Which hormone makes you cry

Why we cry

Why does one person get choked up over a Hallmark commercial, while another sheds tears only for the death of a loved one? Does the exhortation "Have a good cry" carry physiological or psychological merit? And how do crying behaviors differ among cultures and between the sexes?

New research by psychologists is beginning to answer these questions, helping us better understand what human tears mean from social, psychological and neuroscientific perspectives.

"I think the study of crying, more than is the case for any other emotional expression, may help us to obtain a better insight into human nature," says leading tear researcher Ad Vingerhoets, PhD, a psychology professor at Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

Vingerhoets and others are tracking people's crying episodes to determine the role culture plays in why we cry, measuring the chemical makeup of tears and examining the reactions they trigger in others. They're also learning how crying helps us connect with others by studying those who can't do it.

Gender, culture and tears

Several factors play a role in an individual's propensity to cry. Gender differences in crying, for example, have been explored for decades and across the world, and all of the studies reached the same conclusion: Women cry more than men.

In the 1980s, biochemist William H. Frey, PhD, found that women cry an average of 5.3 times a month, while men cry an average of 1.3 times per month, with crying defined as anything from moist eyes to full-on sobbing. Those averages still appear to be about the same, suggests newer research, including work by Lauren Bylsma, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh (Journal of Research in Personality, 2011).

Biologically, there may be a reason women cry more than men: Testosterone may inhibit crying, while the hormone prolactin (seen in higher levels in women) may promote it. But a desire to cry is not all nature. A study of people in 35 countries found that the difference between how often men and women cry may be more pronounced in countries that allow greater freedom of expression and social resources, such as Chile, Sweden and the United States. Ghana, Nigeria and Nepal, on the other hand, reported only slightly higher tear rates for women ( Cross-Cultural Research , 2011). Lead study author Dianne Van Hemert, PhD, a senior researcher at the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, says that people in wealthier countries may cry more because they live in a culture that permits it, while people in poorer countries — who presumably might have more to cry about — don't do so because of cultural norms that frown on emotional expression.

Crying may also reflect attachment styles, research suggests. In her book "Seeing Through Tears: Crying and Attachment" (Routledge, 2005), psychotherapist Judith Kay Nelson, PhD, summarizes past research and concludes that securely attached people are more comfortable expressing emotions and cry in ways that are considered normal and healthy, while those with insecure attachment may cry inappropriately — with easily activated, difficult-to-soothe tears. More recently, researchers from Tilburg University have found that people with "dismissive" attachment styles — or those who tend to avoid close relationships with others — were less likely to cry and tried harder to inhibit their tears than people with other attachment styles ( Social Behavior and Personality , 2012). The study also found that people with "preoccupied" styles — or those who might be clingy and overly dependent on others — cried more often than securely attached people. Women of all attachment styles cried more than men.

Is crying good for you?

For infants, tears serve as an important communication tool, allowing them to show their need for support. That tool may also serve us well in adulthood, several recent studies have found.

One study showed participants images of faces with tears and faces with tears digitally removed, as well as tear-free control images. Subjects judged the faces with tears as appearing sadder. However, participants rated those with tears removed more ambiguously — not simply less sad, but reflecting a range of uncertain emotions, such as concern or contemplation ( Evolutionary Psychology , 2009).

"Tears add valence and nuance to the perception of faces," says the study's lead author, Robert R. Provine, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Tears become a sort of social lubricant, he says, helping to ensure the smooth functioning of a community by helping people communicate. Bearing this out, researchers at Tilburg University have demonstrated that at even very short exposure times, respondents report being more willing to provide support to people with visible tears than to those without tears ( Evolutionary Psychology , 2013).

Tears may also serve a therapeutic role, though researchers say the supposedly cathartic role of "a good cry" has been overstated. Thirty years ago, biochemist Frey found that emotional tears carried more protein than non-emotional tears (say, from chopping an onion). The implication was that when you cry for emotional reasons, you are involved in a healing process. However, Vingerhoets says he has tried twice without success to replicate this experiment.

Bylsma conducted a daily diary study of female students that also calls Frey's theory into question. She found that only about 30 percent of students said their moods had improved after crying, with 60 percent reporting no change and about 9 percent saying their moods worsened. These women were reporting on their moods the same day as the crying happened, unlike other studies, which asked people to reflect back on their crying. "Our memories may become distorted over time," says Bylsma.

