DR. HOOK- Waaaa! Crying can be a healthy tension reliever

"Cry me a river, cry me a river, I cried a river over youuuuuuuuuuu!" Go, Barbra Streisand. 

We cry for many reasons: sadness, joy, relief, anger, Clay Aiken finally coming out. (Clay, we love you! Congratulations for being honest and brave!) Weddings are notorious vales of tears, which is why waterproof mascara is essential (it's also useful in beauty pageants). When Carol Brady found Cindy & Bobby after they'd been lost in the Grand Canyon, she cried. They asked their mom why she was crying, and she said that is something adults just do. 

On the other hand, one saying is unfortunately kind of true, "Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone."

Is it that difficult to cry in front of another person?

I'm not sure if it's cultural, biological or both, but men seem to cry less than women. 

"As a man, I've cried only twice in my life. First time was during my son's bris. The second was at his bar mitzvah. Oh, wait– I kind of cried when the Yankees lost the World Series," we might hear a man say.

I once cried in front of a friend and apologized for boo-hooing so long. She responded, "Ah, you only cried for 10 seconds– if that." It seemed like an eternity for me, though. I enjoy crying in front of someone else as much as vomiting.

I have had many men, though, cry during their office visit with me. No, I'm not Barbara Walters doing a tearful interview. I think it's just that most men aren't vulnerable with their family members or friends, but doctor-visits allow real emotions to come out. Frankly I'm honored that people feel safe enough to express their feelings.

However, many of my female patients apologize to me whenever they cry in my office. I don't know why we apologize when we cry. It is like a sign of weakness, but let's face it. We need to purge that energy at times. Keeping things bottled up inside can be very destructive to our well-being. 

My best friend in medical school could cry at a drop of a stethoscope, but she rode a motorcycle in Africa while she was in the Peace Corps. So I figured she was tough as nails. And she is, but she cried whether she laughed, got mad, or was sad. Niagara Falls would erupt. It wasn't weakness. It was healthy honest emotion.

I was really surprised once to hear a doctor tell me, "She cries every time I walk into the room, or really, when anyone walks into the room– except you. But she laughs when you walk into the room. Why is that?" (Because I tickle her feet with a feather?) 

I asked my patient why that was. I thought it was important for her to share her tears with me as well. I think there's a healthy balance between laughter and tears, and that's what she was doing. 

Fred Flintstone always gave in to Wilma when she cried because her tears made him feel horrible. And I think folks don't want to cry in front of others because they don't want to appear to be a party-pooper. 

Some people don't want to "cry wolf." Some don't do well with others who cry, and they don't take another's tears seriously. "Oh, buck up and get over it. You aren't depressed," they'll say. 

In our Prozac nation, tears seem to be allowed only for actors. I think if I were an actor, I'd have to hold an onion to my nose to cry for my close-up. I don't cry– I whine. I whine more than all the grapes in Napa Valley.

Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with a local practice. Email him with your questions.