Depression is one of the most widespread mental illnesses worldwide. It affects your thoughts and how you perceive different aspects of life. Even worse, chronic depression can make you lose interest in the activities you enjoyed before your diagnosis.
Some of the common symptoms of depression include feeling sad, extreme fatigue, sleeplessness, over and undereating, and a general lack of concentration.
When you are depressed, you lose hope and think that you can never recover and get back to how you used to be. However, this is not true. With the right approach and a positive mindset, you can mitigate the symptoms of depression and overcome it altogether.
One of the proven ways of fighting depression and its effects is getting an emotional support dog.
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Reasons to Choose an Emotional Support Dog as Your Depression Therapy
Josh Billings once said that a dog is the only being that loves people more than they love themselves. If you are suffering from depression, a pooch can provide you with the companionship you need when others distance themselves from you. This company has a positive effect on your mental and physical health. It explains why dog owners experience suicidal and other negative thoughts less often than those who choose to fight depression without help.
Emotional support dogs offer comfort and mitigate the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress. Simply put, their presence is enough to improve the owner’s moods.
Unlike other pets, emotional support dogs do not need extensive training to make their owner comfortable.
1. They Stimulate the Production of Neurotransmitters
The primary cause of depression is abnormal brain chemistry. This usually happens after traumatic events, and sometimes, the victims cannot explain why they feel the way they do. The solution to this problem is taking antidepressants that restore the brain’s chemical balance to normal levels.
Emotional support dogs serve a similar purpose to antidepressants. As trivial as it seems, this pet can have a massive impact on your psychological well-being. A dog keeps you calm such that you get distracted from your troubles. Hugging and playing with your pooch enhances your physical and mental health significantly.
Neurotransmitters are your body’s chemical messengers. They transmit chemicals to and from neurons and muscles.
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Here are some of the neurotransmitters released when you interact with your emotional support dog.
Cuddling with your emotional support dog stimulates the release of oxytocin, also called the love hormone. This creates a strong, loving bond between you and your dog, and more importantly, it makes you steady and calm.
Several studies indicate that looking lovingly at your emotional support dog boosts dopamine synthesis, also known as the pleasure hormone. This has multiple benefits to your body, including enhancing your immune system, making you resilient to many illnesses.
Having an emotional support dog beside you can make the negative feelings associated with depression go away. This is because the pet’s presence stimulates serotonin released into your body, which elevates your moods.
An emotional support dog also makes you appreciate the things in your life. The supporting and comforting nature of these animals makes their owners open to interacting with other people.
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2. They Love You Endlessly
According to Mark Twain, if you take a starving dog and feed it, it won’t bite you. This is the key difference between a dog and a human being.
People diagnosed with acute depression usually fight the condition by interacting with others. However, this approach is not effective because others can only help you to their comfort level. Only a few people can assist you when your program does not interfere with their schedule.
With an emotional support dog by your side, you do not have to worry about other people’s schedules. These animals provide endless love and ensure that you live free of the troubles caused by depression. Even better, they improve your physical and mental health.
The following are some indicators that show that your dog cares for you.
Constant Eye Contact
If your emotional support dog maintains eye contact with you every time you interact with them, it shows that they give you the confidence to open up to them.
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Whenever an emotional support dog jumps excitedly after seeing you, it shows that they recognize and appreciate your presence. Look out for this important nonverbal cue when you come home from work or any other place.
Dogs show you that they have your back by following you everywhere you go. This is particularly common in emotional support animals.
Another way that dogs use to express affection is by licking you. From a young age, mothers lick their pups to show love and make them feel secure. Therefore, when your pet does this, know that they are trying to help you let go of your depressive thoughts.
Happy and satisfied dogs like wagging their tails. When your pooch wags its tail at you, know that they are in a friendly mood, and they want to hang around you.
3. They Alleviate the Symptoms of Depression
Depression patients often need company, but they are either too afraid or nervous to ask for it. If you cannot get people to talk to you, you might want to consider an emotional support dog.
Emotional support animals provide a calming presence. They make you feel less lonely and alleviate the signs of depression by offering support and comfort. An emotional support pet never leaves its owner’s side.
Here are some reasons an emotional support dog is essential for depression patients.
