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How Service Dogs Can Help a Person with Anxiety

How Service Dogs Can Help a Person with Anxiety

Debilitating anxiety can make everyday tasks difficult to manage. It can be a struggle to go out in public, attend social events, or even complete simple tasks like grocery shopping. For those who experience anxiety that affects their daily life, a service dog can be a game-changer.

Psychiatric Service Dogs for Anxiety

A service dog is a highly trained animal that assists individuals with disabilities. In the case of debilitating anxiety, a service dog can be trained to provide comfort, support, and a sense of security. 

Service dogs that assist with mental health conditions are known as psychiatric service dogs. These dogs can detect changes in their handler’s behavior and take appropriate action to alleviate their symptoms.

To qualify for a service dog, your anxiety must severely impact a major life activity. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a qualifying psychiatric disability as one that “substantially limits a major life activity.” That means a person’s anxiety must be so chronic and intense that it limits their ability to complete important life activities like working, attending school, or caring for oneself. 

How a Service Dog Helps with Anxiety

One way a service dog can help someone with debilitating anxiety is by providing a calming presence. Just having the dog nearby can make the person feel more secure and less anxious. The dog can provide a sense of grounding, helping the individual feel more connected to the present moment. 

However, a dog that solely provides comfort through its presence is likely an emotional support animal and not a service dog. Service dogs, by definition, must be individually trained to perform specific tasks related to their handler’s disability. 

For example, if the person experiences panic attacks, the dog can be trained to recognize the signs of an impending attack and take action. This may include nudging the person to get their attention, providing deep pressure therapy, or leading them to a quiet place where they can calm down.

Another way service dogs can help those with debilitating anxiety is by providing social support. Going out in public can be challenging for individuals who struggle with social anxiety. Having a service dog by their side can make it easier to navigate social situations. 

In addition to providing emotional support, service dogs also assist their handlers with practical tasks. For example, the dog can be trained to retrieve medication or a water bottle during an anxiety attack. They can also be trained to alert their handler when they sense an oncoming panic attack, allowing the person to take appropriate steps to manage their symptoms.

Psychiatric service dog tasks (examples)

Verifying a Psychiatric Service Dog 

Psychiatric disabilities are not visible like other disabilities might be. As a result, third parties have the right to verbally confirm whether you have a service dog. To verify a service dog, staff at a public venue can ask two questions:

  1. Is the dog a service dog required for a disability? and
  2. What work or task has the service dog been trained to perform?

Most service dog owners use accessories like ID cards, vests, certificates, and tags to visually denote that their dog is a service animal. Note, however, that third parties cannot insist on these items as a condition of entry. Service dog owners use them at their discretion. 

If you are planning to fly with your psychiatric service dog, you should be prepared to complete the DOT’s Service Animal Air Transportation Form

PSD owners can also obtain PSD letters from their licensed healthcare professional. A PSD letter is a document establishing that a person has a qualifying mental health disability.

Woman with anxiety talking to therapist
Talk to a licensed healthcare professional in person or online if a psychiatric service dog could help deal with your anxiety.

See if your mental disability qualifies for a psychiatric assistance dog. Get an PSD Letter assessment from a licensed healthcare professional.

Order your psychiatric service dog letter today - Click here - ServiceDogCertifications

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