Blog Image

5 Mental Health Benefits of an Emotional Support Animal

Pets have ultimate mood-boosting properties. They provide unconditional love and support to help their owners promote mental wellness.

Pet therapy is proven effective for many mental health conditions. For this reason, many therapists are now prescribing emotional support animals for anxiety, depression, stress, etc. Under the federal laws, an individual with a mental or emotional disability holding an ESA letter can live or fly with their support animal without paying extra pet deposits or fees.

Also Read- Why Do You Need an ESA Letter?

In this post, we are going to learn about the major mental health benefits of having emotional support animals & what’s the safest way to get an ESA letter during the COVID-19 lockdown.

They Ease Social Anxiety

Animal-assisted therapy helps manage symptoms of social anxiety. Research says that spending time with animals can help owners boost self-esteem, confidence, social skills, etc. Different animals can be used for therapy. These include dogs, cats, horses, etc.

Pet therapy can be used in various settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, libraries, and schools.

A 1998 study published in Psychiatric Services examined the effects of animal-assisted therapy in managing anxiety levels in 230 hospitalized psychiatric patients. Researchers noticed that the therapy helped participants relieve anxiety.

Moreover, pet therapy can help increase oxytocin levels, thus reducing blood pressure and heart rate. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter associated with social behavior.

They Lower Stress

Stress is a common mental illness affecting about 8 in 10 people in the United States. It can lead to memory problems, excessive worrying, negative thoughts, poor judgement skills, loneliness, mood swings, depression, trouble sleeping, and lack of concentration.

An emotional support animal can help you cope with symptoms of stress in different ways. They will get you outside, thus boosting your activity levels. Exercise also helps in releasing endorphins, thus improving mood and overall well being.

Spending time with a pet can help you reduce cortisol, the stress hormone. A study published on adults suffering from stress evaluated the effects of petting a rabbit, a turtle, and a toy. Researchers noted that petting animals relieved anxiety while touching the toy didn’t provide any benefit.

They Strengthen Relationship Skills

Relationship Skills

Pets can understand your feelings, and provide you comfort. They can help their owners boost their relationship skills in various ways-

  • ESAs encourage conversations, allowing you to be more sociable & alert, and promote positive feelings. They make you feel more approachable to others.
  • Caring for pets requires a lot of patience. This helps pet owners prevent behavioral problems and boost communication skills.
  • Pets make you more loving and empathetic. Robert H. Poresky, a professor at Kansas State University, in his studies reported that children who spend time with dogs had higher levels of empathy.
  • Pets improve focus and attention to others, thus helping you communicate easily and boost productivity levels.

They Provide Unconditional Love

Pets provide unconditional love and comfort to their owners, thus reducing stress levels. For instance, they don’t care how you performed in today’s match, or scored in the regular class tests. They feel happy to see their owners and spend time.

Unconditional love by pets helps boost mental health. It makes the brain release dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with mood memory, movement, and focus.

Studies have found that pets’ unconditional love can provide various benefits, such as promoting brain development in children, boosting the immune system, etc.

They Make You Feel Wanted

Another great benefit of having an emotional support animal is that they help you feel more needed. Caring for a pet gives you a sense and purpose of living. It’s true even if the owners don’t interact much with their pets.

In 2016, a study was conducted to evaluate the effects of pet insects on the mental health of seniors. The first group was given 5 crickets in a cage while the second group wasn’t caring for pets. After analyzing the mood of participants of both the groups for 8 weeks, researchers found that the first group was less depressed. This shows that caring for living creatures promotes mental wellness.

ESA Letter

An emotional support animal letter is a therapist-signed letter that shows that you are suffering from a mental illness, which can be managed by animal-assisted therapy. This helps you enjoy benefits-

Live With Your ESA Without Paying Extra Pet Deposits

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prevents discrimination against individuals with mental disabilities. It states that ESA holders can live with their support animals in rental apartments without paying extra pet deposits. However, tenants are responsible for caring for their animals and should ensure that they don’t cause any problem to others.

Fly With Your ESA Without Paying Extra Pet Travel Fees

Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), passengers with mental disabilities can travel with their emotional support animals without paying extra pet travel fees. Different airlines have different requirements for passengers who want to fly with their ESAs. Some common ones are—notifying the airline about ESA travel at least 48 hours before traveling, submitting documents in advance, such as ESA doctor letter, pet health certificate, etc.

Getting an ESA Letter Online

To get an emotional support animal letter, you need to see a licensed mental health professional. During the COVID-19 lockdown, visiting a therapist’s office isn’t safe. Thus, you can use telemedicine technology to talk to a therapist online and get your ESA letter via email. You can take a print out of the letter later.

Here’s the complete process to get an emotional support animal letter through telemedicine-

  • Sign up an account
  • Talk to a therapist through HIPAA-compliant software
  • Receive your PDF ESA letter via email instantly

Also Read- Does Your Condition Qualify For an Emotional Support Animal Letter?

The Takeaway

Animal-assisted therapy is proven helpful in managing mental illnesses such as anxiety, stress, and depression. Research says that spending time with pets can help boost levels of certain neurotransmitters, thus improving overall health. For example, interaction with dogs helps in increasing the levels of dopamine, a neurochemical that is associated with love & bonding.

There’s a wide range of medications that can help manage symptoms of mental health conditions. But, medications can lead to unpleasant side-effects. However, animal-assisted therapy doesn’t cause such risks.

Talk to our licensed doctors to get your ESA letter today!

The COVID-19 Alert!

We urge everyone to practice social distancing to break the coronavirus transmission chain. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds regularly, eat healthy foods, and exercise daily. Use animal-assisted therapy to deal with COVID-19 anxiety and depression. Talk to a therapist online to get your emotional support animal letter online. Avoid going out and meeting people. Leave home only if it’s necessary, and don’t forget to wear a safety mask and gloves.