- They prevent you from thinking about the situations and incidences that trigger depressive thoughts.
- The touch of an emotional support animal has magical healing powers.
- Their companionship ensures that you find solace whenever you feel lonely and depressed.
- They encourage you to play.
- Since they spend most of their time next to their owners, they give them a sense of protection.
- They provide endless care and support.
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4. They Enhance Your Physical Wellbeing
Psychological disorders cause massive effects on a patient’s physical health. As mentioned earlier, depression causes insomnia, body aches and affects your concentration.
But, your furry friend can go to a great extent to improving your physical well-being. Below are some benefits of having an emotional support dog beside you when suffering from depression.
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5. They Assist in Restoration of Normal Routine
Emotional support animals are useful in helping depression patients to rebuild their social networks and interactions. By doing this, they help their owners restore their normal routine.
Here are some ways that your pet can help you get your life back on track.
- They act as buffers between you and others; this relieves the symptoms of depression and ensures you never feel bad about yourself.
- Because emotional support dogs never leave their owner’s side, they ensure that you are not afraid of attending social gatherings and other public places.
- Depressive thoughts are easily triggered. However, an emotional support dog assures you of continual support from a faithful partner.
- The need for consistent care and feeding when you have an emotional support dog makes you responsible.
- Emotional support animals give your life meaning since you have to ensure that they are happy at all times.
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6. They Are Not Judgemental
Your dog will love you forever if you give them the attention they deserve. At the peak of depression, the only thing you want to do is distance yourself from society and avoid speaking to others. This is understandable because most people cannot discern the reason behind your depression. To make matters worse, they can start judging you when you tell them how you feel.
The good thing about emotional support dogs is that they are not judgemental. They do not talk or judge the emotional state of their owners. All they want is you to offer your presence and cuddle them. They want you to be around them throughout and offer your warmth and affection.
Additionally, emotional support dogs are susceptible to their owner’ moods. Whenever you experience slight emotional changes, the pet reacts accordingly. Instead of being judgemental, these pets lay around and look after the owner to see if they feel better.
7. They Always Love Your Company
Nothing is as relieving to a depressed person as finding a pet to support them after a hectic day at work. By giving you this company, emotional support animals ensure that you do not fall victim to monotonous routines and dull activities. These furry friends’ playful nature makes staying around them fun and exciting.
Here are some ways through which emotional support dogs provide you with excellent company.
They Help You Out of Desperation
An emotional support dog helps in steering their depressed owners from gloom and desperation to a happier life. Depression patients often want to stay lonely because they spend most of their thinking retrospectively about past events. They also feel that nobody understands them.
With the help of an emotional support dog, you can break this hypnotic trance and start perceiving life more positively.
They Encourage Playtime
Dogs and other pests are naturally playful. An emotional support animal distracts you from depressive episodes by continually lunging and hugging you. Such activities are beneficial to you and your pooch.
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Teach Them New Tricks
Dogs like learning new tricks. Fortunately, the internet has an abundance of resources that you can refer to when you want to train your dog. Besides keeping you occupied, exercising with your furry friend makes them more intelligent.
Feeding is critical in ensuring that your dog remains healthy and free of illnesses. If your emotional support animal does not get a proper diet, they are unlikely to be useful to you. Even worse, you might have to spend money on treating diseases resulting from malnutrition.
Ensure that you adhere to your pet’s feeding schedule. This keeps the dog healthy and gives you something to look forward to.
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8. They Are Excellent Listeners
Most people with depression want somebody to discuss their issues, but they are often unable to find someone to listen to their ramblings. If you need somebody to share your thoughts with, it would be best to get an emotional support dog.
The following are some of how emotional support animals offer a listening ear.
- Emotional support animals like listening to their owners. They have an excellent perception of your voice.
- Emotional support dogs maintain eye contact throughout your conversation with them, which gives you the confidence to share your thoughts and feelings.
- You can talk to your emotional support animal without fearing that they will share your secrets, as is often the case with humans.
- An emotional support dog is like your diary. You can rant about your thoughts, and they will comfort you.
- The best thing about emotional support dogs is that they listen to you without passing any judgment.
- Dogs do not harass you while speaking, giving you the confidence you need to air out your thoughts.
