cryWhen you think of when you’re most likely to cry during your monthly cycle, which week comes to mind? Probably your premenstrual week, right? After all, it’s a time when plunging estrogen is triggering the blues and irritation, so it makes sense. And this idea has been cemented in us with the many portrayals of premenstrual women in books, TV shows and movies as emotional wrecks often dissolving into a puddle of tears.

So, it may be a surprise for you to learn that a new six-month study of 76 women in the Journal of Affective Disorders reveals that women don’t cry any more frequently during their premenstrual week than they do during other weeks of their cycle.

Not a big crier to begin with? I get it. I’m not the kind of woman who likes to cry either. I hate the way my mascara melts into messy streaks down my cheeks, snot comes pouring out of my nose so fast no amount of tissues can keep up and my face gets all red and puffy like I’ve been on the business end of a bar fight.

But, there are times when I feel like crying. And, even if you hate to admit it, you might have times when you get the urge to shed a tear–even if your eyes stay perfectly dry.

Well, this study examined that, too, and discovered that while women are more likely to get the desire to cry–without actually doing it–during their premenstrual week and period, this occurs only slightly more than during other days in their cycle.

The same effects were found for users of hormone contraceptives.

So, what gives?

The researchers point out that crying isn’t just spurred by sadness, but also by other strong emotions, such as frustration and joy.

I’ve certainly wanted to shed plenty of tears out of frustration in my lifetime. And I remember two times when I spontaneously and uncontrollably cried out of happiness: Once when I was on the plane back from my first solo trip abroad because I was so thrilled to be returning home to Long Island and its bagels, pizza and people who tawked like me. And then again when I ruined my friend’s wedding while making the chuppah (a canopy held over the bride and groom in a traditional Jewish ceremony) that I was given the special honor of holding bob wildly up and down throughout their heartfelt vows as I sobbed with joy for their union.

Your emotions are often amplified in the first half of your cycle as you approach and reach ovulation due to rising estrogen, which prompts more arousal in your brain–so you might find yourself happier or more frustrated than usual based on the situation. So, this emotional intensity can stir the urge to cry on these cycle days.

The bottom line: This study shows that crying or the desire to shed a tear isn’t necessarily a premenstrual or menstrual thing. It’s a way to release emotions throughout your entire cycle.

[Photo: Ornickarr Greenbarrow]