Bylsma's research offers a new insight into tears: Why you cry and who sees you do it appear to make a difference in whether crying helps or hurts your emotional state ( Journal of Research in Personality , 2011). In the study, she and colleagues found that crying was more likely to make people feel better when they had emotional support (such as a close friend nearby), if they were crying due to a positive event, or if their crying led to a resolution or new understanding of the situation that led them to cry in the first place. Criers felt worse if they felt embarrassed or ashamed of crying, if they were with unsupportive people or if they cried because they saw suffering. Overall, participants were more likely to feel better if they cried alone or around one other person, but felt worse or didn't experience a mood change if they were with two or more people.

Another line of crying research suggests that female tears can be a sexual turnoff for men. In a series of double-blind experiments by researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, men smelled emotional tears captured from women who had watched sad movies. At varying other times, the men also sniffed a saline solution that had been dribbled on the women's cheeks. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging and other measures, the researchers compared the men's sexual arousal as they viewed pictures of attractive women and erotic movies after they had sniffed the real tears with their arousal after they had sniffed the saline. The researchers found that the men were less aroused when they had sniffed the real tears compared with the saline solution ( Science , 2011). This finding was replicated in a South Korean study that measured the testosterone levels of men exposed to emotional tears and saline ( Public Library of Science , 2012).

The inability to cry

Psychologists have also gleaned new insights into people who can't produce tears at all — either emotional or the basal tears that keep eyes lubricated. "Ophthalmologists have typically treated ‘dry eye' as a medical issue, completely missing the fact that emotional communication is impaired when you lack tears," says Provine. "They have not attended to important psychological and social consequences."

Patients with Sjogren's syndrome, for example, have great difficulty producing tears. Nienke van Leeuwen, a PhD candidate in health psychology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, has found that 22 percent of patients with the syndrome had "significantly more difficulty" identifying their own feelings than control participants did ( Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology , 2012).

Vingerhoets, author of the 2013 book "Why Only Humans Weep: Unravelling the Mysteries of Tears," is exploring what happens to people who can't cry, with neurologist Michael Trimble, MD, at the Institute of Behavioral Neurology at University College, London. The project came about after a BBC interview with Trimble resulted in 900 people emailing to say they couldn't cry and would like to volunteer to be studied.

It's yet another angle of research that Vingerhoets would like to see further examined to help better understand why we cry. "I really have the feeling there are so many things that can be explored and are waiting to be explored," he says.

Lorna Collier is a writer in Chicago.

Hormone-fueled crying can make you feel better...eventually

I’m not usually a crier. If you ever catch me blubbering, it’s likely because of something big, like my dog died, I lost a limb or someone put the apostrophe in the wrong place when abbreviating the year (seriously, how hard is it to remember it’s ’90s, not 90’s?).

Anyway, even someone as cry-free as me ends up shedding at least a few tears when Week 3 and Week 4 of my cycle come around.

In fact, many of us do.

That’s because rising progesterone in your Week 3 (which begins the day after ovulation and lasts 8 days) and plunging estrogen in your Week 4 (your premenstrual week) both affect mood-moderating brain chemicals in a way that can trigger the urge to cry from something sad, high stress or even no reason at all.

Remember that time when you cried at the car commercial? And when you discovered the ice cream container in the freezer was empty? And when you realized you hated your bangs? All hormone tears, I’m sure of it.

Just chalk it up to yet another normal, albeit annoying, side effect of cycling estrogen and progesterone–like water retention, acne breakouts and giving yourself those ill-fated bangs.

Fortunately for you, there’s some good news to report about all that hormone-fueled weepiness:

In the past, researchers went back and forth trying to determine whether a good cry makes you feel worse, better or nothing at all–with conflicting results.

Now a new study in the journal Motivation and Emotion proves that crying really can make you feel better…at least eventually.

The researchers found that (no surprise here) you feel more blue while shedding your tears than when you were dry-eyed. But, they also discovered that within 20 minutes of weeping, your emotions bounce back up to how you were feeling before the waterworks began. Then, 90 minutes after your tear-fest, your mood actually improves some more, helping you feel happier.

So, the final word is that crying really does provide an emotional release that perks up your mood. It just takes a little while to kick in. Which might just make it worth hunkering down on the couch with a copy of Marley & Me and about 14 boxes of Kleenex.

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[Photo: Jenn and Tony Bot]

  • About
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Gabrielle Lichterman

I'm the women's health journalist who pioneered the cycle-syncing and hormone awareness movement in 2005 with my groundbreaking, award-winning book, 28 Days: What Your Cycle Reveals About Your Moods, Health & Potential. I'm also the creator of the popular Hormone Horoscope Apps and Female Forecaster App. I founded Hormonology as a way to continue sharing hormone cycle education around the globe.

