While most people will tell you that having a dog is like having a nearly perfect and always loyal best friend, others would add in that getting a dog was actually the answer to a specific personal problem they were facing. Those people likely have what are known as Emotional Support Dogs (ESD), which provide comfort to their owners, according to Dr. Carol O'Saben, a licensed psychologist. These dogs are allowed to live with them and travel with them, even if a residence or airline doesn’t usually allow dogs.
Wondering if you should consider getting one yourself? Take a look at what these psychologists say are grounds for getting a therapy dog for emotional support.
1. You're Overwhelmed With Anxiety
If you find yourself often feeling anxious or struggling to kick frequent anxiety attacks, bringing an emotional support therapy dog into your life, could help.
“Especially for social anxiety, having an ESD becomes a safety cue and provides a person comfort as well as reassurance,” says Dr. Jelena Kecmanovic, a Clinical Psychologist. “Also, dog outings could act as exposures for socially anxious individuals.
2. You Lack Healthy Routines
For some people, life seems mostly unpredictable and because of that, they struggle to form healthy habits.
“ESD are great for those who find difficulty in establishing healthy routines, such as waking up at the same time, walking several times a day, and keeping on a schedule,” says Kecmanovic. “This can be especially useful for depressed individuals, who lack routine and don't leave home very much.
3. You've Struggled With Depression
If you’ve struggled with depression for quite some time, having an ESD in your life can be one way to help you cope with the symptoms.
“Someone who has struggled to manage their depression might find an ESD motivates them to get more exercise, which could help to alleviate depression,” says Dr. O'Saben.
4. You've Been Diagnosed with PTSD
These dogs are known to be there for you and hardly ever leave your side. That’s why having an ESD is often recommended for those who have PTSD.
“Someone who has PTSD might benefit from an ESD because the dog provides comfort when the person is struggling with traumatic memories,” says Dr. O'Saben.
If you feel like getting an ESD is the right move for you, be sure to consult with a doctor first.
“ESDs should only be prescribed after an appropriate evaluation by a trained clinician or physician,” says Dr. O'Saben. “Unfortunately, some therapists and physicians will write letters for an individual to get an ESD without performing an appropriate evaluation, which then results in misuse by the individual or, at worst, mistreatment of the animal.”
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