Crying is hardly an activity encouraged by society. Tears, be they of sorrow, anger, on joy, typically make Americans feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. The shedder of tears is likely to apologize, even when a devastating tragedy was the provocation. The observer of tears is likely to do everything possible to put an end to the emotional outpouring. But judging form recent studies of crying behavior, links between illness and crying and the chemical composition of tears, both those responses to tears are often inappropriate and may even be counterproductive.
Humans are the only animals definitely known to shed emotional tears. Since evolution has given rise to few, if any, purposeless physiological responses, it is logical to assume that crying has one or more functions that enhance survival.
Although some observers have suggested that crying is a way to ask for assistance form others (as a crying baby might from its mother), the shedding of tears is hardly necessary to get help. Vocal cries would have been quite enough, more likely than tears to gain attention, So, it appears, there must be something special about tears themselves.
Indeed, the new studies suggest that emotional tears may play a direct role in alleviating stress, University of Minnesota researchers who are studying the chemical composition of tears have recently isolated two important chemicals from emotional tears. Both chemicals are found only in tears that are shed in response to emotion. Tears shed because of exposure to cut onion would contain no such substance.
Researchers at several other institutions are investigating the usefulness of tears as a means of diagnosing human ills and monitoring drugs.
At Tulane University’s Teat Analysis Laboratory Dr.Peter Kastl and his colleagues report that they can use tears to detect drug abuse and exposure to medication, to determine whether a contact lens fits properly of why it may be uncomfortable, to study the causes of “dry eye” syndrome and the effects of eye surgery, and perhaps even to measure exposure to environmental pollutants.
At Columbia University Dt.Liasy Faris and colleagues are studying tears for clues to the diagnosis of diseases away from the eyes. Tears can be obtained painlessly without invading the body and only tiny amounts are needed to perform highly refined analyses.
Come on –Everybody’s doing it. That whispered message, half invitation and half forcing, is what most of us think of when we hear the words peer pressure. It usually leads to no good-drinking, drugs and casual sex. But in her new book Join the Club, Tina Rosenberg contends that peer pressure can also be a positive force through what she calls the social cure, in which organizations and officials use the power of group dynamics to help individuals improve their lives and possibly the word.
Rosenberg, the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize, offers a host of example of the social cure in action: In South Carolina, a state-sponsored antismoking program called Rage Against the Haze sets out to make cigarettes uncool. In South Africa, an HIV-prevention initiative known as LoveLife recruits young people to promote safe sex among their peers.
The idea seems promising，and Rosenberg is a perceptive observer. Her critique of the lameness of many pubic-health campaigns is spot-on: they fail to mobilize peer pressure for healthy habits, and they demonstrate a seriously flawed understanding of psychology.” Dare to be different, please don’t smoke!” pleads one billboard campaign aimed at reducing smoking among teenagers-teenagers, who desire nothing more than fitting in. Rosenberg argues convincingly that public-health advocates ought to take a page from advertisers, so skilled at applying peer pressure.
But on the general effectiveness of the social cure, Rosenberg is less persuasive. Join the Club is filled with too much irrelevant detail and not enough exploration of the social and biological factors that make peer pressure so powerful. The most glaring flaw of the social cure as it’s presented here is that it doesn’t work very well for very long. Rage Against the Haze failed once state funding was cut. Evidence that the LoveLife program produces lasting changes is limited and mixed.
There’s no doubt that our peer groups exert enormous influence on our behavior. An emerging body of research shows that positive health habits-as well as negative ones-spread through networks of friends via social communication. This is a subtle form of peer pressure: we unconsciously imitate the behavior we see every day.
Far less certain, however, is how successfully experts and bureaucrats can select our peer groups and steer their activities in virtuous directions. It’s like the teacher who breaks up the troublemakers in the back row by pairing them with better-behaved classmates. The tactic never really works. And that’s the problem with a social cure engineered from the outside: in the real world, as in school, we insist on choosing our own friends.
While still catching-up to men in some spheres of modern life, women appear to be way ahead in at least one undesirable category. “Women are particularly susceptible to developing depression and anxiety disorders in response to stress compared to men,” according to Dr. Yehuda, chief psychiatrist at New York’s Veteran’s Administration Hospital.
Studies of both animals and humans have shown that sex hormones somehow affect the stress response, causing females under stress to produce more of the trigger chemicals than do males under the same conditions.In several of the studies, when stressed-out female rats had their ovaries (the female reproductive organs) removed, their chemical responses became equal to those of the males.
Adding to a woman’s increased dose of stress chemicals, are her increased “opportunities” for stress. “It’s not necessarily that women don’t cope as well. It’s just that they have so much more to cope with,” says Dr. Yehuda. “Their capacity for tolerating stress may even be greater than men’s,” she observes, “it’s just that they’re dealing with so many more things that they become worn out from it more visibly and sooner.”
Dr. Yehuda notes another difference between the sexes. “I think that the kinds of things that women are exposed to tend to be in more of a chronic or repeated nature. Men go to war and are exposed to combat stress. Men are exposed to more acts of random physical violence. The kinds of interpersonal violence that women are exposed to tend to be in domestic situations, by, unfortunately, parents or other family members, and they tend not to be one-shot deals. The wear-and-tear that comes from these longer relationships can be quite devastating.”
Adeline Alvarez married at 18 and gave birth to a son, but was determined to finish college. “I struggled a lot to get the college degree. I was living in so much frustration that that was my escape, to go to school, and get ahead and do better.” Later, her marriage ended and she became a single mother. “It’s the hardest thing to take care of a teenager, have a job, pay the rent, pay the car payment, and pay the debt. I lived from paycheck to paycheck.”
Not everyone experiences the kinds of severe chronic stresses Alvarez describes. But most women today are coping with a lot of obligations, with few breaks, and feeling the strain. Alvarez’s experience demonstrates the importance of finding ways to diffuse stress before it threatens your health and your ability to function.