There is a huge difference between coming home to a silent, empty house versus coming home to an enthusiastic, tail-wagging dog. Being greeted with so much adoration and love lifts the mood and makes life more bearable. So, can a dog help with loneliness? Most definitely.
An Emotional Support Dog may help
Loneliness may be an underlining symptom of depression, anxiety, or stress-related mental health issues. In such cases, a dog does not only help endure loneliness but can also support and ease the pain caused by the bigger issue. And you could be eligible to get an Emotional Support Dog.
Talk to your therapist or a legitimate LMHP online. The therapist will be able to evaluate if an Emotional Support Dog is good for your healing process, and can issue an ESA Letter. With the ESA letter in hand, you can apply for your dog to live with you in no-pet housing and college campuses.
Ready to qualify for an emotional support dog? Complete the questionnaire in the link below and a healthcare professional licensed in your state will assist you with your request.
What is Loneliness?
According to the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), one in five Americans reports feeling lonely and socially isolated. Feelings of loneliness can impact mental health, causing depression and anxiety. However, the HRSA notes that loneliness can also affect a person’s physical health.
Loneliness is as dangerous to the body as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and more harmful than obesity.
The following social groups are more prone to feelings of loneliness and isolation:
- people who live alone
- those who have strained relationships
- older adults.
According to HRSA, 45% of older adults report feelings of loneliness. Part of this is how modern life has structured the family. The average household size has declined in recent decades, resulting in many people living alone.
Loneliness can also occur when living with other people. If a person feels disconnected or depressed from the people around them, loneliness can occur.
The American culture values individualism and independence, which makes people who live alone reluctant to ask for help or seek companionship from others. However, adopting a pet can provide that companionship, without having a person feel as if they’ve given up their independent lifestyle.
There’s ample evidence that caring for a dog can alleviate feelings of loneliness. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) calls this occurrence the “pet effect.” 89% of pet owners consider their pets as part of the family, and 74% of pet owners report their pets to improve their mental health. Pets change the atmosphere of a room, perking people up, and banishing tensions.
The pet effect is so important that the field of human-animal bond research has expanded in recent years. After a millennium of hunting and gathering alongside humans, dogs have affected the human brain is such that distinct biomarkers in the brain can be measured to see how dogs change human emotions. The ADAA reports that the pet effect can be measured through the increase of oxytocin (a feel-good hormone) levels within the human brain when a dog is near.
The Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) studies the relationship between humans and their pets. HABRI studies the impact of pets in a variety of settings from child health and development, mental and physical health, and aging. HABRI has amassed an online database that collects and classifies research and information about the science of the human-animal bond, proving the positive influence animals have on the human experience.
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How Dogs Help with Loneliness
Dogs are unlike any other animals. Bred and domesticated to work alongside humans for hundreds of years, dogs are especially adept at reading human emotions. They have been chosen, out of all other animals, to hunt, eat, and celebrate with humans. Which is why dogs have a specific place in human lives.
Dogs have human characteristics. Their faces and bodies are very expressive. They show visible signs of emotions, like tail wagging and barking. But dogs are different in that they don’t have the complicated parts of human interactions — they don’t pass judgment, aren’t hypercritical, and recover quickly from hurt or disappointment. Dogs have much of the good parts of companionship, and almost none of the bad!
There are major three ways dogs help to decrease loneliness:
- Providing a sense of obligation to another living being. Dogs are dependent on their owners to care for them. By having the responsibility to take the dog out for a walk or to feed a dog each day, the internal focus a lonely person has become an external focus towards the dog, making the person too busy to feel lonely. Dogs are also extremely thankful and demand attention, giving a lonely individual a boost of love.
- Through companionship. Most dogs enjoy the company and don’t like to be alone. They will follow you through the house, lie on your lap, and pat your leg when they need a hug or some cuddles. A dog is a constant companion, winning over even the hardest of hearts. Having a wagging tail and damp nose to greet you when you walk through the door can make any person feel less lonely.
- Attracting attention from other people. Most dogs enjoy being taken for a walk or a hike. Going outside on a routine basis with a dog opens up an owner to greetings and questions from other people, which provides an avenue to interact with others. Even simply being outdoors in the sunshine or obtaining regular exercise through dog walking can provide significant health benefits, both physical and mental.
Get your emotional support companion today
Does a dog help with loneliness? Yes! But a dog also helps with so much more. And if you are prone to depression, anxiety, or other physical or psychological health problems talk to your therapist about getting an Emotional Support Dog. As an ESA your dog can be by your side when you are traveling, living in housing with no pets policy, or away from home on a college campus. Dogs are not just a human’s best friend, but perhaps also their best cure.