How Emotional Support Animals Positively Impact Mental Health
You might know that service animals exist to assist individuals with a specific handicap, such as blindness or deafness, but there is another category of animals that lend aid in another way – for emotional and mental health.
There’s a whole slew of extraordinary benefits that come from having an emotional support animal depending on your needs and your unique situation.
Let’s explore the ways that emotional support animals can edify your lifestyle in a wholesome and reliable way!
The Difference Between Support Animals and Service Animals
Let’s begin by establishing an important distinction, which is the fact that emotional support animals are not technically defined as service animals, according to HUD legislation. Contrary to common belief, they are still regarded as pets, which can mean a variety of things.
Commercial airlines are not obligated to allow emotional support animals on planes, whereas with service animals, the rules are stricter, and they must be permitted.
While service animals are trained to fill a need for a human task that cannot be completed by the owner, emotional support animals are a form of “emotional security blanket” whose primary role is to be available and present for the mental well-being and comfort of the owner.
Now, there is such a thing as a psychiatric service dog, whose training is more rigorous to counteract behavior in a psychiatric episode of the owner. The training that goes into equipping an animal to become an emotional support animal, although less intense, is still focused and deliberate to serve the intended purpose of offering mental support.
Relief From Depression and Anxiety
Some of the feelings that come with depression are loneliness, sadness, and worthlessness. Having an emotional support animal by our side during a period of depression or an anxiety attack can work wonders for mental and emotional relief.
This is because pets can naturally give you a sense of belonging and purpose. They can improve your self-esteem and even decrease levels of fear – both of which are common symptoms of anxiety. On a more physical level, emotional support pets can help regulate your hormones. For one, they help you manage the hormone responsible for stress, cortisol. They also boost the hormone responsible for happier feelings, known as oxytocin.
The powerful element of animals is that many of them can sense hormone imbalances in their owners, which can prompt them to respond accordingly. If you’re feeling distraught, they can sense it. If you’re feeling happy, they can sense that too.
On an emotional level, however, emotional support animals can give owners the support and sense of responsibility they need to stabilize their lives. After all, there’s nothing better way to come home than greeting a happy smile from a furry friend at the end of the day.
Types of Pets as Emotional Support Animals
Although pets in general can provide a variety of benefits, the type of pet you get can also come with its own benefits and considerations. The most common pets considered emotional support animals are cats and dogs, but others come with unique advantages.
- Rabbits – Rabbits can be extremely loving. They can grow strong bonds with their owners and often demonstrate their love through body language.
- Horses – Many people build connections with their horse or pony and find mental solace in horseback riding. Horses are very intelligent beings and can form strong trust with their masters. There’s an abundance of mental benefits that coincide with the rearing of a horse, which is popularized as “equine therapy.”
- Parrots – This beautiful species of bird is notable for the sake that they can repeat phrases that can be used to supplement conversation with their owners.
- Goats – Strange as it may sound, goats are very relational animals that can be full of character and personality. Often very adventurous, they can lead you to a good laugh.
Of course, to obtain an ESA, you’ll have to ensure you have all the proper shelter, food, and medical care available for their needs, which may vary based on the type of animal. Make sure you evaluate these precautions before going further in your ESA journey.
How Does One Get Prescribed an Emotional Support Animal?
If you have a thorough line of communication with your primary care doctor and they have a clear understanding of your mental health needs, they should be licensed with the authority to prescribe you an ESA.
As it is, most licensed medical professionals, including psychologists and even social workers, can have the ability to prescribe an ESA. Talk to your doctor if an ESA is a productive method for tending to your mental health.
Signs That You Should Get an Emotional Support Animal
Now the reasons to get an ESA will vary from person to person, but if you’re experiencing high levels of stress and don’t have a family member at home that can calm you down, that may be the perfect opportunity to have a furry companion there to help lower your tension.
If you have trouble sleeping at night, having an animal present with you in the room can create a calming sense of comfort and protection, knowing that someone else in the room is looking out for you.
Moreover, if you struggle with PTSD, having an animal can be a comfortable detraction from normal patterns that you’re used to, which may stimulate PTSD symptoms. Having the responsibility of owning a pet can help distract you from traumatic stimuli.
Love Them, and They’ll Love You
Remember, at the end of the day, if you do decide to get an ESA, they will still be a dependent pet that needs you just as much as you need them. Their role in your mental health is serving a good purpose, so be sure to show them your love and appreciation for it!
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