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Can Service Dogs Help with Your Anxiety and Depression?

2019-04-01

dog help anxiety

Dogs as one of the most common pets give us countless help and unconditional love. They have long been the best friend of humans and an outstanding assistant for us. Service dogs which help people fight anxiety and depression further increase pet ownership. Read on to explore the magical power of service dogs.

Anxiety, depression and a large number of other mental disorders are increasingly a by-product of modern life, which are caused by many factors such as work, relationships, stress, genes, and trauma. Although there is a difference between the definition of anxiety and depression, there is a connection because anxiety is often triggered by depression. Half of the people diagnosed with depression also have anxiety disorders. We will discuss them as one mental problem in the next part.

 

What are service dogs for anxiety and depression?

service dog for anxiety or depression, also known as psychiatric service dogs, provides a physical touch or mental comfort when they spot our emotional upheavals and difficulties. Unlike the “standard” service dogs, who serve people with physical disabilities, psychiatric service dogs have to be specially trained to perceive the signs of anxiety and comfort the owners. In addition, these service dogs are often misunderstood in public areas when they are allowed to accompany their seemingly “healthy” owner. Their contribution can not be measured in time or money.


How do dogs help with anxiety and depression?

1. Love and affection

Sometimes we get along better with dogs or cats than with people. They seem to have the magical power to get close and calm us down. Studies show that when we pet a dog or cat, our brain will release the “love hormone” oxytocin and lower the stress hormone cortisol. The oxytocin could create attachment and security, which are the essential substances of relationships. If you are struggling with depression and anxiety, forming an attachment to a dog can help you get rid of the hopelessness of depression and anxiety, and you can find new hope in the dog’s company. In addition, most studies indicate that people who grew up or live with a dog have a lower rate of mental health problems than families without pets.

2. Exercise or activity

From ancient times, dogs have provided people with protection, help in hunting and recognizing potential dangers thanks to their great courage and intelligence, as well as their energetic body and sensitive nose. At the same time, people provided dogs with food and shelter, gradually creating coexistence between dogs and humans. With evolution, the dogs gradually “lost” their jobs and became pets. However, dogs will always insist on exercising, whether walking, hiking, romping around or playing Frisbee. Their joy and positive effect can penetrate our gloomy heart, preventing the effects of stress, anxiety and depression.

Also, to satisfy the basic needs of a dog, the owners are always willing to spend a lot of time with them and to get more exercise than originally planned. Exercise is also a useful way to relieve negative emotions by lowering blood pressure and increasing endorphins that can reduce anxiety and depression. When we exercise with dogs, they will be happy and excited and return to us out of gratitude. This beneficial cycle can promote the ownership of pets and make us healthier.


How does the service dog help you with anxiety and depression?

People skillfully use the aforementioned exercise habits of dogs to train them as service dogs to help people.

A trained service dog has many benefits. It will

  • Provide comfort and relieve our depression and anxiety symptoms;

  • Offer companionship when people live alone and get caught up in the spiral of anxiety; 

  • Guide the owner to the place where he/she can manage the symptoms of depression 

  • Motivate the owner to take it out for a walk 

As the owner’s symptoms become serious and the anxiety attacks worsen, a service dog for anxiety has the following meaningful benefits:

  • Bring the medication and water to the owners 

  • Provide tactile stimulation to eliminate the emotional overload, such as licking your face and jumping on your lap. 

  • Apply pressure on your abdomen or chest to reduce the impact when you are in distress. 

  • Bring the phone to you to call your therapist if you can not cope manage the symptoms yourself. 

  • Fetch someone to help you if you are in danger. 

Although emotional support dogs can comfort us mentally, they do not have to undergo special training to help people with physical assistance. We should distinguish between emotional support dogs and service dogs.