Benefits of an Emotional Support Animal
The bond between humans and animals traces back thousands of years. Although pets are considered to be part of the family, they can also provide some more benefits than affection and companionship. For instance, studies show that pet owners have lower blood pressure and better mental health, among other physical and emotional perks. You may also not know that you might be able to get your pet registered as an Emotional Support Animal (ESA). Unlike Service Animals, ESAs do not have to participate in any kind of training. You just have to prove that your pet minimizes negative symptoms of an emotional disability through an emotional support letter (the entire process is described really well in this article). You can also get prescribed ESAs by your doctor or a mental health professional. With certification, an ESA gets two legal protections: the ability to fly with a person who has an emotional or psychological disability, and to qualify for no-pet housing. Here are some benefits an ESA provides you.
Companionship: For those that suffer with depression, an ESA would be especially beneficial. Antidepressants increase serotonin levels and pets increase dopamine levels which are associated with love and bonding. If you suffer from depression and antidepressants are incorporated into your treatment plan, an ESA would be incredibly beneficial. For those that tend to feel isolation and loneliness, having a pet around can make you feel more loved.
Reduces Stress and Anxiety: Pets act as a source of comfort and familiarity. By having an ESA around you in typically anxious times, the animal will help you keep calm and reduce the feeling of uneasiness. Rhythmic petting can be comforting to you and the pet. Just spending time with your pet releases endorphins, which decreases stress levels. Additionally, anxiety on planes is a common feeling, so having your pet be registered as an ESA will allow your furry friend to join you on your flight. An ESA can be a form of support that works in a way medicine can’t replicate. A person that spirals and feels suffocated by their thoughts when flying can instead focus on their ESA instead of feeling overwhelmed and anxious while in the air.
Regulation on Emotion: From personal experience, the hardest struggle of having anxiety is managing feelings on a daily basis. If my emotions are off-balance, it is hard to deal with one particular moment. An ESA provides consistency. There is research that shows that the presence of an animal and petting an animal can help reduce anxiety and regulate and improve mood. This is because animals provide attention on demand, unconditional love, and a consistent presence, and so human emotions will be more likely to stabilize around a stabilizing force.
Stabilizing: ESAs can help with rough patches in one’s life, too., Having an animal when you are feeling anxious, fearful, agitated, depressed, et cetera means having a stabilizing force that is supportive and offers affection. It can help turn your attention from what is bothering you and focus on this neutral being. Because the animal is not feeding any of those negative emotions, it can help the you neutralize your own emotions. Additionally, when times are tough and you don’t want to get out of bed, having an animal can create a routine that forces you to care for this being. If you are caring for another living thing and have a routine in place with your pet, you need to get out of bed and care for them. ESAs can help you get moving around the house and maybe even go outside and be active, which can help greatly with depression and anxiety.
Immune System: Pets not only help your mental health, but can also help your immune system to fight off pathogens. According to a 2004 Wilkes University study, individuals had a significantly higher level of antibodies in their saliva after spending time with and petting a dog compared to those that pet a stuffed dog or did neither of the two options. So, having a dog as and ESA may be beneficial in fighting off the common cold and flu throughout the year.