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9. They Make You Step Outdoors
As mentioned repeatedly in this post, depressed people like shutting themselves from the world and remaining indoors most of the time. When confined in their rooms, such individuals pass the time by watching TV, sleeping on the couch, and consuming junk food. Over time, this inactive lifestyle increases the risk of contracting diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and heart complications.
However, an emotional support dog ensures that you maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. This is because they need to stretch their legs and exercise daily. Since you have to follow them out, you must step outdoors. Watching your pet play can also positively impact your overall well-being.
An emotional support dog needs to be active and observe a consistent routine to remain useful to its owner. This activeness keeps them fit and healthy. By encouraging their owners to play outside, they play a vital role in experiencing depressive episodes less frequently.
10. They Help You Appreciate Your Self-worth
Depression can significantly shatter your sense of self-worth when it is at its peak. Recognizing your self-worth and having high self-esteem is crucial for having sound mental health. When you are depressed, you are likely to adopt a carefree approach in your daily life. However, an emotional support dog can help fight this behavior because it takes care of you.
The best way to deal with depressive episodes is by indulging in activities that made you happy before you were diagnosed. If you have lost hope in life and are worried about the future, an emotional support dog can ease your thoughts by offering unconditional love and support.
The following are ways through which emotional support animals improve your sense of self-worth.
- They help you forget about past mistakes and prevent you from having depressive thoughts. The love these pets give you is so deep that you love yourself.
- An emotional support dog takes you out of self-isolation by ensuring you take care of your body and mind.
- You need to take care of your emotional support animal. By doing so, you realize that another being needs you.
11. They Give You A Reason to Be Happy
Depression can make a person paint a bleak and sad picture about every aspect of life. It can make you feel that you do not deserve anything good in life. You lose the focus, interest, and energy needed to engage in worthwhile activities. In such times, having an emotional support dog comes in handy since it can change your perspective on life.
These dogs’ cozy and fluffy nature can ease the depression and tension in your life. Dogs act silly and play around the house by themselves, making it hard to ignore them even if you feel bored. Regardless of how dull you feel, an emotional support animal can make you smile.
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Another impressive quality of emotional support animals is that they are responsive to their owner’s feelings and moods. However, you need to keep in mind that pets need to reciprocate the love and affection they show you.
Having an emotional support dog in your life can help eliminate the sadness associated with depression. They ensure that you have something to keep you busy and excited after work.
12. They Improve Your Social Life
Taking a walk with your emotional support dog is adorable, as it allows you to enjoy the marvels of mother nature. Even better, people will admire your furry friend and want to interact with it. This is an excellent way to meet people and make new friends.
Emotional support animals present an opportunity to improve your social life. For instance, you can visit a dog park or partake in dog-friendly games, like baseball. All these are proven avenues for enhancing your sociability.
Most people find dogs adorable. Provided you are approachable. An emotional support animal can help you meet others. When you interact with people, you are less likely to think about the things that make you feel depressed.
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13. They Enhance Your Moods
Mood swings are common among people with depression. Your unpredictability and constant negative thoughts can make people avoid you, including your family and friends. If you find yourself feeling moody, you might want to consider getting an emotional support dog.
Here are some ways an emotional support animal can enhance your moods.
Acting as a Distraction
When you focus your attention on your emotional support animal, you forget about the incidences that made you moody. Such distraction is useful for your mental health.
Keep You Away from Triggers
A trigger is an event or something that induces depressive episodes. An emotional support animal can help fight depression by keeping you from such triggers. Because they are super sensitive to your moods and feelings, they will come close to you when they feel that you are indulging in thoughts that can make you anxious and stressed.
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They Prevent Dull Moments
With an emotional support animal by your side throughout, you will never feel lonely and isolated. The two of you will always be together, and you will always have a playmate to keep you active whenever you feel bored. When you feel that your home is confining, you can take a walk outside.
How to Get an Emotional Support Dog?
Depression can suck the happiness out of your life and make you disinterested in activities that you previously enjoyed. While there are several remedies to this psychological disorder, obtaining an emotional support animal is one of the most effective ways of easing its symptoms and starting your path to recovery.
