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How Having a Pet Can Help With Depression and Anxiety
Animal lovers know the feeling they get when their dog runs to them after a long day at work or their cat chooses to sleep on their lap on a cozy night. That feeling exemplifies exactly how a pet can help with depression and anxiety. Of course, pet ownership is a lot more than just the great parts. Some aspects are stressful or frustrating — but the love and companionship you get from a pet swings so far in the positive direction that it makes the hard parts worth it.
There are many ways that pets help with mental and physical health, and one of them is the value of companionship. Animals also provide opportunities for exercise. Further, they can help those looking for a natural aid for their depression and anxiety. Pets can also improve your immune system and lead you to create a routine that can aid in a healthy lifestyle. All of these advantages are essential to the role of an emotional support animal.
Pets Offer Companionship
The tail wags, slobbery kisses, purrs, and head nudges are all a part of the companionship and love you get from an animal. Not only do they provide companionship, but it’s also easy companionship that doesn’t expend too much energy or ask a lot from you. This type of relationship is great for someone with depression or anxiety who may crave companionship but isn’t able to expend as much energy as a human companion would require.
The love pets provide is one of the many good reasons to adopt an animal, and if you live with depression or anxiety, the perks are even greater. Mental health struggles can feel very lonely, and pets offer a pure love and companionship that can ease those feelings.
A Dog Can Increase Outdoor Time and Exercise
Your cat, bird, or rodent may not be a big fan of outdoor exercise or long walks (though, some cats love walking on leashes!), but your dog or horse thrive with regular exercise. Thankfully, so do humans. The endorphins you release when you exercise can enhance your overall happiness, and spending time outside can help to distract you from your troubles and stay connected to your animal.
Dogs get a lot of enrichment and socialization from exercise, new smells, and new experiences, so taking them on walks is great for their well-being both mentally and physically as well.
An Animal Is a Natural Remedy for Anxiety and Depression
There are a lot of physical changes that happen in your body when you’re around an animal. Interacting with animals can decrease cortisol levels, which is a stress hormone. Animals also lower blood pressure. Each of these things create a calmness in a person which can be beneficial to health.
These physical reactions can reduce anxiety and depression naturally, which is really helpful for people who react negatively to some medications. For instance, Ativan can be prescribed to help with anxiety, but some who take it may battle with depression and increased anxiety as side effects. While many thrive with medication, others battle with finding the right medication for them, and a pet can be a natural remedy to aid in that process.
Pets Can Boost Your Immune System
It’s hard to stay in a good place with your mental health if you’re plagued with sickness and other health problems. Thankfully, pets also work to boost your immune system. Health promotion and disease prevention is vital in order to lower rates of disease, and pets can do a small part in helping with that mission.
The dirt, dander, and microbes that an animal carries can better prepare the body for other bacteria and viruses, especially in children. So even though your animal may leave hair, dirt, and other messes around your home, know that it’s actually improving your immune system. It may be another chore to do, but at least you’re getting a health benefit from it as well.
Animals Help Create a Routine
Some of the negative effects of depression and anxiety include an interruption in everyday life. Getting out of bed, eating, or showering can be a chore when you’re in the worst parts of the symptoms of depression or anxiety. However, those with pets have an added incentive to stick to their routine and push through those interruptions.
Animals need daily food, water, exercise, and enrichment in order to live a happy and fulfilling life. People need a lot of those things as well, and those with a pet may be more likely to complete their routine despite experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression in order to care for their animal. That routine can be the difference between sinking into the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and working to find solutions for them instead.
The Role of an Emotional Support Animal
Emotional support animals (ESAs) are used in a lot of different settings to provide assistance for those who need it. Hospitals, schools, and counselors may all provide emotional support animals to patients and students in order to help them manage stress. Illness, finals week, and trauma are all situations that are stressful, and ESAs are often a great source of stress relief in those situations.
It’s important to note that ESAs are not quite the same as service animals, so the regulations are different for each type of animal. Service animals are specially trained to calm someone with PTSD, to lead someone with vision impairments, or to signal a handler if they sense a seizure. Emotional support animals aren’t specially trained; they offer support for reasons like stress relief and companionship.
If you live with depression or anxiety, or you know someone who does, you realize the struggles that can coincide with each mental health diagnosis. There are many different things used to ease the symptoms associated with each one, and each person may require a different combination of treatments to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression. For some, a pet offers some reprieve.
Our pets’ ability to offer companionship, increase exercise, lower stress, boost health, and to establish routines makes them a great resource for mental health. This is why emotional support animals can make such an impact. Wet nose kisses and earthquake purrs make us feel good for a reason. For those with anxiety or depression, it can make all the difference.