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Hormones of happiness and joy - clinic "Family Doctor".

Spring, spring, time for love,
How hard it is for me to see you,
What a languid excitement
In my soul, in my blood...

A.S. Pushkin

Modern science has found an explanation for the change in the emotional and physical state of a person - hormones are to blame.

What is this? Hormone ( from the Greek “I excite”, “I bring into action” ) - are biologically active substances that our body produces under the influence of various external and internal factors. Thanks to them, a person is able to experience happiness, bliss, love. The lack of these substances is manifested by apathy and blues, lack of energy and mood. Each person has a whole set of hormones of love and happiness!

Endorphin gives us a feeling of lightness, causes a desire to realize dreams, achieve goals, is responsible for pleasure and euphoria. Its level increases significantly when we hug and kiss loved ones.

Dopamine - this hormone is a kind of engine, a stimulus for finding opportunities to overcome obstacles. It is he who deprives us of sleep, prevents us from concentrating, makes us miss our loved one.

Adrenaline is the “stress” hormone, but it is from it that our heart beats more often, our legs run faster, we are ready for “feats” and actions that are unusual for us.

Serotonin is the hormone of happiness, its release into the blood gives us a good mood, helps fight stress, gives us a sense of significance and respect from others, and a lack leads to depression.

The hormone of tenderness and affection is oxytocin . It is he who is responsible for love, thanks to him we feel affection for each other, trust and responsibility, and it is he who is responsible for the mother's love for her child.

Testosterone is a hormone of passion and rivalry, longevity and wisdom, male attractiveness and strength depend on its quantity.

In the spring, according to biological rhythms, there is a “hormonal” rise, which is why sympathy, love arise more often, vitality and sexual desire increase.

The hormonal background of a person undergoes changes throughout life due to health problems, malnutrition, stress and chronic fatigue, age-related changes. If a hormonal failure occurs, it is very important to consult an endocrinologist in a timely manner, who will diagnose the problem and help restore the proper functioning of the endocrine system of the body.

Remember that your mood and well-being depend on your hormonal levels. Keep him in shape: eat right, exercise, smile more often, fall in love! Be healthy and happy!

Neurotransmitters: what they are, their functions and how they relate to emotions

Neurotransmitters play an important role in our body and affect everything from mood to the ability to learn. How do they differ from hormones, what types are there, and what disease can their deficiency lead to?

What are neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are biologically active substances. Their main function is to transmit signals from nerve cells. That is, neurotransmitters are substances through which the nervous system communicates within itself. One neuron, being excited, transmits the necessary signals to another neuron through neurotransmitters.

The study of neurotransmitters began at the beginning of the 20th century. Then scientists tried to figure out how neurons communicate with each other - chemistry or electricity. Santiago Ramón y Cajal and Camillo Golgi simultaneously received the Nobel Prize for their research on the nervous system in 1906, although they held opposing views. Ramon y Cajal was convinced that neurons communicate with each other using chemicals. Golgi held a different point of view - neurons communicate using electricity.

“It was only in the middle of the 20th century that an electronic photograph of the synapse was taken, which showed vesicles with neurotransmitters. It turned out that most of the neurons communicate with each other using neurotransmitters. There are also electrical synapses, but they are rare,” Elena Belova, Ph.D.

A synapse is a point of contact between two neurons or between a neuron and a receiving effector cell.

An effector cell is a type of cell in the body that performs some action in response to stimulation (for example, a muscle cell contracts when it receives a signal from a neuron across a synapse).

Vesicles are small vesicles that carry various substances inside them: from hormones to neurotransmitters.

There are substances that work both as neurotransmitters and as hormones. For example, if norepinephrine and adrenaline are secreted in the brain, they work as neurotransmitters. If they are secreted by the adrenal cortex, they work like hormones. There is a fine line between neurotransmitters and hormones. It is not so easy to draw a dividing line between them.

  • A hormone is a substance secreted in the endocrine glands that affects the tissues (cells) of the body.
  • A neurotransmitter is a substance released by a neuron to transmit a signal, most often to another neuron.

“When everyone was just starting to study, it seemed that these were different things. But the deeper we explore, the more we find substances that transmit signals between neurons, and more and more often we find in other cells (for example, immune cells) receptors for compounds that were considered classical neurotransmitters. It turns out that these two systems are much more tightly connected with each other, these are two finely intertwined systems,” adds Elena Belova.

