Why Do Strong Emotions Turn on the Tears?

In light of this holiday season, UNC Eye MD Richard Davis was recently featured in an interview with the Raleigh News & Observer newspaper's website, in which he discussed the topic of "Why do strong emotions turn on the tears?"

Dr. Richard Davis is an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at UNC Chapel Hill and a researcher at the N.C. Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute (NC TraCS). He was recently interviewed by the Raleigh News & Observer website, to whom he explained what causes – and what is contained within – the tears that frequently surface during the holidays.

Here is an excerpt:

Q. Why do people cry when they are sad?

A. It is difficult to answer exactly why tears form when a person is struck by emotion. It is much more intuitive to understand that when your eyes are dry, they tear. Or when something gets in your eye, you cry. Crying is typically an emotional response to situations that may be happy or sad. On a physiological level, we know that the connections between emotion and crying are governed by specialized almond-shaped structures deep within the brain called the amygdala, which play a role in emotional states such as depression and alcoholism.


To make an appointment with Dr. Davis or any UNC Eye MD, please call 919-445-2020.