The Benefits of Emotional Support Dogs for Anxiety Relief

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There are endless benefits to having a dog, whether you’re looking for an exercise partner or to have a loyal companion. However, some people with mental conditions must have a dog to function normally. Anxiety disorder is a challenging disorder. Emotional support dogs (ESDs) provide support and comfort for those who need extra help. Emotional support dogs provide significant benefits for individuals with anxiety issues.

Understanding Anxiety 

There is a wide range of Anxiety Disorders that one can be diagnosed with. The most common include: 

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Specific Phobias
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Each Anxiety Disorder has its own set of challenges and symptoms. Even two people with the same diagnosis can suffer from different symptoms. 

However, common symptoms and challenges faced by individuals with anxiety include but are certainly not limited to: 

  • Excessive worrying and fear
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating and sleeping
  • Physical symptoms (e.g., heart palpitations, sweating)
  • Impact on relationships, work, and social functioning

GAD alone affects 6.8 million adults or 3.1% of the US population. Many of these people do not receive treatment and suffer with no support. 

Role of Emotional Support Dogs 

An ESD is different than a Service Animal. Service Animals are specially trained dogs that performs work or taste for those with a disability. Service Animals include Guide, Hearing, Seizure, or Psychiatric Service Dogs. 

Emotional Support Dogs provide a therapeutic benefit to their owner. A well-trained ESD is capable of being in public without causing a disturbance. Instead of performing specific tasks like a Service Dog, the presence and interaction of an ESD can ease the symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder. The ESD offers a calming presence during times of distress by sensing and responding to the emotional needs of their owner.

Emotional support dogs assist individuals with anxiety by providing comfort, companionship, and a sense of security. Their primary purpose is to offer emotional support and alleviate the symptoms associated with anxiety disorders. They help individuals with anxiety by providing a non-judgmental and unconditional source of love and support. Additionally, ESDs alert their owners to potential triggers or signs of anxiety, such as increased heart rate or shallow breathing. 

Calming Effects of Emotional Support Dogs

Playing with emotional support dogs can have physical benefits such as lowering heart rate and blood pressure. It can also release “feel-good” hormones like oxytocin and serotonin, helping people feel happier and more content.

Through their presence and companionship, Emotional Support Dogs create a soothing and comforting environment that helps individuals feel more at ease. Dogs that provide emotional support can help people feel less anxious and emotionally better. Being with these dogs can help people relax and feel comforted. Emotional support dogs can provide ongoing comfort and support for people with anxiety.

Specific Benefits or Emotional Support Dogs for Individuals with Anxiety 

Reduction of Panic and Anxiety Attacks 

ESDs trained specifically for someone diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder can predetermine a high-stress situation for their owner. They can prevent their owner from heightened anxiety levels by avoiding the problem altogether. 

However, if an owner’s anxiety has reached high levels, ESD can reduce their panic and fear. They can completely stop an attack from happening by laying on their owner, encouraging interaction, or removing their owner from the trigger. 

People with Anxiety Disorders often miss their own cues of panic. An ESD can sense a quickened heart rate or hear its owner’s breathing pattern change. They can change their owner’s state of mind before the owner is even aware of it. 

Improved Emotional Regulation and Mood Stabilization

Dogs can sense and reflect their owner’s feelings. Emotional support dogs can help people with anxiety by responding to their emotional state with calming behaviors. The dogs’ actions can make their owners feel calmer and more stable. Spending time with an ESD can distract from negative thoughts and help improve emotional regulation. Activities like playing, grooming, or training with the dog can help break the cycle of excessive worrying and improve mood.

Hormonal and Neurochemical Effects 

Interacting with emotional support dogs triggers the release of oxytocin, often called the “bonding hormone.” Oxytocin promotes feelings of trust, relaxation, and overall well-being. It helps counteract the effects of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which are associated with anxiety and mood disorders. Additionally, spending time with dogs can increase the production of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that play crucial roles in mood regulation and happiness.

Enhanced social interaction and communication skills 

ESDs often attract attention and interest from others, serving as a natural icebreaker in social situations. Individuals with anxiety or difficulty initiating conversations may find that having an ESD by their side helps facilitate interactions. People may approach and engage in discussions about the dog, allowing individuals to practice their social skills and build connections.

Increased sense of security and reassurance

Emotional support dogs offer unwavering love, acceptance, and non-judgmental companionship. They create a safe and secure bond with their owners, providing a consistent and reliable source of support. The presence of a dog who loves and accepts them unconditionally helps individuals feel valued, understood, and emotionally validated. The ESD contributes to improved emotional regulation and mood stabilization by reducing feelings of loneliness, self-doubt, and negativity.

Considerations of Owning an Emotional Support Dog

When deciding to own an Emotional Support Dog, there are important factors to consider, including allergies and sensitivities to dog dander. It is crucial to ensure that your ESD does not worsen any pre-existing allergies or cause allergic reactions in yourself or others. Fortunately, many of the best Emotional Support Dogs are hypoallergenic breeds, producing fewer allergens and are less likely to cause allergic responses. 

In addition to allergies, the size of your pup should be taken into account, considering both your housing situation and travel patterns. A smaller dog may be more suitable and comfortable if you live in a small apartment or have limited space. They adapt to small spaces and need less room for activities. 

Moreover, when traveling with your ESD, a smaller dog is generally more welcome in various establishments and transportation options, such as hotels, restaurants, and public transportation. Think about if your lifestyle and usual places can handle the size of a dog before getting one.

Emotional Support Dog Benefits for Anxiety

the benefits of emotional support dogs for individuals with anxiety are far-reaching and impactful. These remarkable companions offer a range of calming effects that can positively influence their owners’ physical and psychological well-being. Emotional support dogs create a soothing environment that alleviates stress and promotes relaxation through reduced heart rate, lowered blood pressure, and the release of hormones like oxytocin and serotonin. Moreover, these incredible animals aid in regulating emotions, stabilizing moods, and offering comfort during challenging times.

Their unwavering support and unconditional love provide comfort, stability, and a sense of purpose. With each wag of their tail and a gentle nudge, they remind us of the power of connection and the effects of compassion.