We all have our down days, but some people have them more often than others. There are also those who are perpetually depressed or anxious. Many treatments are available for various anxiety disorders ranging from prescription medication to ongoing therapy, or a combination of these. One such treatment is the use of an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) to help anxious individuals to relax and overcome their anxiety.
In order to understand how an ESA can help those with anxiety disorders, we first need to know what an ESA is.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
While pets as companions have been popular for hundreds, if not thousands of years, an Emotional Support Animal is a fairly new concept. An emotional support animal is a pet that has been ‘prescribed’ by a psychologist, psychiatrist or therapist to a patient as part of their plan towards wellness. The aim is to provide comfort to the patient, and something positive for them to focus on. The overall goal is that the animal will provide emotional support for patients during times of need, when they may not have any nearby friends or family to rely on.
Can Any Animal be an Emotional Support Animal?
Almost any animal can be prescribed to provide an individual with a psychological disability. The best way to look at it is, if it would be kept as a pet, it can also be used as an ESA. Naturally, a wild animal such as a polar bear definitely wouldn’t be suitable, but any domesticated animal such as the most typical options like cats and dogs, down to spiders and snakes can be used – whatever the individual being treated is comfortable with and can adequately care for. As long as the animal contributes towards the individual’s wellbeing, there are no real restrictions as to the type of animal to be used.
Unlike Service or Assistance animals, Emotional Support Animals do not require any special training or certification – their job is purely to provide emotional support, rather than physical assistance to the owner.
How to Legally Make My Pet an ESA
To legally make your pet an emotional support animal, a therapist must recommend an ESA for your mental illness. According to the NIMH, 1 in 5 Americans suffer from a mental illness – including anxiety. A licensed therapist must write you an ESA letter recommending an emotional support animal for your condition.
You are not required to register your ESA on any registration site or purchase a emotional support animal vest for your pet. As long as your therapist recommends an emotional support animal for your wellbeing along with a letter, your pet can qualify as an emotional support animal.
Emotional Support Animals for Anxiety
In much the same way that care providers and home-visit nurses care for the elderly and disabled in their own homes or in nursing homes, Emotional Support Animals are prescribed to help the psychologically disabled to overcome or cope better with their disability. While Service Animals are there to assist those with physical disabilities such as leading a blind or partially sighted person, or pulling a wheelchair-bound person along, an Emotional Support Animal does exactly as the name suggests – it provides emotional support to its owner.
As many individuals suffering from an anxiety disorder often report loneliness as a significant contributing factor towards their anxiety, simply having a pet around can stave off the feeling of being lonely. By having an Emotional Support Animal, the symptoms of anxiety can be greatly relieved as the individual will never be truly alone.
How Can an Emotional Support Animal Help with My Anxiety?
Although animals cannot speak or even begin to comprehend what the patient is going through, Emotional Support Animals can aid the anxiety sufferer by giving them an emotional outlet – someone to talk to when there might be nobody else around. What makes this even more ideal is that the ESA will not judge the individual, where an actual person may judge or attempt to offer unwanted advice.
In addition to providing someone to talk to, Emotional Support Animals can ward off feelings of anxiety through the provision of affection. Physical touch can help anxiety through creating a bond between the person and the animal. What better way to feel better than cuddling up with your dog (or rat, if that’s your thing!)?
As all animals require their own care and attention, having an Emotional Support Animal can improve the symptoms of anxiety. By simply providing a distraction for the owner, an ESA can ward off the symptoms as they begin. If an individual is spending time grooming, feeding, walking and playing with their ESA, they are focusing more on the animal rather than the cause of their anxiety, which over time can contribute to a steadier, more positive outlook on their life.
Emotional Support Animals are a great way to help with your anxiety!
Because animals can provide an enormous amount of emotional support through a variety of ways, having an ESA is a fantastic way to help you with your anxiety. Although simply having an Emotional Support Animal isn’t guaranteed to cure you of your anxiety on its own, it’s definitely a great addition to your mental health improvement plan.
Start the ESA questionnaire to see if you qualify for an emotional support dog.
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Disclaimer: For informational purposes only.