In the world we live in today many challenges abound due to deteriorating climate change, wars, tough economy, loss of jobs, pestilences, and the ultimate loss of a loved one. All these can lead to depression, thus leading to the million-dollar question, can pets alleviate mental health issues, or give someone company when all seems down and trapped? Follow along with me as we discuss this question how do dogs help with anxiety and depression?
Research has it that your pet dog will pick up after hints you exhibit of sadness and gloom. Yes, cats too will sense whatever signs you show there was a video that went viral of a cat defending a little girl who was crying and the mum was trying to punish the daughter. According to a Harris poll in 2015, up to 95% of pet owners identify their pets as part and parcel of the family.
It is safe to say the cat too felt it was part of the family and indeed it amazed how the protective instincts the furry cat demonstrated. Dogs too can sense people’s distresses, cries, tears altogether and have in numerous incidents defended their owners. On other occasions, dogs have responded by getting close to the owner even moan with them, lick them, and give them the needed consolation at that particular moment.
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How do dogs and cats help with anxiety and depression?
Human beings are wired to respond to touch and social interactions. Sometimes humans just need to vent out their anger or deep thoughts hence the need for a good listener. This person won’t interrupt as one expresses their frustrations which moments are therapeutic.
Think of it, who better to listen to us without interfering with your furry favorite friend? Cats and dogs top of the list of pets when it comes to such vulnerable instances when one needs a shoulder to lean on.
From personal experience, pets are a way to distract oneself from these disruptive flashes. Cats and dogs can offer you comfort when you feel none understands you. They seem to help people to be more mindful. This mindfulness is a process of getting one to pay attention to the moment at present.
Yes, appreciating the present moment with a friend who doesn’t judge you, makes you feel worthy. Because you do not have to rise to that high bar of stands set that may seem unattainable. Spending time with a pet makes teens recall how to be playful and unbothered with the situation that was bedeviling them.
This unconditional love is what is needed when battling mental health issues according to studies carried out. This was verified by a study carried out by the University of Manchester on participants with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar, PTSD, and depression.
Caring for the pets made them feel in control while battling these illnesses that take a toll on one’s ability to seem in control.
Dogs and mental health
You have heard of stories when the dog even reminds you when to take your meds when you forgot it’s time. At times you may even send them to get you meds from your pharmacist or get help when you are in a serious status that you can’t go out. Animals can sense you are not in your usual mood and they present themselves to provide comfort.
When you have set a consistent timetable of activities that are geared towards your pet when to feed, take out for a run, or even to the park to mingle. This will open avenues to mingle with other pet owners so you become part of a community if you are an introvert. It becomes a sense of purpose and the feeling of being needed and appreciated in essence your pet will be a reminder, you are not alone in this world.
These reasons are emphasized with the invention of therapy dogs that have been used for eons of years to enhance one’s social, intellectual, and emotional perspectives. In recent years therapy dogs have been used to assist in solving schooling difficulties among students up to university levels.
Research by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has shown how pet dogs can give protection to children suffering from anxiety. When therapy dogs are used in school they help calm hyperactive students this proves how dogs help with anxiety.
Interacting with your dog moderates the stress hormone called Cortisol and enhances the release of Oxytocin that reduces stress.
This has led to the famous words when uttered “Man’s Best Friend” you straightway know the reference to which is none else but a dog!! In actual fact, more than three in five Americans (65%) own a pet and seven in ten have a dog.
Cats and mental health
Cats have been offering relief to mankind for many years research has found out that the mere interaction between you and them, can an impact physically and mentally. Truly speaking cats have been around in ancient Egypt for more than 3000 years and were famous for eradicating venomous snakes and protecting the Pharaoh this was one way how cats help
They give a sense of purpose when you do not feel like leaving your bed or downhearted this guy will show up, nudge you to get up and get out there. They will brighten your day and also make you long to get home to their warm reception and you can download all your experiences of the day to them.
According to research, there is a 40% higher relative risk of death by a heart attack when one does not own a pet cat as compared to a person who has. They, in essence, reduce the risk of heart disease.
Cats lower your blood pressure. Reduce the chances of allergies in children and eczema by boosting their immune system and reduce stress levels.
