Since the beginning, humans and animals have shared a unique bond. We have dogs, cats, and many other animals by our sides throughout our good and bad times. This relationship is significantly deeper for those dealing with emotional or mental health problems such as depression, PTSD, anxiety, phobias, bipolar disorder, etc. An authorized emotional support animal's (ESA) role is to be that essential presence that enables people with these challenges to go about their daily lives regularly.
What is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?
Animals that offer unconditional love, support, and care to a person with a mental or emotional health disability are called emotional support animals. An emotional support animal (ESA) can be any animal, such as a dog, cat, bird, reptile, rabbit, and more. Although emotional support animals are widely utilized in a person's medical treatment plan, they are not considered service animals per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Any person can benefit from having an emotional support animal at home, work, or even in a classroom.
How do Emotional Support Animals Impact Our Mental Health?
Emotional support animals are essential for people dealing with mental or emotional health conditions daily. Although ESAs are not granted all the rights like service dogs, they can still give their human companions many benefits. Here are a few of them:
- Provides Comfort
Many people find that petting an animal or looking into their eyes can provide a sense of security and comfort that lessens their loneliness, anxiety, and social awkwardness symptoms. ESAs offer nonjudgmental support to their owners and frequently serve as reliable friends for people who rarely interact with others.
- Help with Social Interactions
According to research, it is witnessed that animals are conversation starters for many people who own pets. Individuals may discover that they interact with friends, family, and the general public more confidently when their emotional support animal is there. As a result, the owner might have increased confidence and self-worth while overcoming shyness and nervousness.
- It Gives You a Sense of Responsibility
When you have an animal to care for, a sense of responsibility is added to your life. There are many times when you're too depressed or overburdened to get out of bed for yourself, but you do it for your emotional support animal. Regular tasks like walking and feeding frequently divert your attention from your illnesses or traumatic experiences. Besides adding structure, ESAs also add fun and love to your life.
- Behavioral Activation
Having a pet causes behavioral activation, meaning people benefit from performing particular everyday tasks to care for their pets. Exercise and contact with nature are also proven to improve well-being. Taking care of pets, especially dogs, provides opportunities for exercise and outside time, which enhances mobility and mental health.
- Enhance Neurotransmitters That Make People Happy
According to research, while interacting with an ESA, the level of dopamine connected to sex, euphoria, and bonding is released in the body, which makes people happy. The symptoms of depression and loneliness decrease automatically as these good hormones increase!
- Providing a Sense of Purpose
The perspective of a human's life is improved drastically as they start to love and care for their emotional support animal. It is easier for a person to shift their attention from a disturbing situation they experienced in the past when they provide their animal's everyday necessities as well as love and protection.
Having an animal in your life can have many benefits, regardless of age or species. The most significant ones include comfort, laughter, joy, and unconditional love. Speak to your therapist or psychologist right away if having an ESA as a companion could improve the quality of life for you or someone you care about!