Functions and actions of neurotransmitters

Neurons are separate cells that have to constantly communicate with each other. The signal from one neuron to another is transmitted through a contact where the cells are adjacent to each other almost closely, leaving only a tiny gap. This connection between two nerve cells is called a synapse.

Nerve impulses in the brain run along the processes of neurons, and when they reach the synapse, bubbles with a neurotransmitter are released there, transmitting signals to the next neuron. How it reacts depends on the receptors: some neurotransmitters can activate some cells and inhibit others - it all depends on the type of receptors inside the synapses that receive signals.

An imbalance of certain neurotransmitters causes various diseases and disorders, from epilepsy to depression. Although there is no consensus on this issue among scientists either.

“Parkinson's disease is perhaps the only disease for which the reinforced concrete cause is a lack of the neurotransmitter dopamine. For other states, there is no such unambiguity,” Belova believes.

Types of neurotransmitters

The most common neurotransmitters are of one of two types - excitatory and inhibitory. The first type are those that excite the next neuron (if one neuron in the chain is active, the next one will also be so). The second type inhibits neighboring neurons. There are also neuromodulators - they do not just transmit an excitatory or inhibitory signal, but change the neuron's susceptibility to such signals.

Neurotransmitters are also grouped according to their chemical structure. Among them are: amino acids, monoamines, peptides. Let's talk about the features of each on the examples of neurotransmitters.

Amino acids

  1. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. For example, some psychoactive substances that are aimed at treating anxiety act specifically on GABA receptors.
  2. Glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain. It plays an important role in cognitive functions: memorization and learning. An excess of glutamate is detrimental to nerve cells and can contribute to the emergence of certain diseases (epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease).


  1. Oxytocin . It is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter. In the body of a woman, it stimulates childbirth and the production of milk, in the brain it is responsible for the feeling of affection between parents and children. However, this is not a molecule of universal love. The feeling of falling in love is a complex cocktail, primarily associated with the work of the hypothalamus, attachment formation and sexual arousal. “When we find the right person, it triggers the release of oxytocin and the formation of attachment, the release of sex hormones and sexual arousal. Further, if people approached each other and the oxytocin bond formed, they have a long-term relationship. “Love lives for three years” (actually several months) is the primary stage of a relationship where oxytocin bonds are just being formed,” Belova explained.
  2. Endorphins . They dampen pain signals and induce a feeling of euphoria.


  1. Adrenaline and norepinephrine . They can be attributed not only to neurotransmitters, but also to hormones. Our response to stress, external threats, and our mode of concentration or relaxation is carried out through the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the peripheral nervous system. The brain sees the danger, but in order to respond to it, you need to activate the muscles. The sympathetic system is the “fight and flight” signaling system when the work of skeletal muscles, heart rate, and so on increases. The adrenal glands secrete adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol, which act on the body. At the same time, norepinephrine and adrenaline are also produced inside the brain, and this is a signal that we are in an excited state. When we leave the "acute" mode, the parasympathetic system becomes more active, and we go into the "lay down and digest" mode: the digestive organs work and the process of storing fats starts.
  2. Dopamine is associated with reward expectation. And if the reward from our actions matches the forecast, and even better - more than expected, this is a reason to repeat the actions again and again. This is how habits are formed. But everything is not so simple. For example, when a person wants to lose weight, the desire to be slim, refusing high-calorie food, fights in him with the biological need for food, controlled by the hypothalamus. “This is an ancient system. People have only recently entered a situation where access to food is almost unlimited. Weaning yourself from the habit of checking social networks is a hundred times easier than forcing yourself to maintain a calorie deficit, because there is an internal system that says that losing weight is very bad, ”Belova notes. Some dangerous illicit drugs imitate the action of dopamine, causing a person to be in an elevated state, anticipation of something pleasant, a feeling of excitement.
  3. Serotonin regulates sleep, anxiety, appetite and sexuality.

There are neurotransmitters that are not of these types, and the longer scientists study this topic, the more different types they find. But the very first discovered neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, also belongs to the “other” group. Its functions include the regulation of memory, the processes of awakening and falling asleep. For example, patients with Alzheimer's disease have low levels of acetylcholine.

About feelings and neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are not there to make us feel. Feelings are the activity of certain parts of the brain under the influence of a cocktail of different neurotransmitters and their mutual influence.