Benefits of having a pet
Research has shown how dogs and cats help with anxiety for example people with pets have lower blood pressure and heart rate when they want to undertake demanding tasks. If you are recovering from a heart attack, the process takes a shorter period when you have a pet in your possession.
Unconditional love is not hypocritical nor is it judgmental rather it is one hundred percent genuine and you experience healthier blood flow.
They offer a distraction from the anxieties of everyday life that you encounter when you close the door behind you early in the morning.
When taking the dog out for a walk, run, or hikes a person has the opportunity to interact with the serene atmosphere. This interaction with nature has in itself health benefits according to experts which include; decreasing stress, clearing your head, you feel energized, it also increases recovery rates in hospitals and recovery mental fatigue.
Pet Care Supports Self-Care
When one cares for a pet it means you set a pattern of doing things that serve as a reminder you need to take care of yourself.
This also builds self-esteem by handling the task of taking care of the pet. It makes you good at doing something worthwhile hence depression takes a back seat.
When you come from work exhausted the first response from gotten are jumps, licks and tail wags probably even dance from your furry pets. This changes the bad mood you had when coming in from a strenuous ordeal out there.
Touch is one of the miraculous cures that research indicates lowers blood pressure and heart rate. Just like the effect massages have on a person when it reduces your stress and building body immunity, the same happens if you stroke cats and dogs.
Research indicates children who have developed a bond with their pets will experience easier forming friendships or relations with other folks. The research specifically identifies dogs as being very sensitive to the owner’s feelings and temperaments.
Autistic kids with pets have better social skills in comparison to their peers without any pets. They were interactive and more jovial and exhibit fewer stress signs.
When you own a pet automatically you become part of a community that owns the same type of pet as you do hence builds on your social skills and interactions.
Recovery Support System
By having a pet medics have intimated that it is a way of improving ongoing medical treatment for depression. Indeed for those who are getting treatment hastens the recovery process although it is not an alternative to medicine usage.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Persons with PTSD who have pets tend to fare better, remember the impacts pets have on us. These effects are lower anxiety, more feelings of love they have developed, decreased heart rate reduced depression, and being more caring according to the Center for Disease Control CDC.
Chances of you get obese are lower because it is routine to take the dog for a walk in the park or go out on a jog. When you do that it is not only beneficial to the dog but you as well because you exercise yourself in the process.
Research proves that pets can be linked to childhood Allergies, evidence shows that without a pet human cells take in Allergens. It goes on to add that with a pet around, the human cells fight off Allergens.
When one does not have a pet and is depressed they exhibit a loss of interest in doing things. They may sometimes experience loneliness and they have feelings of worthlessness. But with a pet the opposite is true you will have more sense of purpose, they will experience high confidence levels, and be outgoing.
According to the research by PetEffect.org, 97% of doctors believe that there are health benefits to owning a pet.
FAQs How do dogs and cats help with anxiety
Q 1. What do I do when a cat tries to offer comfort?
Offer to rub it underneath the neck or stroke the head moving towards the back. Some people have snuggled together in bed with their cats. You can pet or play with your pet cat as this will ease stress-connected hormones affecting you.
Q 2. Are therapy dogs the same as service dogs?
Therapy dogs are not the same as service dogs because they have different roles. A service dog’s central role is the owner and mostly used by persons with disabilities. They mainly include the Deaf, the visually challenged, and those with mobility difficulties among others.
While a therapy dog’s central role is to respond to a person’s emotional well-being mainly; when undergoing the loss of a loved one, in retirement villages, difficulties in schools, and hospitals.
See also Is it Bad to Keep a Cat In a Cage
How do dogs and cats help with anxiety and depression? Pets can give you something extraordinary as research has validated handling mental health.
Your age does not come into play when owning a pet. You can be an infant, youth-adult, or a senior citizen, joy lights up the eyes when interacting with furry pet friends. This is the reason you find many cats and therapy dogs are there to avail comfort, mental support. They also reduce stress when one is undergoing tumultuous moments like the recent Global Self-Isolation phenomena.
Studies show adopting a pet creates a human-animal bond that has positives outcomes such as; better self-esteem, more physical fitness, less loneliness, a more outgoing personality, and more trusting. If you don’t have a pet you might want to rethink and join the club.