5 Ways Emotional Support Animals Help People with Mental Disabilities
Is it true that our furry friends can help us deal with mental illness? In fact, it’s still subject to debate on how exactly animals offer emotional support to people. According to psychiatrist and author Gail Saltz, MD, the mere presence and warmth of pets to hug and to hold can provide a sense of calm and can even be mood-boosting. The simple principle behind it is that it gives off a sense of being needed and their companionship can have positive outcomes to a person’s life.
Over time, as we realized the impact of these animals on people’s mental health, the term “Emotional Support Animal” or ESA was coined and validated. An ESA can provide support and companionship to people who are dealing with significant mental disabilities and difficulties.
Here are five ways that animals can significantly offer emotional support and help with one’s overall well-being.
1. Improves Physical Health
Your physical and emotional well-being are inter-related. According to researchers from the Harvard University, even the simple act of petting your dog can significantly decrease your blood pressure. Moreover, taking your pet for a walk can increase endorphins or the feel-good hormones in your body. Following these health measures can significantly keep depressive symptoms at bay.
2. Boosts Self-Esteem and Reduces Anxiety
ESAs offer support to various individuals suffering from different disorders such as post-traumatic disorders, anxiety, and depression. These pets who spend the rest of the day with their owners who are mentally distressed can, in fact, offer support in the most surprising ways. According to Clinical Psychologist Dr. Joshua Klapow, the mere petting of an animal can significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Moreover, if a person is feeling down, fearful or agitated, the seemingly steady and neutral presence of an animal divert’s an individual’s focus. It forces them to shift their attention to the animal instead of themselves.
Another study from Dr. McConnell of Miami University shows that pet owners have lower levels of fearfulness and higher levels of self-esteem than their non-pet counterparts. It simply shows that affection or a supportive stance from these creatures can go a long way.
3. Provides Unconditional Love
Having an ESA helps individuals struggling with mental illness feel loved. It enables them to forge deeper connections that they otherwise may find difficult to establish with other humans. However, it doesn’t mean that you have to abandon human relationships altogether. In fact, an ESA can bring you one step closer in building meaningful relationships with other people. Technically, an ESA’s purpose is to make a person feel accompanied and less alone if ever they feel isolated from the rest of the world.
4. Recognizes Signs of Panic Attack
Do you know that even just the presence of your most trusted companion calms you from having a panic attack? Also, there are effective passive methods how you can train a pet dog from blocking strangers from unexpectedly approaching their owners.
5. Helps Decrease Social Isolation
One notable symptom of depression is increased social isolation. Owning a pet can help minimize this tendency, therefore significantly reducing its symptoms. Since walking a dog and attending vet appointments is something a pet owner has to do on a regular basis, unknowingly, this encourages a person to go out more often and have different social interactions from the community.
In addition, owning a pet can help draw in random meaningful conversations from different people. What a way to spread and get good vibes!
How Can You Get an Emotional Support Animal?
Here’s a well-known secret: owning a pet can significantly lift your spirit. It can undoubtedly do wonders for your health and overall well-being. If you’re going through hard times and is diagnosed with a mental or emotional disorder, you can then consider getting a trusted Emotional Support Animal to accompany you and always be by your side.
Consult with a professional on how to get an emotional support animal. If you consulted with a doctor, ask for an official diagnosis and make sure you get the relevant documents that you can present whenever necessary.
Also, take the Americans With Disabilities Act into consideration. Although technically, you might live or work somewhere where pets aren’t allowed, this is an exception according to the information provided by The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. By then, you can submit a written request to your landlord or employer together with a copy of your ESA prescription from a registered mental health professional.