The Amazing Mental Health Benefits Of An Emotional Support Animal
Can you relate when after a long stressful day, you come home, snuggle with your pet and feel the stress melt away, or when you just want to cry your heart out, your pet lays its head on your lap and offers you the comfort you seek.
This, my friend, is the power of a pet. Animals not only provide security or companionship but they also provide joy and emotional support when we need it.
Such animal companions can also be described as emotional support animals or ESAs. In recent years, the need for ESAs or emotional support animals has been steadily growing.
In this article, I’ll be explaining the amazing mental health benefits of emotional support animals and how they can help you. But before we come to all that, let’s take a quick look at what is an emotional support animal and how are they different from service animals.
What Is An Emotional Support Animal?
Your animal companion that offers some form of benefit can be referred to as an emotional support animal. This animal companion is meant to provide not only companionship but also support to help ease at least one aspect of your disability/disorder.
One of the famous emotional support animals is dogs followed by cats. Another type of animal that assists in providing emotional and mental support is a horse. Animal-assisted therapy with horses is often called equine-assisted therapy.
Other unusual but accepted animals that can be considered as an ESA can be peacocks, pigs, monkeys, and even ducks. However, ESAs cannot be rare or exotic animals.
Emotional Support Animal vs Service Animal
It’s easy to confuse an emotional support animal with a service animal, however, there are quite a few differences that you should be aware of.
Service animals, usually dogs, are animals trained to provide assistance or guidance to someone with a physical, intellectual, sensory, or mental disability. Emotional support animals – be it cats, dogs, birds, horses, or reptiles – provide companionship and comfort to their person struggling with a mental health disorder or other psychiatric disorders.
Emotional support animals do not need specialized training and offer some sort of therapeutic relief to their persons while service animals are specially trained to take care of their person’s special needs such as reminding their person to take their meds or alert them of a seizure or an attack, etc.
It’s important to note that the use of animals in a therapeutic process is not evidence-based but experiential or experience-based.
Mental Health Benefits Of An Emotionally Support Animal
Why do people choose an emotional support animal to help them in healing? Many researchers over the years have supported and backed up the idea that animals – whether canine, feline, or reptiles – can provide mental health benefits.
Animals, when used in the therapeutic process, can foster emotional attachment, help calm down, and help give the owners a sense of purpose.
Other amazing mental health benefits of an emotional support animal can be:
1. Reduce Anxiety
Did you know that simply petting an animal can help you reduce stress and anxiety? Yes! The next time you feel anxious, go in for a quick cuddle with your pet and feel the anxiety vanish. An ESA can also help you improve your mood!
2. Promote Mental & Emotional Support
Emotional support animals offer unlimited mental and emotional comfort to you when you’re struggling with related conditions. Especially if you’re struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, specific phobias, or depression, the support of an ESA can help you calm down.
3. Increase Oxytocin
Oxytocin – the love hormone is released when you get snuggles from your pet! Not only this hormone but also other neurotransmitters that make you feel happy. Snuggling with dogs can help release dopamine – the pleasure hormone. When you take care of your ESA, your ability to love and be compassionate increases too.
4. Boost Physical Health
When you take your pet out for a walk, you’re getting some workouts. Other than this, many studies have shown that emotional support animals can help reduce blood pressure and help increase your ability to cope with pain – emotional and physical.
5. Decrease Feelings Of Loneliness
Animals – whether they be dogs, cats, birds, or reptiles – provide constant companionship that can be beneficial if you live alone. Long-term loneliness can be harmful to your mental and emotional health and can increase your depression or anxiety. An ESA can help alleviate the feelings of loneliness!
6. Regulate Heavy Emotions
During tough times, emotional support animals can help you manage your heavy emotions. When you feel down, your pet can be there to cheer you up. When you’re scared or anxious, your pet can help you find comfort and relieve the stress. Admit it. When your pet is all goofy, it puts a smile on your face, right? That’s all you need sometimes!
7. Provide Social Support
Pets, once they enter your home, become your family. Why is that? Because they bring people together. With a pet in your home, you’re never alone. If you live alone, then it’s common to feel lonely after a while. Pets help chase away the loneliness. Plus, when you take them out for a walk, you meet others, spend more time outside, and socialize.
8. Shower Unconditional Love
A pet’s love is unconditional. And if you’re struggling with heavy mental health conditions such as depression, you may feel like no one loves you. Don’t stress too much, your pet is there to shower you with their unconditional love! When you feel the love, it’s impossible to stay sad for long.
Are You Eligible For An ESA?
Emotional support animals (ESAs) can be beneficial to you if you’re struggling with certain mental health concerns such as anxiety or depression. If you feel like animal-assisted therapy is for you, then it is recommended you consult a professional to check your eligibility criteria, effectiveness, and risks.
Remember, taking care of a pet requires investing time and effort, so make sure you commit to caring for your pet. Ask your therapist how an ESA can help you and which animal is right for you.
An ESA provides support and comfort to people who’re struggling with a mental or emotional health condition. If you’re genuinely struggling with your mental health, only then apply for an ESA.
If you truly need the companionship of an ESA, then talk to your therapist or consult with a professional and certified therapist who specializes in Animal-assisted therapy.
Who Can Benefit From An ESA?
Anyone struggling with emotional or mental health conditions can benefit from having an emotional support animal (ESA). Individuals who can benefit from an ESA can be:
- Teens or children at risk of depression
- Individuals with psychiatric disorders
- Veterans or active-duty service members
- Prison inmates
- Individuals with chronic stress disorders
There is still research to be done on the long-term benefits and the effectiveness of emotional support animals. However, if you’re struggling with a psychological disorder, then an emotional support animal may be helpful for you.
Stress, anxiety, panic disorders, trauma, or depression – a pet can offer you the comfort and support you’re seeking. If you feel you’ll benefit from an ESA, then consult with a professional for more information.
I hope this article helped you understand the amazing mental health benefits of an emotional support animal. If you have any queries, you can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us on social media.
“Pets are humanizing. They remind us we have an obligation and responsibility to preserve and nurture and care for all life.” – James Cromwell
Your pet can be your best friend! Let me know your thoughts on having an emotional support animal below!