If you have a pet in your life, you know how furry friends can provide unconditional love and support. Spending time with domestic animals has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, fatigue and pain for people. Below, find more about how spending time with pets can help those with mental health conditions.
How Dogs Can Help with Depression and Mood
“Studies show that dogs reduce stress, anxiety and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and improve your all-around health. For example, people with dogs have lower blood pressure and are less likely to develop heart disease—just playing with dogs has been shown to elevate oxytocin and dopamine, creating positive feelings and bonding for both the person and their pet….” More on how dogs can help with depression….
“Humans interacting with animals have found that petting the animal promoted the release of serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin- all hormones that can play a part in elevating moods….” Find out more.
The Power of Pet Therapy
“When we’re facing despair, loneliness, chronic health issues, depression, addictions, or anything beyond our ability to cope, a pet can help ease the pain. He or she can give us a reason to get out of our thoughts to focus on a sense of purpose. The relationship we have with our pets is real and symbiotic—what I give to my pets comes back to me in ways that can’t be measured….” More on the power of pet therapy…
“For people with a mental health condition, research has shown that time with pets reduces anxiety levels more than other recreational activities. Pets also provide a non-judgmental form of interaction that can motivate and encourage people, especially children. Veterans with PTSD have also found therapy pets helpful….”
Spending time with domestic animals can reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, fatigue and pain for many people. Hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities sometimes make use of this effect by offering therapy animals. Trained therapy pets accompanied by a handler can offer structured animal-assisted therapy or simply visit people to provide comfort.
Dogs are the most popular animals to work as therapy pets, though other animals can succeed as well if they are docile and respond to training. Hospitals make use of therapy pets particularly for patients with cancer, heart disease and mental health conditions. The pets that are certified to visit medical facilities meet a high standard of training and are healthy and vaccinated.
For people with a mental health condition, research has shown that time with pets reduces anxiety levels more than other recreational activities. Pets also provide a non-judgmental form of interaction that can motivate and encourage people, especially children. Veterans with PTSD have also found therapy pets helpful.
A session with a therapy pet and its handler may focus on specific goals such as learning a skill through human-animal interaction. Alternatively, simply spending time holding a therapy pet can have benefits such as lower anxiety levels.
Though more research is necessary to establish why animal therapy is effective, one theory is that humans evolved to be highly aware of our natural environment, including the animals around us. The sight of a calm animal reassures us that the environment is safe, thus reducing anxiety and increasing our own feelings of calm.
Therapy animals are not the same as service animals, who receive a higher level of training and learn specific tasks for assisting one person on a long-term basis. Service animals are considered working animals, not pets. They have shown some promise in helping people with mental health conditions, particularly PTSD and panic disorders.
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