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Anxiety Service Dog Tasks

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According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are common within the U.S. About 18% (about 40 million) of all adults in the country have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety, if left untreated, can cause distress, depression and interfere with work and relationships. Treatments for anxiety include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), medication, lifestyle changes, and service dogs. Learn how an anxiety service dog can help and what kinds of tasks they can do in this article.

Anxiety and Service Dogs

All of us experience stress. Stress is a normal part of life and can even motivate us to better ourselves and make progress. When stress becomes overwhelming and uncontrollable, however, it turns into an unhealthy form of anxiety. 

An anxiety disorder can become persistent and excessive, making everyday situations challenging—maybe even impossible. People who have anxiety might avoid important social events due to their fears. They experience panic attacks or become overwhelmed in crowds, preventing them from having a healthy social life. Anxiety can impede work and school performance, limiting a person’s ability to succeed. 

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What Tasks Can a Service Dog Do for Someone with Anxiety? 

In all the situations mentioned above, anxiety service dogs can offer vital assistance. More than a supportive presence, anxiety service dogs carry out essential tasks that help manage a person’s anxiety. The following are a few examples of the many tasks these dogs can offer:

Tactile Stimulation

Although many dogs lick their owners or perform nose bumps as a sign of affection, anxiety service dogs can do these actions on command in the presence of numerical distractions. Tactile stimulation—like repetitive licking—can change a person’s focus away from their anxiety, prompting them to use their own positive coping mechanisms and regain composure.

Deep Pressure Therapy

The body’s central nervous system manages sensory integration, processing information from the senses to respond appropriately. Unfortunately, anxiety can cause sensory overload, disrupting the central nervous system’s ability to react logically to the outside world. 

A service dog can perform deep pressure or deep touch pressure therapy (DTP) to calm the nervous system down, enabling them to manage their anxiety.

Find an Exit

Because an anxiety attack can occur at any time, it helps if the person undergoing the attack can leave the area whenever necessary. An anxiety service dog can receive training to find the nearest exit upon command or cue, leading a person away from a distressing or embarrassing situation. 

Crowd Control

People who have anxiety may experience claustrophobia in crowded situations. However, they can also feel boxed in even if only one or two people are in their personal space. An anxiety service dog can serve as a buffer between their handler and the people around them by placing itself between their handler and someone else. 

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An anxiety service dog can help their handler control their fears in crowded situations.

Obtaining Emergency Phones or Medication

Anxiety service dogs can receive training to fetch emergency cell phones and medication. For example, an emergency telephone (designated for use only in emergencies) can help a person to obtain help as soon as possible. Additionally, anxiety service dogs can receive emergency medication to help their handler calm down.

Turning on the Lights

People who struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a type of anxiety disorder, are sometimes afraid of the dark. An anxiety service dog can enter the room first and flip on the lights, keeping their handler from suffering through being in the dark.

Performing Safety Checks 

After experiencing a traumatic event, like a robbery or home invasion, a person can develop PTSD. An anxiety service dog may receive training to investigate an area or room before they enter, reassuring their handler that they’re safe. For many people with PTSD, getting affirmation of their safety is of utmost importance.

Hyper-Vigilance Reduction

Anxiety can trigger hyper-vigilance, making a person feel unsafe even in typical environments. A state of perpetual hyper-vigilance becomes distressing and disabling without treatment, making daily activities nearly impossible. An anxiety service dog can serve as a reality check for a person with anxiety. The dog can be a source of reassurance, allowing them to concentrate on their daily lives without worrying about unrealistic dangers. 

A Calming Influence 

When looking for the ideal anxiety service dog, temperament is critical. An intelligent dog who is gentle, calm, and not prone to agitation is the perfect candidate. A dog that’s anxious themselves can still function as an excellent pet but wouldn’t make for a good service dog in general. 

In short, an anxiety service dog should be an overall calming influence to someone with anxiety. The tasks listed in this article are only a few examples of the many ways an anxiety service dog can help manage anxiety disorders. They serve as a stabilizing influence and are vital to their handler’s state of mind and well-being. More than a pet, an anxiety service dog allows individuals with anxiety to live a safe and happy life. 

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5 comments

  1. Lynne says: March 10, 2022
    • Jon Clark says: March 22, 2022
    • Michael Schott says: April 8, 2022

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