If you’re struggling with mental health, you probably already know how frustrating finding the right mix of treatment can be. Despite being totally proactive in addressing your mental health issues, it can be difficult to ascertain what works best for you. With all the treatment options out there, it probably comes as a surprise that a relatively new treatment option is proving to be an excellent and effective for many of those suffering from mental illness.
Emotional support animals are the newest wave in mental health support, with many patients finding that these furry helpers are essential in improving their condition and supporting them in all facets of life. In this article, we explore the conditions that may be assisted by ESAs, how they can assist, and the ultimate pets for the job.
Emotional Support Animals and Mental Health: Who Can They Help?
Emotional support animals are an awesome support system for a whole range of mental health conditions, making them an extremely versatile therapy option for those that suffer from many different disorders. Some of the key conditions which ESAs are helpful in relieving and supporting include common mental health complaints and more specific difficult to treat disorders.
Emotional support animals can be extremely effective in helping those suffering from anxiety due to their calming, soothing effect on our mood. They can also provide an external point of focus for those who are concerned with internal worries, which can worsen anxiety.
Depression can be a tricky one to tackle, so ESAs are wonderful complementary therapy for those suffering from the mood disorder. Emotional support animals can assist those struggling with depression by allowing them to have access to affection, companionship and a comforting presence at all times.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder affects a huge chunk of the population, and it’s not just veterans who suffer. PTSD sufferers can benefit from having an emotional support animal by the feeling of security that being accompanied by a pet can bring to daily activities.
Another mental health condition that has shown great promise in treatment by ESAs is addiction. Emotional support animals can help those that struggle with addiction by providing the same chemical rewards in the brain as those that are released when using addictive substances.
New research is showing that ESAs can be extremely beneficial in helping those with an eating disorder to recover. Animals can provide a supportive and nonjudgmental presence for individuals in recovery from this life-threatening mental illness.
How ESAs Can Help to Support Mental Health
Emotional support animals can help to support our mental health in a wide variety of ways, simply and naturally. ESAs can be very effective in assisting patients from both a physiological and behavioural point of view.
In the Brain
ESAs can make significant positive changes in the brain chemistry of mental health patients. Pets encourage an increase in feel-good chemicals in the brain, leading to a better chemical balance. This can result in a more resilient brain that can begin to repair itself more effectively.
One of the key components to recovering from and even beating mental illnesses is changing behaviours. Emotional support animals can excellent at helping to reshape our behaviour, due to their needs. Pets need a stable routine, among other things which can make for an excellent motivation for changing negative behaviours. They also provide an excellent external focus for mental health conditions that are exacerbated by focusing too internally.
Getting an ESA: A Simple Guide
Suffering from mental illness and don’t have an emotional support animal yet? It’s actually a simple process to begin experiencing the positive effects an ESA can have on your health. To get an emotional support animal, you need to speak to a licensed mental health professional either in-office or through teletherapy to obtain an ESA letter.
Your therapist will discuss whether an ESA is appropriate for you, and then draw up an ESA letter that allows any pet to be classified as an ESA. They will also discuss with you the best way to make use of your pet to help to support your mental health. That’s it! The process may seem daunting, but it is actually quite simple and fast.
A Guide to the Best Pets That Make for Emotional Support Animals
Once you’ve decided that an ESA is right for you, it’s time to work out what type of pet will suit your needs and lifestyle perfectly. There’s no one size fits all solution, so it’s important to carefully consider the pros and cons of using different types of pets ad your ESA.
Dogs are probably the most popular choice for emotional support animals, with good reason. Dogs are incredibly versatile pets, and with all the different breeds and temperaments to choose from, it’s easy to find one that suits you. Dogs are active, playful and friendly. They can also provide a great sense of protection for those with mental illnesses that make them feel unsafe in unfamiliar environments.
Dogs can also be trained as the most effective compared to other pets.
Those that are considering a dog as an ESA (or as an emotional therapy dog) should be aware that most breeds need at least some space, and a considerable amount of exercise to keep them happy and healthy. Dogs are able to travel with their owners as emotional support animals and are allowed to live with their owner in any type of accommodation.
Cats are runners-up in the ESA popularity stakes, with many owners experiencing mental illness finding the animals the perfect companion to keep them healthy. Cats are affectionate and generally somewhat calmer than dogs, and also require a lot less work to look after. Cats do not require long walks to keep them happy, instead, games and human interaction will keep them more than satisfied.
These feline fluffsters also do not require much space, unlike their canine counterparts. Potential cat owners should be aware that cats are generally less dependent on their humans than dogs, which can result in less affection, so that could be a consideration if choosing an ESA for companionship.
Emotional support cats are able to travel and live with their owners in any accommodation.
Less popular than ‘the big two’, rabbits are still a great choice of pet for an ESA. Rabbits are quiet, calm and can be timid, but they are also great for cuddling. They require less care than dogs and generally slightly less than cats. Rabbits must be housed in a hutch which can take up some space, and this will also require cleaning. Rabbits are not allowed to travel in the cabin with their owners by most airlines, which is a huge consideration for those who plan to travel with their ESA.
Emotional support rabbits are allowed to live with their owner in any accommodation. Rabbits could be a good choice for someone who does not travel by air a lot and who would like a small pet to help with their condition.
To keep your mental health in good condition it is a great idea to get a pet as an ESA. Animals can help to keep us happy and healthy in a natural and positive way and are an excellent therapeutic aid for mental health.