Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

Emotional support animals (ESA) help individuals to overcome mental health challenges. Other people may only see a pet, but an emotional support animal fulfills the valuable role of supporting the handler in mastering life’s challenges that others might take for granted.

Is an Emotional Support Animal for you?

If you have a mental disability — such as depression, anxiety, or other psychological disorder — you may qualify for an emotional support animal. It is well documented that ESAs provide a therapeutic benefit through comfort and companionship. To qualify for an emotional support animal, you need to obtain an ESA letter. Talk to your licensed health care professional or, if your therapist is unavailable or out of state, connect with one through an online service, such as ESA Doctors.

Pets versus Emotional Support Animals 

On a general level, pets provide a special beneficial relationship. The Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) has collected scientific evidence, which shows how pets positively influence human lives. Pets can encourage social interaction. Pet owners are more likely to get to know their neighbors and have positive relationships than individuals who don’t own a pet. Pets can contribute to a healthy life by improving physical health, decreasing stress levels, and providing companionship.

Emotional support animals, however, have a very specific and essential task. 

Difference between service dogs, emotional support animals, and therapy dogs. An Emotional Support Animal is More Than a Pet

More than pets, ESAs are required to serve a vital therapeutic purpose. ESAs allow people with emotional and mental health challenges to accomplish life activities that they would otherwise be unable to do. But, as opposed to a psychiatric service dog, an emotional support animal is not trained to perform a specific task.

Given the importance of the human-animal bond, it’s not hard to imagine how emotional support animals can improve the quality of life for a person suffering from a mental health issue or disability. 

Emotional support animals serve a particular therapeutic purpose by helping with emotional and mental health issues.

Mental Health Help

Before the value of emotional support animals can be explained, the importance of a person’s healthy mental well-being needs to be recognized. Mental health affects a person’s life as a whole. Not addressing these mental health concerns can cause problems at work, school, with friends, or even with family. Ignoring mental health issues can also compromise physical health in the long run by raising blood pressure, increasing heart rate, and causing muscle tension. 

Inadequate mental health can leave a person feeling lonely, drained, and defeated, unable to perform daily tasks that others take for granted. For example, a person may experience anxiety, making them unable to travel or be in social situations. Illnesses such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can cause insomnia, causing someone to be unable to obtain adequate sleep. Mental concerns can have a sweeping negative impact on a person’s life.

Emotional Support Dog helps to keep a positive outlook on life. Benefits of an Emotional Support Animal

For people trying to overcome mental health issues, every little triumph can help on the way to recovery. Emotional support animals can offer support on the path to healing. 

Numerous studies have documented how ESAs can be part of the wellness plan for mental health issues and other disorders. Emotional support animals have been essential in helping people manage disorders such as:

Anxiety Depression Post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) Agoraphobia (fear of being outside of the home) Aerophobia (fear of flying) General Anxiety Disorder Stress-induced situations Social shyness.

Get the Love and Support you deserve!

Anxiety and PTSD

Anxiety can be difficult to overcome without assistance. For those whose anxieties include phobias, anxiety can make everyday tasks impossible to accomplish. Emotional support animals are useful for anxiety and specific phobias. The ESAs provide a sense of comfort and safety, enabling patients to face and overcome those phobias. For instances:

Individuals who tend to have anxiety attacks when traveling often feel calmer in the presence of an Emotional Support Animal. Hospitalized patients with serious medical diagnoses have been shown to experience a decrease in anxiety when able to interact with an ESA. In courtrooms, Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals are used to provide victims some security while they are testifying against their alleged assailant.

Many therapists utilize Emotional Support Animals for veterans who have PTSD. A Pairing Assistance-Dogs with Soldiers (PAWS) study demonstrated that dogs significantly reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress in veterans. Veterans with Service or Emotional Support Dogs reported improved interpersonal relationships with others, fewer instances of depression, and fewer instances of substance abuse than veterans without dogs.  

