Dogs Help Owners with Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD

 

n these uncertain times, stress, depression, and anxiety are part of our everyday lives. Everyone is talking about illness, their fears, and the need for social distancing. The pandemic has affected millions of lives around the world. We all know someone who has gotten sick or fell victim to COVID-19. Friends and families have grown apart to decrease the risks of contracting the disease. But this also means our support systems are compromised. Luckily, dog owners can still rely on the companionship of their pets. Dogs are not carriers of COVID-19, but they most certainly are carriers of love, support, and endless joy!

In fact, our dogs are the one constant in our lives we can always count on. Science shows that dogs can help their owners cope with stress, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

In these uncertain times, stress, depression, and anxiety are part of our everyday lives. Everyone is talking about illness, their fears, and the need for social distancing. The pandemic has affected millions of lives around the world. We all know someone who has gotten sick or fell victim to COVID-19. Friends and families have grown apart to decrease the risks of contracting the disease. But this also means our support systems are compromised. Luckily, dog owners can still rely on the companionship of their pets. Dogs are not carriers of COVID-19, but they most certainly are carriers of love, support, and endless joy!

In fact, our dogs are the one constant in our lives we can always count on. Science shows that dogs can help their owners cope with stress, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Dogs improve our mood and keep us calm

We all know that we feel good when we’re playing or cuddling with our pets. The science supports what dog owners already know. Playing with a dog increases the levels of serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine in our brains. These neurotransmitters are also known as happy hormones, and increasing their levels enhances our mood, sleep, appetite, and even memory.

The presence of your furry friend also has a calming effect. Stroking a pet reduces blood pressure and improves your sense of well-being. Some call it the pet effect, and the statistics are astounding. Pet owners are generally happier, healthier, and about 75% of people report mental health benefits as a result of dog ownership.

Pets and therapy dogs reduce stress, anxiety, depression, as well as loneliness related to social isolation.

Often, our dogs have a vital role in our emotional well-being. They induce positive feelings, a sense of responsibility, give us a routine to stick to, and help ensure we get our daily exercise. They can also help us meet new people and enhance and strengthen our social networks.

Dogs ease depression

There are three main ways dogs can help ease depression. Physical activity is a great way to battle depression. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that contribute to positive feelings and reduce pain. Well, your pup can make you move in a number of ways. At the very least, you will have to walk your pet twice a day. You can also take your pet hiking, running, swimming, or go for a bike ride if you have a high-energy dog with the stamina to run beside you. Playing with and training your dog will also improve your bond. Your dog will get the stimulus they need, and you will be amused by how funny and smart your furry friend is.

Also, the exercise routine you establish will help regulate your mood, blood pressure, and sleep patterns. All of these factors will significantly reduce your stress levels.

Dogs can also help with depression by alleviating feelings of loneliness during a depressive episode. Not only will your doggo be there for you, but they will also help you socialize with other people and pet owners on walks, hikes, and at dog parks. Socializing with other people is a proven way to ease symptoms of depression.

Caring for your pet also helps as you will have a sense of responsibility and purpose. Dogs will always make you feel loved and wanted, and can take the focus away from how you’re feeling at the moment. Trained therapy dogs and service dogs can help immensely as they are experts at reading your emotions and responding appropriately.

Taking responsibility for your pet’s well-being will also increase your sense of self-worth. By exercising them, feeding them, taking charge of their health and training, your dog will help you feel better about yourself. You are the center of your dog’s world and they depend on you for many things. It takes some learning and skill, and by improving yourself, your confidence in your abilities will also grow.

In addition, getting a dog can help you lose weight, which can affect both your self-image and mood. Exercise is one way dogs can help you lose weight. Also, taking ownership of your dog’s diet can make you re-think your own eating habits and motivate you to eat healthily. There’s no doubt that healthy foods like fruit, nuts, and vegetables can be mood-boosters!

And did we mention the unconditional love and support you can always count on from your furry friends?

Dogs help with stress and anxiety

Dogs help their owners manage stress in a number of ways. The benefits pet owners experience include better pain management, stronger immune system, increased trust, reduced aggression, higher empathy, and improved learning abilities.

Your doggo will also help you cope better with stressful events by reducing your blood pressure, heart rate, and reactivity.

University students that had interactions with therapy dogs showed reduced anxiety and increased confidence lasting up to six weeks after a 15-minute session.

Similar results were also found when hospitalized patients interacted with therapy dogs. In these patients, interactions with a dog also alleviated pain and reduced the need for pain medication.

Bonding with another living being and petting them is a good distraction and a beneficial exercise for both emotional and physical health.

Dogs reduce symptoms of PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a form of anxiety disorder, most commonly found among military personnel and veterans. However, any high-stress event can cause PTSD, no matter what your job or family situation is. While any support system can help deal with PTSD to some degree, many people claim that an animal companion had helped them most. Therapy animals or service animals, especially dogs, can be the constant in your life. A forever friend and companion, always willing to listen, cheer you up, and even assist in daily tasks.

If you’re suffering from mood swings and high reactivity, a dog’s calming energy can help. Petting a dog in these situations is very beneficial as it releases hormones that help regulate your mood and feelings. They will not be confrontational with you. Dogs can even sense what is going on before you know it and try to offer a distraction or cuddle up with you.

Man’s best friend

It may sound like a cliche, but a dog is truly a man’s best friend. Dogs have adapted to living with us and understanding our emotions, tone of voice, and specific commands. They can also sense what’s going on in our bodies, predict and act to prevent panic attacks or other unpleasant episodes. Dogs can also understand your gestures and body language, so no words are needed.

To sum up, dogs can improve all aspects of your life, from physical and mental health to your social relationships and confidence.

If you’re experiencing severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, or PTSD, talk to a mental health professional and consider getting a trained therapy dog or a service dog.

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