Nov 26, 2016
There are a wide range of benefits for using an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) for people with a wide range of emotional challenges. Some of these benefits are surprising, and they include far more than mental health considerations even as emotional support is the primary purpose of these incredible animals.
Each of us is a whole package; physical, social, and psychological. These sides of our experience are intimately intertwined, with one side affecting the other in observable ways. What’s great about emotional support animals is that they have the power to benefit us in all aspects of our health deeply and with lasting effects. Not only that, but ESAs themselves also find benefit from the arrangement a it fulfills their needs for companionship, support, and stimulation.
Before digging into the benefits of emotional support animals, it’s important to note why these companions are different from therapy dog programs or even traditional pets. Research shows us that across the board, it’s the constant presence of an animal that makes the most difference in terms of physical, social, and emotional health.
Long term interaction is the key to unlocking every benefit listed here. Consistency and duration have both been shown to be the most important part of creating those improvements in health for people who need it. Emotional support animals offer that kind of entrenched relationship experience for individuals who need it, with spectacular benefits for everyone involved. That’s in great part due to the fact that ESAs can go anywhere that their owners can, providing a constant source of companionship and benefits to improve health in a holistic way.
Physical Benefits of an Emotional Support Animal
Emotional challenges often have physical ramifications.
Anyone who has experienced an emotional disability like PTSD, anxiety disorder, social phobia, ADHD, or panic attacks can attest to the incredible effect that emotional realities can have on the body. Though people most often think of these mental health issues as limited to the brain, they ravage the body as well.
Individuals who live with emotional disorders often find themselves facing physical illnesses as a result of their emotional turmoil.
There are proven physical benefits for owners of companion animals that have been widely researched. Having a dog, cat, or other animal offers some stunning improvements to human health, including:
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Lower triglyceride levels
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduced risk of heart attack
- Reduced cortisol (stress hormone) production
- Increased physical activity
- Reduced muscle tension
- Improved oxytocin production
- Reduced pain levels
- Reduced need for prescription medication
- Fewer doctor’s visit
These are measurable physical improvements that have been seen in individuals who have companion animals like emotional support animals.
It’s important to note that many of the physical benefits of an emotional support animal are combating the same issues that individuals with emotional disorders face. Symptoms like high blood pressure and muscle tension that are common among those who suffer from PTSD, anxiety disorder, ADHD and more can lead to long term negative health effects. Adding an emotional support animal to daily life is a powerful way to make improvements for long term physical health and the prevention of disease.
How do emotional support animals improve physical health?
Many of these benefits are closely tied to our physical need for positive touch. Our brains and bodies are designed to connect with other living creatures, and when we have that physical contact such as petting an animal, we see improvements in our health. Petting a dog or cat improves cholesterol levels and lowers blood pressure. Simply making that physical contact with an emotional support animal is that incredibly powerful.
But you don’t even have to be touching the animal for this to work. Simply having a dog in the room has been shown to be more effective at lowering blood pressure than taking an ACE inhibitor. That’s pretty amazing!
Support animals can help to support physical recovery from a myriad of conditions from cancer to heart disease and are being more widely used in hospitals than ever before for that reason.
Psychological and social benefits of emotional support animals
Naturally there are psychological benefits of having an emotional support animal, after all that’s the impetus for pursuing an emotional support animal in the first place!
Companion animals play a significant role in reducing stress and improving overall happiness in individuals with a wide variety of emotional issues. No matter what kind of emotional problems an individual is facing, the research clearly shows that consistent interaction with animals is a method for psychological healing.
What are the emotional and psychological benefits of an emotional support animal? There are so many!
- Improved mood
- Fewer problem behaviors
- Increased calmness
- Improved social interactions
- Reduction of loneliness
- Decreased levels of fear
- Improved interpersonal contact
- Improved coping mechanisms
- Better ability to focus
- Improved self esteem
- Lowered aggression
- Improved sense of self efficacy
It’s plain to see that this is an impressive list of potential benefits for individuals facing emotional issues.
All of this adds up to a major quality of life improvement for individuals with psychological challenges such as PTSD, ADHD, anxiety, mood disorders, and more.
