From dogs and cats to ducks and peacocks, almost any animal of reasonable size and temperament can become an emotional support animal. And you and your emotional support animal are protected by the ESA letter. This letter can only be provided by a licensed mental health professional. Animals can provide joy, affection, and unconditional love to humans. Many people even use these loving creatures to deal with various mental health issues. There is this bond between animals and humans that is very strong. Our mental health and pets have a positive correlation that can not be denied. No matter how old are you, ESA and your mental health goes hand in hand
For many of us, our emotional support animals are like a part of our family. In addition to this, research shows the various health benefits of emotional support animals. They are known to provide a comforting presence to their owners suffering from any mental health issue. The major mental health issues that emotional support animals can help with include –
- Mild to severe anxiety
- General anxiety disorder
- Stress-induced situations
- Social shyness
In addition to these, emotional support animals can help you get better in a few areas of life.
- You feel more safe and comforted
- You also feel more motivated
- There is an increased sense of purpose
- A boost in self-esteem
- ESAs provide social support
- They provide unconditional love
- ESAs help in improving mood
- ESAs help you become a comfortable being
- ESAs can help in decreasing the symptoms of the diagnosed illness
In this article, we will discuss the benefits of having emotional support animals. But, before that, let’s learn a bit about what emotional support animals are.
What is an Emotional Support Animal Exactly?
An emotional support animal is a companion that offers some benefits to a person dealing with some type of disability. The animal is part of the treatment that can provide companionship and support to help alleviate some aspects of the disability. An ESA can provide comfort and reduce the negative symptoms of the person’s disability. A pet can become an emotional support animal only after the prescription of a licensed mental health professional.
As I mentioned before, any pet with reasonable size and temperament can become an ESA. While the most common ESAs are dogs and cats, animals like miniature horses, bunnies, and more can also become ESAs.
Many people also get confused between emotional support animals and service dogs. An emotional support animal and a service dog are different from each other. A service dog is trained to perform specific tasks to help a person with a disability. It could be a physical, sensory, intellectual, psychiatric, or mental disability. While on the other hand, an ESA offers emotional support to alleviate one or more symptoms of a person’s mental disability. ESAs do not require any special training and offer companionship to the person.
So, now let’s talk about the benefits of emotional support animals.
Benefits of Emotional Support Animals
Benefit #1. ESAs Help in Producing Neurotransmitters
Antidepressants are known to increase serotonin levels. Dogs can also increase dopamine and other neurochemicals related to bonding and love. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is known to be related to feelings of pleasure. Studies show that just by looking into the eyes of your dogs can help in increasing dopamine (puppy eyes at your service). It can reduce the feeling of depression while increasing the capacity to love and care for others. So, this is a win-win situation. That’s why emotional support animals are really helpful to people who are having feelings of loneliness.
Benefit #2. ESAs Help Reduce Levels of Stress and Anxiety
Studies show that just by spending time with your emotional support animal, you can reduce your stress levels. The companionship provided by a pet can effectively alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and stress. It can also help in reducing the feeling of alienation in public places. So, if you are afraid of making social contact with others, an ESA can help you. Playing and petting your ESA lowers stress-related hormones, and this can happen after just 5 minutes of interaction with your ESA.
That is why emotional support animals are really helpful to people suffering from anxiety. Spending time with a pet can reduce levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). It also helps in releasing another chemical in your body, oxytocin, which reduces stress naturally. This offers calming effects to people dealing with stress and anxiety. Rhythmic petting or stroking a pet can result in relieving anxiety. And this can be comforting to both you and your ESA.
ESAs also offer a sense of familiarity and security, which can further help in reducing anxiety. They help you stay calm, especially when you are in a new environment or around new people. ESAs lowers the feeling of uneasiness and discomfort.
While offering comfort, ESAs can also reduce anxieties and panic attacks. While bringing a sense of relief, ESAs can also lower your blood pressure. So, just play with them, spend time with your ESAs, pet them, and enjoy their company. They will take away all your troubles if you just take care of them. One additional benefit of pets is that they can calm aggressive or hyperactive kids.
Benefit #3. ESAs Can Support Mental Health and Trauma
Originally, emotional support animals were used to help alleviate the symptoms of severe trauma. They can help in managing mental health issues such as depression. So, you can consider them as your own little antidepressants. Their love can help in alleviating some symptoms associated with depression. Just by cuddling or petting your ESA pet can make you happy by relieving some sadness you are feeling. People suffering from some trauma or PTSD can deal with their difficulty better with the help of ESAs. ESAs can provide distraction and a better way to cope.
Bonus benefit: Your ESA Can Help You During the Quarantine
Currently, the world is dealing with COVID-19 pandemic. So, we are home most of the time. And your ESA can make this time more enjoyable and bearable. Your pet will not let you feel scared or overwhelmed by the current situation. The presence of your fur-companion can make you feel relaxed and focused as you play with it. You can recalibrate your emotions and feel more reassured. Even if your ESA is just playing with its toys, the physical presence is enough to provide you an emotional boost.