If you have never owned a pet, it can be quite overwhelming to find an emotional support dog. Here are the steps you should follow:
Book an Appointment
Before anything, book an appointment with a licensed mental health professional. Ensure that you research thoroughly before settling on a particular option. Ideally, the person you choose should have accreditation from recognized bodies and positive reviews from previous clients.
Because of the rising mental illness cases, scammers are taking advantage of people by claiming to be licensed professionals. This underlines the importance of taking your time in research.
After booking an appointment, try to arrive on time, whether it is a virtual or an in-person meeting.
When meeting the doctor, do not be reluctant to share as much as you can about yourself. More specifically, feel free to share every detail about your daily life, with more emphasis on any mental health issues. It might feel uncomfortable, but this information is vital to helping the doctor make the right diagnosis of your condition.
Your mental health doctor wants to hear all about the problems hindering you from enjoying your daily life and affecting your productivity. It is worth noting that doctors are trained to uphold confidential patient information, meaning that you should not hold back when talking to them.
After finishing the interview, the doctor will assess the information you shared to see whether you suffer from any of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders conditions. If so, they will proceed to evaluate your suitability for an emotional support animal before giving you a recommendation letter. This process also involves further discussions about the handling of emotional support animals.
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Apply for an Emotional Support Animal Letter
If your licensed mental health professional recommends an emotional support animal, the next step is applying for an ESA letter. The application form is accessible online or at your therapist’s office.
It is advisable to ask your therapist to fill out the application form for you. However, they need to have a valid license. This applies to online and in-office psychotherapists.
The following are must-have features of the ESA letter.
- An official letterhead
- A confirmation that you are mentally ill and an ESA recommendation from a mental health professional
- The name of your licensed mental health professional
- The details of your emotional support animal
- The letter’s date of issue
- The state where your mental health professional is licensed to operate
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Fill the Form
The next step involves filling the form provided by the licensed mental health professional. Ensure that you enter the right information about yourself, your mental health status, and the reason why an emotional support animal can help your situation.
Some of the data you need to enter in this form include:
- Your name
- Physical address
- State of residence
- Email address
- Your preferred emotional support animal
- Services you intend to get from the emotional support animal.
Besides, you will have to fill a questionnaire concerning your current mental state and how long you have experienced the problem. If you are taking any medications or other therapy forms, you will need to share the information.
Sharing false or inaccurate information reduces your chances of getting an approved emotional support animal letter. Try to be as honest as you can.
Choose Your Preferred Emotional Support Dog
After filling the form, you will have to wait for the approval. If the results are positive, it is time to choose your preferred emotional support animal. You can opt to get a new one from adoption agencies or transform an existing household pet into an emotional support animal.
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Selecting the right emotional support animal can be a daunting task. It is crucial to choose an option that is easy to train, well-behaved, and, more importantly, provides you with solace and companionship when others are gone. Whatever you do, avoid going for a reptile as your emotional support dog. This is because most reptiles are either dangerous or poisonous.
Experts recommend choosing dogs over other types of pets. They are beautiful, easy to handle, and are responsive to their owner’s feelings. Even better, they are low-maintenance pets, and you can move them around conveniently.
The Best Dog Breeds for an Emotional Support Animal
After thorough research of various dog breeds, we identified the ones listed below as the best to serve you as an emotional support animal.
- Golden Retriever
- German Shepherd
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
- Yorkshire Terrier
Another important consideration when getting an emotional support animal is its affordability. Besides the initial cost of purchasing the animal, consider other expenses like pet food, vet services, and other maintenance services.
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When you are diagnosed with depression and other mental illnesses, it does not mean that you have to spend the rest of your life making visits to the therapist. You can find the comfort and solace you need to ease the symptoms by acquiring an emotional support animal.
These animals are special in that they are non-judgemental, attentive, responsive to your feelings, and more importantly, they are always by your side. When you treat them right, they can quicken your path to recovery.
An emotional support dog provides a lasting friendship and has a massive positive impact on your physical and mental health. They make you feel better about yourself by suppressing depressive and suicidal thoughts. Because you spend a lot of time taking care of and playing with them, you get less time to think about the things that make you sad.
Dog owners have better control over their blood pressure, which translates to reduced hypertension symptoms. Moreover, they are the ideal remedy for lonely and isolated people because they enhance your moods.
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