How do Emotional Support Animals benefit people with bipolar disorder?
Animals are quick at recognizing emotional changes in human beings. Emotional Support Animals (ESA) provide ease and companionship during times of distress. They can also encourage handlers with bipolar disorder to interact with the outside world, which provides further opportunities to socialize and engage in physical activities. This can lead to the production of endorphins and have positive effects on the body.
For people suffering from an inability to control their emotions, an ESA can be a non-judgmental presence and love them the same. Emotional Support Animals provide the person with bipolar disorder with a sense of purpose and motivation to become focused on managing their condition and living a long, fulfilling life.
Hypomanic Phase of Bipolar Disorder
During the hypomanic phase, a person may experience periods of over-activeness and over-excitability. Hypomania can be mild and last a few days. A person’s daily life may be so affected, however, that they may feel disconnected from the world. An Emotional Support Animal for bipolar disorder can help a person feel grounded and bring back some lost focus.
The phase is followed by a period of depression. The person can appear detached from other people. In those times an ESA can offer a connection and support that other people are not able to provide.
Manic Phase of Bipolar Disorder
When a person with bipolar disorder is going through the manic phase, their daily activities may be severely impacted. In critical cases, they need to be treated in the hospital. Mania is more serious than hypomania and may last a few weeks. The manic phase can lead to hallucinations, delusions, and even seizures.
During the manic phase, the person may speak more than they normally do or talk about unrealistic things. In moments like these, Emotional Support Animals become patient listeners. The ESA’s presence can help the person become grounded and distract them when they’re experiencing hallucinations and delusions.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is an assistance animal for individuals with mental and psychological disorders and provides companionship, comfort and a feeling of safety. An ESA does not have to be specifically trained to perform tasks, it only has to provide emotional support to ease symptoms of the handler’s mental condition.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 19% of the US adult population in 2017 suffered from some type of mental disorder.
With this increase, Emotional Support Animals (ESA) have become a source of stress relief and distraction.
Laws that Protect the Right to Own an Emotional Support Animal
Emotional Support Animals are protected by two federal laws:
- Under the Fair Housing Act of 1988, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Individuals who own ESA’s cannot be discriminated against by landlords due to their disability. A building’s policies and restrictions that apply to normal pets do not apply to ESAs.
- Under the Air Carrier Access Act, an ESA can accompany their handler in the cabin of the aircraft.
Both laws require an ESA Letter from a licensed mental health professional, showing that the person suffers from a disability and needs an ESA to help with that disability.
However, in contrast to Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals cannot be taken into public places that do not allow pets.
How to Get an Emotional Support Animal?
To get the benefits of an ESA, an ESA recommendation letter is required from a licensed health care professional. If you qualify, they will write a letter stating you have an emotional/mental condition and recommending an Emotional Support Animal as an important part of your well-being.
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