Why do we cry when we laugh?

Mom crying-kids laughing cartoon

Anyone who knows me well enough, knows that I cry when I laugh. The most annoying part though is the fact that it is never just a tear or two. Whenever I laugh really hard I have a stream of tears running down my face for a good five minutes. I can’t control it! Lately, I have been wondering why that is, and I’ve decided to share my finding with you!

Mentally, crying and laughing are similar responses. According to Robert R. Provine, PhD, “Both occur during states of high emotional arousal, involve lingering effects, and don’t cleanly turn on and off.”  We all know that tears are often triggered by pain, sadness, and clearly, extreme joy, but is that good or bad? Well, apparently, it’s a really good thing. Have you guys ever heard of cortisol and adrenaline? Cortisol is a hormone that is released in response to stress and low blood-glucose concentration. Adrenaline is another stress hormone. It is produced within the adrenal gland and it makes your heart beat faster, strengthens the force of your hearts contraction, and opens up the bronchioles in the lungs. The fact that cortisol and adrenaline are both stress hormones is also the reason why crying when you laugh is really good for you. It doesn’t matter whether you are crying or laughing, but both responses ease stress. Therefore, they counteract the effects of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline.

Moreover, It is possible that crying when you laugh is an illness regarding your brain. Apparently, there is a syndrome called Pathological Laughter and Crying (PLC). PLC, “is characterized by uncontrollable outburst” of the responses crying and laughing. Patients that have PLC have damaged pathways in the motor areas of their cerebral cortex. As a result, the damage goes all the way down the brainstem and creates a common area for laughing and crying which causes the responses to be irrational.

Furthermore, it is possible that people cry when they laugh because they have too much pressure on there tear-ducts. If this is the case, then, the overwhelming amount of tears streaming down your face when you are laughing are, “reflex tears.” Reflex tears are the “result of airborne irritants or wind.” Last, but not least, the tears could be “emotion-driven water drops.” These kinds of tears can be produced by various hormones that are also considered, “natural painkillers.”

I am still not completely sure why I cry when I laugh, but I hope it has nothing to do with, Pathological Laughter and Crying Syndrome, reflex tears, or emotion-driven water drops. I would like to think that I cry when I laugh because whatever I am laughing at is just, that funny. All in all, it is also reassuring to know that there are benefits to crying and laughter like releasing  stress. You know what they say, “Stress is a silent killer.” So, if laughing until I cry helps with that, I am all for it! Let me know what you think!


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6 thoughts on “Why do we cry when we laugh?

  1. Pingback: Why Do We Cry? | A Novel Approach

  2. Megan Wong

    This happens to me all the time! I keep laughing for no reason and start tearing up. I also tear up all the time when I yawn and its so embarrassing because people always ask if I’m okay. I read another
    article which states that some people cry when they laugh to balance out their emotions, which is called “emotional regulation”, so maybe the people who cry while laughing just have a tendency to balance out their emotions.

  3. Madeline Bynres Walsack

    I am the kind of person who is always crying, whether it’s because I am sad, I just yawned, or I find something really funny. But sometimes this freaks people out, and they think I am “too emotional”. I am glad to know that crying both during extreme sadness and happiness is normal. It’s very interesting to think that the brain sees both as almost the same thing.

  4. Alyssa Hope Cooper

    I completely relate to this blog! This always happens to me when I laugh a lot and I never knew why. When I find things really funny I can laugh/cry for a solid 5 minutes and my friends just look at me wondering why I am crying. I enjoyed reading this blog and finding out that this happens ton only some people.

  5. Erika Michele Cristiano

    I can completely relate with this blog. Every time I laugh (which is mostly all the time) my eyes are filled with tears! Ive always wondered why this happened but never took the time to figure it out. Sometimes I would laugh so hard I couldn’t even catch my breath. I have heard many times that laughter is the best form of therapy and I truly believe it. Theres nothing like a good laugh to cheer up your day. According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) laughter therapy is being used to help cancer patients cope with their treatments.Source Its truly amazing how much sharing a little thing like sharing a laugh can do

  6. Caitlin Emily Whelan

    Wow this is so funny! I have always wondered why I cannot control the tears when I’m laughing. The part where you wrote about the pressure on the tear-ducts really got me. I had no idea that wind could actually make me tear up when I am laughing. It does make sense when you think about it. Almost like the eye is flushing out the irritants. Thanks for this post, I really enjoyed it! Here is a gif I found to relate

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