What draws us to pets? According to the ASPCA, Americans collectively own 78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats. That doesn’t include other categories of pets, including reptiles, fish, ferrets and a plethora of other animals. Our pets are very important to us.
For those struggling with depression, pets play an even more important role. Beyond just being “pets,” these animals become a source of emotional support and comfort, and significant positive outcomes stem from their companionship.
As we have learned more about the benefits of having animals in our lives, the term “Emotional Support Animal” was given credence. An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) offers companionship to people dealing with emotional disabilities or difficulties.
For more information on how to qualify for an ESA letter online, you may read this article.
Emotional Support Animals can help those who suffer with depression in a number of ways, including:
1. Improved Physical Health
Emotional wellbeing is impacted by physical wellness. Harvard University studies have shown that the act of petting a dog decreases blood pressure, and dog ownership has been correlated with lower triglyceride levels. Plus, walking a dog increases physical activity, which correlates with an increase in endorphins (feel-good hormones in the body). Improving these health measures helps create a less stressful physical environment in which to function, and this helps decrease depressive symptoms.
2. Sense of Meaning and Purpose
Depression can cause feelings of detachment from others and a sense of purposelessness. An emotional support animal can mean the difference between feeling alone in the world and experiencing unconditional love. Knowing a pet is relying on you for food and love offers a sense of purpose.
3. Safe and Healthy Companionship
Relationships with other humans can be complex, particularly if someone is struggling with depression and doesn’t feel as able to socialize. Emotional support animals offer safe and loving companionship that is simple and genuine. Those experiencing depression can “be themselves” and there is no need to put on a false front as we are sometimes compelled to do in human relationships.
4. Improved Self Esteem, Decreased Anxiety
People struggling with depression commonly experience low self esteem and are often more prone to anxiety. An emotional support animal helps improve both factors, thus improving quality of life. A study conducted by Dr. McConnell of Miami University showed that pet owners have higher self esteem and decreased levels of fearfulness than those who do not have pets. This suggests that emotional support animals not only decrease symptoms of depression, but improve overall quality of one’s emotional life.
5. Decreased Isolation
Depression can result in social isolation, and pet ownership can help diminish this tendency. Walking a dog is a necessary part of care, as well as grooming and going to vet appointments. These necessities require getting out of the home and frequently, these excursions with a pet can result in positive interactions in the community. Dogs, especially, are naturally social and often draw people into conversations and adoring pats on the head. The simple act of walking the dog offers purpose, socialization and takes the pressure off the pet owner to start up dialogue, since the dog is the focus of attention with all its cuteness. Decreasing social isolation helps reduce depressive symptoms.
Emotional support animals are beneficial for a variety of conditions, but for those dealing with depression, they can be especially important for improving quality of life and health, and offering unconditional love and companionship. There is a reason most of us have pets. While we instinctively understand their value, it is also important to learn the specific benefits animals offer in our lives.
How Can I Get an Emotional Support Animal Prescription Letter?
If you believe an emotional support animal will benefit you and alleviate your symptoms of depression, you may qualify for an ESA prescription letter. You may reach out to your current mental health professional or connect with one online. Make sure that your ESA prescription letter is dated within one calendar and on your mental health professional’s official letterhead.
See if you qualify for an emotional support animal below.
Get the love and support you deserve.