“We cannot say that if we add some neurotransmitter to the brain, we will cause a certain feeling. Our feelings are influenced not only by what is released in the brain, but also by what we see around us and how we interpret it. Strong excitement can be regarded by us both as positive excitement and as negative. Although in both cases, the main note will be a high concentration of adrenaline and norepinephrine, ”explains Elena Belova.

There are neurotransmitters that are responsible for the level of arousal and the level of tone. For example, there is a structure in the brain called the reticular formation. This is a dispersed system of neurons and their clusters, which is responsible, among other things, for the level of cheerfulness or lethargy. Serotonin, norepinephrine and adrenaline, acetylcholine and dopamine are released there. The purpose of this structure is to regulate the level of alertness. The peculiarity of this system is that thanks to it, we can quickly perk up to sudden stimuli - for example, a roar or a flash of light - so that we are ready to quickly make a decision in response to an unexpected threat.

There are also structures associated with the hypothalamus (a small area in the diencephalon) that are responsible for different conditions and needs. They regulate the level of stress: a calm state, acute or chronic stress. This whole system, in addition to the level of vivacity, determines the level of our combat readiness. Immediately there is a change in state associated with feelings of hunger, fatigue, drowsiness, sexual desire and feelings of affection - all this is also associated with the hypothalamus. For example, oxytocin is responsible for the level of attachment. The brain also contains systems related to motivation, learning, and pleasure. Their main neurotransmitter is dopamine.

Neurotransmitters and depression

Depression is a violation of the motivational mechanism. A person ceases to enjoy what he does, the endorphin component "I'm done well" is turned off. When there is not enough endorphin and there is no feedback (when we are talking about depression caused by external influences, not clinical), motivation is weakened, and a person comes to a state where he does not have enough strength and energy to support his life.

Yes, at 19In the 1960s, American psychologist Martin Seligman discovered a phenomenon he called "learned helplessness." He did an experiment on dogs. Animals were divided into two control groups and placed in different rooms. Each dog had its own box, the floor of which was supplied with a weak electric current. The dogs in the first room could go free if they found the right spot in the box. By clicking on it, they got the opportunity to leave the box. Everything was different in the second room. The boxes of these dogs were opened by the actions of the dogs from the first group. There was also a third group. Dogs were not electrocuted in it. The first stage of the experiment showed that the dogs from the same room managed to quickly recover from the torment. They returned to their habits and physical characteristics. But such results were not observed in the dogs from the second room. Animals fell into apathy.

After this part of the experiment, all dogs were placed in the same room, where the floor was current. The animals were given the opportunity to get out of there. To do this, it was necessary to jump over the partition. Dogs from the first and third groups guessed to do it. And most of the dogs from the second - first whined, and then lay down on the floor. At the same time, they no longer paid attention to pain.

Martin Seligman after the experiment suggested that the state of learned helplessness, the lack of attempts to avoid stress, this is the experimental model of depression. A person is not able to control the unpleasant that happens to him.

If our sense of self-control fails, our serotonin neurons bring us back to a more primitive initial state in which the psyche is not trying to do anything. Serotonin as a neurotransmitter is also capable of blocking negative emotions. Dysregulation of the serotonin system leads to the fact that negative emotions are much stronger. The system moves from an equilibrium state to an unbalanced state when the body lacks the motivation to act actively and achieve goals. To bring the system back into balance, antidepressants were developed.

“Classic antidepressants – serotonin reuptake inhibitors. They do not allow serotonin to quickly disappear from the place of contact, prolonging its effect on neurons. For a neurotransmitter to work, it must bind to a receptor, and the properties of the receptor greatly influence how the neurotransmitter will act. It is assumed that when serotonin is released, it acts not only on the next neuron, but also on the one from where it was released. At the end of the neuron itself, which secretes serotonin, there are also receptors. When serotonin is released, it acts on this receptor and actually causes the ending to stop working. The cell released serotonin, he contacted and shut down the system. For antidepressants to have an effect, these receptors must first change their susceptibility to the neurotransmitter. Apparently, this explains that such antidepressants need to be taken for quite a long time to alleviate depression, ”explains the expert.

Research into neurotransmitters is ongoing. Scientists still don't know much. Although over the past 10-20 years a huge number of new neurotransmitters have been discovered, and probably some of them are yet to be discovered.

“Many neurotransmitters are peptides (protein compounds that consist of amino acids. — RBC Trends), and it is difficult to work with peptides, because they need to be detected, caught, separated from other peptides [not neurotransmitters]. Technical capabilities have only recently begun to allow this.

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