Do Emotional Support Animals Really Provide Emotional Support
Anyone who has ever owned a pet knows that animals are often our best source of comfort when we are feeling down or unwell. For people who struggle with emotional or mental illnesses or disabilities, emotional support animals provide much-needed companionship, comfort, security, and love. Animals have a remarkable way of making us feel better, and emotional support animals truly do provide emotional support to the people who need it most.
What Is an Emotional Support Animal?
There is some confusion surrounding what an emotional support animal, or ESA, is and is not. By definition, an ESA is an animal that provides therapeutic benefits and helps alleviate the symptoms their handlers experience due to a mental or emotional disability. They require minimal training, and, unlike service dogs, they do not need to perform a specific task to help their handlers.
The most important job of an emotional support animal is to provide companionship and comfort to its owner to make it easier to accomplish one or more major life activities, including caring for oneself, working, performing manual tasks, sleeping, walking, and numerous other activities. Emotional support animals are commonly prescribed to persons struggling with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, etc.
Who Qualifies for Emotional Support Animals?
Roughly 18% of American adults live with some type of emotional or mental disability, many of whom could benefit from owning an emotional support animal. Unfortunately, many of them do not realize that they may qualify for one. Mental health professionals prescribe ESAs to people living with a wide variety of disabilities and illnesses. In addition to helping people with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, emotional support animals can help people of all ages who struggle with ADHD and autism spectrum disorders.
Emotional support animal letters are provided by licensed mental health workers and other medical professionals. The letter indicates that the patient is limited by their disability and requires an emotional support animal as part of their treatment.
How Emotional Support Animals Provide Emotional Support
Emotional support animals provide emotional support simply by being there for their handlers. They provide unconditional love, and just spending time with a loyal companion can really make someone who suffers from a mental disorder feel better. They also create a sense of purpose and responsibility. Feeding, talking, bathing, and taking care of an animal can make a person feel valuable and important. This can be extremely helpful for people who struggle with depression and may not feel a great sense of self-worth on their own. Because they need to be taken care of, animals also help keep their owners more active. It’s nearly impossible to spend all day curled up in bed when there is a furry companion relying on you to provide for their every need.
While they can’t talk back, emotional support animals are great listeners. They are never too busy to lend an ear when their owners need them, and they never judge. They’re also great at keeping secrets, so they act at furry therapists that people can talk to about absolutely anything. Having another living being to confide in – even in that being isn’t human – helps people work through their problems. It also helps alleviate the feelings of loneliness and isolation that many people who struggle with depression and other mental health problems experience.
Talking with a therapist or counselor is beneficial and highly recommended for people who have mental and emotional illnesses and disabilities. Those people aren’t always available, though. With an emotional support animal, you always have someone by your side that you can talk to at any time of the day or night. There is no waiting room or expensive co-pay to worry about – just a loving companion who will always be there to provide a shoulder to cry on when you need it most.
Emotional support animals provide support when their handlers must face difficult situations. If anxiety prevents you from traveling, for example, an ESA can provide the comfort you need to make it through a long flight. They help their owners feel more confident in anxiety-inducing situations, and they can even make it easier to meet new people. For people with mental or emotional disabilities or illnesses, emotional support animals help provide the support they need to live full, independent lives.