Yes, emotional support animals help with anxiety. Their scent, touch, engagement, and other interactions have been proven to help owners function in their day-to-day lives regardless of age, as you can see in this study on the elderly and this one with children.  

And the studies go back decades, like this one from the American Psychiatric Association, where they studied the effects of animal-assisted therapy on hospitalized patients with mental disorders and showed a significant reduction in anxiety levels post-exposure.

Because severe anxiety can be covered under the Fair Housing Act, you can legally live in apartments, dorms, and housing with no pets rules as long as you have a valid ESA letter from a licensed medical health professional, and that is up to date. Emotional support animals can be dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, fish, and other small domesticated household animals.

Now that you know emotional support animals do, in fact, help with anxiety, and that your housing rights are protected by the law, we’ll explain how they help. And we’ll show some ways you can try to reduce your own anxiety with an ESA.  

Here’s a list of common anxiety symptoms from the World Health Organization that an ESA might be able to help you with: 

  • Trouble concentrating and making decisions.
  • Feeling impending doom, danger, or panic.
  • Being irritable or tense without explanation.
  • Issues falling asleep.
  • Sweating, shaking, and trembling for no apparent reason.

These can be brought on by any number of causes, from needing to attend a social event to work, having to leave your home, or just daily life. Here are some things you can do with your ESA to alleviate your anxiety. Just make sure you’re running them by your licensed healthcare provider and get their input, as everyone is unique and they know your history best.

  • Pet your dog, cat, or other pettable animal for 10 to 15 minutes. This study has shown that 10 minutes is enough time to alleviate some of the anxiety symptoms.
  • Scents and aromatherapy can reduce the symptoms of anxiety, and familiar scents have been shown to help stabilize moods when shifts happen because of stress. Although stress is a different disorder, the symptoms are similar, so you may want to try encouraging your emotional support animal to sit with you during the workday to reduce anxiety levels. Their smell and presence may help reduce irritability and agitation, which come in handy when work is piling up.
  • To relieve impulsiveness and irritability, a combination of napping for 20 to 30 minutes may reduce these symptoms, according to this medically reviewed post by the University of Rochester. The added scent and tactile benefits of your emotional support animal may help calm down to get you to sleep. 
  • When you need to focus but anxiety prevents it, emotional support fish may be a solution. The NIH has concluded that watching fish can reduce some of the symptoms of anxiety. Even if it doesn’t slow your heart rate, the calming effect may help you regain focus so you can concentrate and make decisions again.

There’s never going to be a one-size-fits-all solution for alleviating anxiety, but one thing is clear: emotional support animals can help reduce some of the symptoms, which is why therapists and other licensed health professionals write ESA letters as a natural remedy.

Start the ESA questionnaire to see if you qualify for an Emotional Support Animal.


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