Updated on June 2, 2017
How Pets Help People Cope With Mental Illness
Today I am hosting guest blogger Brandon Butler. Brandon is a dog lover and vet tech. He loves helping pet owners by sharing advice on Fur and Feathers.
After you read this blog, you’ll truly appreciate the benefits pets bring to our lives.
A Guest Blog by Brandon Butler
Studies done on the human-animal bond and show many benefits for people with mental illness. Pet ownership or therapy sessions with animals can be an excellent alternative or supplement to medications. This method can cut back on the possibility of substance abuse by the mentally ill, who tend to be more susceptible to addiction due to the desire to self-medicate.
Dogs especially can reduce anxiety, depression, and stress. They encourage playfulness and exercise and introduce joy and unconditional love to those in need.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can play a major role in easing symptoms of PTSD, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, stress, autism, and other mental illnesses. Having a pet to care for helps people focus on getting out of bed and finding a purpose for their day.
Walking a dog is a daily routine that helps both the owner and the dog get exercise. Spending time with your pet solidifies the bond between the two of you, and getting outdoors can make your body feel better. Fresh air and sunshine are healthy and joy-inducing, and you may even have more positive social interaction by getting out of the house and meeting other pet owners along the way.
Try taking your dog to a dog park and see how contagious your dog’s happy social interactions can be. You will likely have some nice conversations with other dog owners while you are there.
Playing with and loving your pet will elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine which calm and relax. Having a pet can lower stress levels and anxiety, which in turn lowers blood pressure. Lowering blood pressure keeps you healthier, helps you avoid heart problems, and can add years to your life.
Mental Health Benefits
People struggling with mental health issues see their pets as the central support in their lives, and often, even over family and friends. A pet offers unconditional love on days when you are feeling good and on the days you are feeling terrible. They will never judge, and that can be a powerful support system when you need it.
Isolation (felt by many with mental illness) is alleviated by having a furry companion. The structure and routine of pet ownership can help the mentally ill not withdraw from society. Knowing that their pet needs and depends on them can also deter them from having suicidal thoughts.
There are many people who cannot or do not work due to their mental problems. Having a pet that they care for and treat well can also be a source of pride when they feel like they have nowhere else to contribute to society.
Ultimately, pets increase confidence, comfort, safety, and peace when dealing with mental health issues. They offer loyalty for life and could be just what those suffering from mental illness need.
Great insights, Brandon. Thanks for sharing with us today.