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Crying and Health: Popular and Scientific Conceptions

Keywords: crying , health , well-being , coping strategy

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We summarize popular and pre-scientific conceptions of the relationship between crying, well-being and health, and we review the scientific literature on this topic. First, the focus is on whether crying brings relief and facilitates emotional recovery. Next, we discuss the evidence addressing whether crying or its chronic inhibition is associated with an increased risk of developing health problems. Finally, we address crying as a signal or symptom of disease. It is concluded that the question regarding whether crying brings relief has yielded seemingly contrasting findings, dependent on the design of the study. Concerning the second and third issues, there is a lack of sound studies. Little is known about the nature of the association between depression and crying. The evidence for a relationship between neurological disorders (in particular, stroke and multiple sclerosis) appears more convincing. There is also mainly anecdotal evidence of increased crying in a wide variety of health problems, which may reflect symptoms of disease, co-morbid depression, adjustment problems, or side effects of treatment. Some recent studies further suggest a positive effect of crying on health status in certain patient groups. More systematic and well-designed studies are needed to clarify the relationship between crying and health.


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