An emotional support cat offers comfort and healing. Depression

In the case of depression, emotional support dogs can save a life. In instances of severe depression, a person may be unable to perform daily activities, or they may have feelings of suicide. There is scientific evidence that a human-animal bond can be a protective factor against suicide and depression. An ESA for depression can improve mood, increase sociability, and promote responsiveness to others in cases of depression.

Beyond Priceless

An emotional support animal — a dog, cat, or any other animal — serves a specific and valuable service for the people they accompany. More than pets, ESAs serve a particular therapeutic purpose by helping deal with emotional and mental health issues. Understanding the therapeutic value of emotional support animals can lead to their increased acceptance into society.

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.

We’ve probably all seen a service dog helping to guide a person that is physically challenged but did you know you can also have a service dog if you suffer from anxiety?

Dogs can be especially helpful to those that suffer from any number of mental or emotional issues such as PTSD or social anxiety. However, unlike a service dog that has been trained by professionals to work with their owner, you can train your own dog to help you cope with your emotional trauma. Here are some basic steps on how to train a service dog for anxiety.

Step #1 – Choosing the Right Service Dog

It is highly recommended to start out with the right breed for being a service dog. Some canines just do not exhibit the right temperament to do this important and demanding job.

To ensure you are getting a pup that can be trained for service, it’s advised to look to those reputable breeders that are raising dogs for this specific purpose. You can also find great service dog candidates at your local shelters too!

According to Psychiatric Service Dog Partners when choosing a puppy for service work, look for these qualities;

Social – quick to greet Does not startle easily Follows Eager to be held Alert Step #2 – Determine the Service Dog’s Job 

Once you have your puppy you must determine what you will need the dog to do for you in order to guide its training. Once this is established you can begin bonding with your puppy. This helps create a baseline for your dog to recognize when you are in a relaxed state and when you are beginning to experience anxiety – dogs are very intuitive so the right dog will pick up on this naturally.

Step #3 – Develop Socialization Skills

Reputable breeders will have already started the socialization process with their puppies. This means the puppy has been handled extensively, been introduced to new people and new situations as well as being taken outside of the home.

When you get your puppy, it’s important that you keep up the socialization. The last thing you want is a dog that is frightened or stressed each time it encounters something new.

Step #4 – Start Basic Training Skills

All dogs should have the basics of training and good behavior, but it is doubly important if you plan to bring your dog with you into public areas. These skills include;

Sit Stay Drop Heel Leave Come

If you feel you cannot teach your canine companion the basic obedience skills needed, then enlist the help of a professional trainer. These people have the knowledge to, not only teach your dog, but also teach you how to continue the training outside of the weekly sessions.

Step #5 – Fine Tune Public Access Skills

Once your service dog-in-training has mastered his/her basic commands, then you can begin to work on public access skills. Use those pet-friendly areas like retail pet stores, outdoor cafes etc. to help your dog become accustomed to the hustle and bustle of public places.

Step #6 – Individual Response Training

It may be difficult to train a dog to alert a person before a panic attack, but with a close bond, your dog may pick up on your different body language and, if you are completely fear-stricken, the chemical changes in your body.

Some people who suffer from anxiety and stress have reported that giving the puppy/dog a treat when they are experiencing the symptoms is a helpful way to teach your dog to respond; however, not everyone is capable of this type of action when in the midst of anxiety, stress or fear.

Cuddling your dog close when you feel stressed is not only a great way to help bring relief to you, but will also allow the dog the chance to pick up on your “tell” signs. This is why it is crucial to find the right breed and/or temperament of your canine service dog.

Training a Service Dog for Anxiety

When training a service dog for anxiety you will have to have patience and persistence, especially with puppies. Begin with the basic training skills and socialization, then work your dog up for public access. Having a dog that helps with severe anxiety, PTSD, panic attacks and so on is a therapeutic way to get your life back on track.