tears to show appeasement. Gain sympathy.|
|Anger||More research needed||Warning of impending threats. Signals dominance.|
|Pride||Increased lung volume in preparation for encountering challengers||Increased social status.|
|Shame/Embarrassment||Reduces and hides vulnerable body areas from potential attacks||Decreased social status. Wish for appeasement.|
Robert Zajonc, a University of Michigan psychologist, published two reviews in 1989 of the "facial efference theory of emotion", also known as facial feedback theory,   which he had first introduced to the scientific literature in an article published in Science in 1985.  This theory proposes that the facial musculature of mammals can control the temperature of the base of the brain (in particular the hypothalamus) by varying the degree of forward and backward flow through a vascular network (a so-called rete mirabile). The theory is based on the idea that increasing the temperature of portions of the hypothalamus can produce aggressive behavior, whereas cooling can produce relaxation. Our emotional language has comparable descriptors, such as "hot-head" and "cool-breezy". The theory offers an explanation for the evolution of common facial expressions of emotion in mammals. Little experimental work has been done to extend the theory, however.
Carroll Izard, a psychologist who is known for his work with emotions, discussed gains and losses associated with the evolution of emotions. He said that discrete emotion experiences emerge in ontogeny before language or conceptual structures that frame the qualia known as discrete emotion feelings are acquired. He noted that in evolution, when humans gained the capability of expressing themselves with language, which contributed greatly to emotional evolution. Not only can humans articulate and share their emotions, they can use their experiences to foresee and take appropriate action in future experiences. He did, however, raise the question of whether or not humans have lost some of their empathy for one another, citing things such as murder and crime against one another as destructive. 
Joseph LeDoux focuses much of his research on the emotion fear. Fear can be evoked by two systems in the brain, both involving the thalamus and the amygdala: one old, short and fast, the other more recently evolved, more circuitous and slower. In the older system, sensory information travels directly and quickly from the thalamus to the amygdala where it elicits the autonomic and motor responses we call fear. In the younger system, sensory information travels from the thalamus to the relevant cortical sensory areas (touch to the somatosensory cortex, vision to the visual cortex, etc.) and on to frontal association areas, where appraisal occurs. These frontal areas communicate directly with the amygdala and, in light of appraisal, may reduce or magnify the amygdala's fear response. If you glimpse what looks like a snake, long before your younger frontal areas have had time to determine it is a stick, the old thalamus-amygdala system will have evoked fear. LeDoux hypothesizes that the old fast system persists because a behavioral response at the first hint of danger is of little consequence when mistaken but may mean the difference between life and death when appropriate.  
Maybe some of the most common/well-known types of tears, these are the tears made when one is overcome with emotion. Scientists have found traces of stress chemicals that could mean that crying is a way of relieving stress. Additionally, some studies suggest that crying stimulates the body to produce endorphins which are known to be the feel-good chemical produced by the brain. Interestingly, humans are the only creatures known to produce emotional tears, though it is possible elephants and gorillas do as well!
This type of tear is made in the lacrimal gland and is made up mostly of water. The body makes these tears as a reflex to a stimulus. For example: if a bug flies into your eye the eye tears to flush out the bug. Sometimes the eyes water and there isn’t anything in the eye to flush out. This can be related to Dry Eye Syndrome.
If you’re experiencing issues with your tears, or want to talk with an eye doctor about your Dry Eye condition, Schedule an Appointment at the Cleveland Eye Clinic location near you. Our eye doctors are ready to assist you in finding the best eye care treatment available for your condition.
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In a research conducted by the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, emotional tears from women have been found to reduce sexual arousal in men. Also, emotional tears are made up of a different chemical component than those evoked by eye irritants and can relay chemical messages to others. The change in sex drive could be attributed to a drop in testosterone provoked by the tear chemicals, reducing aggression. In the animal world, it has been found that some blind mole rats rub tears all over their bodies as a strategy to keep aggressive mole rats away.
Tear composition varies from tear types. Mainly, tears are composed of water, salts, antibodies and lysozymes (antibacterial enzymes). According to a discovery by Dr. William H. Frey II, a bio-chemist from St. Paul Ramsey medical center in Minnesota, the composition of tears caused by emotion differs from that of tears as a reaction to irritations, such as onion fumes, dust or allergy. Emotional tears are composed of more protein-based hormones, such as prolactin, andrenocorticotropic, and leucine enkephalin (a natural pain killer), which is suggested to be the mechanism behind the experience of crying from emotion making an individual feel better.
Real or crocodile tears? Psychopaths may not know the difference
New research from The Australian National University (ANU) has found people with high levels of psychopathic traits have difficulty telling when someone is genuinely afraid or upset, based on people's facial expressions.
The study involved participants looking at photographs of faces expressing different emotions. Some faces were showing real emotions and others were faking it.
Lead researcher Dr Amy Dawel of the ANU Research School of Psychology said the results showed people with high levels of psychopathic traits don't respond to genuine emotions in the same way as most people.
"For most people, if we see someone who is genuinely upset, you feel bad for them and it motivates you to help them," Dr Dawel said. "People who are very high on the psychopathy spectrum don't show this response."
"We found people with high levels of psychopathic traits don't feel any worse for someone who is genuinely upset than someone who is faking it. They also seem to have problems telling if the upset is real or fake. As a result, they are not nearly as willing to help someone who is expressing genuine distress as most people are."
Interestingly, these problems in responding to other peoples' emotions seem to be just for people who are sad or afraid.
"For other emotions such as anger, disgust, and happy, high psychopathy individuals had no problems telling if someone was faking it. The results were very specific to expressions of distress."
Dr Dawel hopes her research will lead to better understanding and treatments for psychopathy.
"There seems to be a genetic contribution to these traits, we see the start of them quite early in childhood," she said.
"Understanding exactly what is going wrong with emotions in psychopathy will help us to identify these problems early and hopefully intervene in ways that promote moral development."