Depression is a debilitating mental health condition that affects millions of people. As people search for ways to manage their symptoms, animals have become a surprising coping mechanism.
Countless scientific studies have proven that an animal companion can help alleviate stress, anxiety and improve your outlook on life. Even the government has recognized the importance of emotional support animals (ESA), as owners with them are protected under the Fair Housing Act.
If you have depression and are considering an emotional support animal, we’ll tell you all about its benefits and how to get one.
Benefits of Emotional Support Animals for Depression
Emotional support animals provide their owners with relief through companionship. Unlike service animals that train to perform tasks, these pets offer comfort and emotional support. Let’s explore how owning one can help people who struggle with depression.
Alleviate Feelings of Hopelessness, Sadness, and Emptiness
Animals are known for uplifting our spirits just by their mere presence. Seeing their smile or excited look on their faces is contagious and can turn your feelings of sadness into unbridled joy. There’s no better feeling than coming home to see your dog wagging their tail or your cat purring in excitement.
As an animal companion, they’ll always offer a non-judgemental ear to listen, knowing they’ll be compassionate towards your feelings. Their even-keeled nature can also provide a calming presence in times of distress. Likewise, petting your furry four-legged pal can help lower your blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and release those feel-good hormones.
Decrease Feelings of Social Isolation and Loneliness
Being isolated can trigger or exacerbate symptoms of depression. Loneliness and chronic isolation can contribute to feelings of helplessness.
Fortunately, having an emotional support animal means having a fur buddy around 24/7. Your pet will provide unconditional love and companionship, which combats the feeling of isolation.
Also, animals serve as conversation starters wherever you take them. One study found that 76% of people believe that social interactions with animals reduce feelings of isolation, and 54% feel that they help connect with others.
Provide a Sense of Self-Efficacy
People with depression or depressive episodes usually have low self-esteem and are prone to excessive anxiety. Studies performed by Dr. McConnel of Miami University show that pet owners show decreased levels of fearfulness and higher self-esteem than non-pet owners.
That’s because caring for animals requires a level of responsibility, such as giving them attention, feeding them, exercising, and grooming them. Successfully taking care of your ESA provides a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. This makes pet owners feel more capable of tackling larger challenges in their life.
Encourage Physical Activity
Emotional support animals help their owners lead healthy lifestyles. Like a human, your dog requires regular exercise to remain healthy and fit. This means you’ll exercise behind them by taking them outside for walks, to dog parks, and playing fetch outside. Regular exercise boosts the production of endorphins in the body, which can stage depression.
Not to mention, many animals are filled with energy and may encourage you to play fetch or chase them around the house. If you’ve got a hyperactive breed like Huskies, you can even take them on more challenging physical activities like a jog on the beach or a hiking trail. For those that struggle with “high-functioning” depression, where they can’t complete daily tasks, exercise with your furry friend will provide a distraction away from those feelings.
How Can a Person With Depression Get an Emotional Support Animal?
Getting an emotional support animal isn’t difficult. All it requires is qualifying with a mental health condition like depression, so you can receive an ESA letter and choose an animal that meets your needs.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the process of getting an emotional support animal:
- Get a diagnosis. See a licensed medical health practitioner to discuss your symptoms. They can perform a diagnosis over a virtual call or in person. Explain why you believe an emotional support animal could help with symptoms. If approved, they will provide an official ESA letter, giving you access to housing or travel accommodations.
- Choose the right animal. It’s vital to pick an animal that suits your lifestyle. Every pet will have unique needs; some require more time and energy than others. Dogs can be great for helping with depression since they are more active. However, they are more high maintenance, which can be problematic if you also have physical limitations. Cats can still provide a calming effect but are lower maintenance.
- Register your emotional support animal. While registering your animal isn’t a requirement, doing so has many benefits. Registering your ESA ensures you receive timely updates to any legal changes on the state and national levels. Furthermore, registrants can access deals on specific products like an ID, ESA guidebook, collar, and harness.
Very few things in life can give us more joy than spending quality time with our pets. Whether cuddling or taking your dog out for a walk, pets offer unconditional love and companionship that you’ll cherish for years.
Registering your ESA is a fantastic way to gain real-time information on any legal changes in your state, become a part of a larger pet parent community, and receive deals on animal products. Choose ESA Registration of America today to register your emotional support animal.