How emotional support animals support psychological and social health
Emotional companion animals provide a kind of support that’s not possible through other forms of therapy as they are a consistent source of companionships, unlike therapy animals or even pets. It’s also due in no small part to the non-judgemental nature of the companionship that these animals provide to their owners. A n animal never judges, they never question, they never fail in their ability to offer a loving look or a warm cuddle.
Building emotional bridges
A big reason that many individuals struggle with emotional disorders is due to past trauma that they’ve experienced in life. Emotional support animals offer a remedy, a way to build a bridge to healthy interactions. For people who are facing fear of interpersonal relationships after they have been hurt by past relationships, emotional support animals can help them to step back onto the path of connection by giving them the chance to interact in a way that’s non-threatening.
Social interaction is a venture of trust from one person to another. Once trust is broken, for whatever reason, it’s incredibly difficult to build it back. This is why emotional support animals are so incredibly powerful – they allow time and space to build the skillset that is needed to create loving relationships once again.
Dog owners can become as emotionally attached to their dogs as they do to human family members. That’s especially true for emotional support animals, who are constant companions for their owners as they navigate their way through the world.
Companion animals give their owners unconditional love. No matter what mistakes might live in the past, what hurt might have been introduced into the life of an individual, a companion animal doesn’t care and is ready to offer emotional support and love.
For many emotional disorders, self-esteem bottoms out, snowballing to troubling psychological states. However with a companion animal, self-esteem Is buoyed, preventing a descent into further depression or negative behaviors. Increasing self-worth is important for individuals with a wide range of emotional health challenges like social phobia, panic disorder, or depression. The consistency with which emotional support animals provide love and support is key to their success when it comes to boosting self-worth.
It’s often the case that self-esteem is most challenged in places that companion animals alone simply cannot attend. By using a certified emotional support animal, it’s possible to combat the effects of low self- esteem wherever those challenges occur, often in public places. Companion animals have a normalizing effect on our emotional state, providing us with an even keel that allows us to go about our interactions free from emotional crises.
Emotional support animals are always there to lend a sense of belonging and companionship.
Calming and reducing stress
As previously stated, petting an animal or even just being in the room with an animal is a wonderfully powerful way to reduce stress. That’s because animal interactions reduce levels of cortisol and increase levels of oxytocin. These are some of the same functions that prescription medications for mood enhancements serve, however in the case of emotional support animals there are not unwanted side effects.
Facing panic attacks or anxiety disorder is daunting without emotional support, as stress hormones run rampant inside the body. Emotional support animals offer critical support no matter where an individual goes, no matter what challenge they might be facing. With an ESA, that line of defense against stress and anxiety is constantly there to assist. And again, without the side effects of prescription medication or alongside prescription medication in order to boost its effectiveness.
It’s possible to live life without being overwhelmed by the stresses that can be so toxic in daily living. That’s true even for individuals who face emotional challenges in daily life that prevent them from functioning at the level that they need to be in order to stay healthy.
Support benefits for the animals themselves
Animals and people go together like peanut butter and jelly, they complement and enrich one another. That means that it’s not just the people who benefit from the arrangement of having an emotional support animal – it’s the animals that benefit as well!
Just like people, animals thrive on exploring the world around them. They enjoy going places and doing new things. Animals like dogs and cats need to be stimulated in order to be fulfilled and healthy. That’s why emotional support animals benefit from doing this work.
Emotional support animals are highly integrated into the lives of their owners. They have the chance to go places that other animals don’t go, to get out into the wider world and explore it. Whether it’s going to the grocery store or flying across the country, emotional support animals get to go to anywhere.
This is a marvelous arrangement for these animals as it allows them to be well cared for and to have the personal attention and interaction that they crave.
Animals want the chance to use their brains and their bodies to participate in the world that they live in. That’s why being an emotional support animal is a great life for a dog. They are able to get those experiences that they need and to create the companion relationship with their owners that leads to the most well rounded and healthy life possible.
Dogs in particular crave human companionship. They want to hear the sound of the human voice. They want to go with their owners, to share in the experiences that their owners are having. Problem solving, investigating, and purpose are all things that are important for dogs to do in order to feel fulfilled. They need reasons to be of service in the lives of their owners. They need to be a part of a team.
Living with an emotional support animal isn’t a one way street, it’s truly a companion relationship that’s mutually beneficial and enriching for both sides. That kind of reciprocity is a big reason that emotional support animals are increasing in popularity. It feels good to both animal and human to share a relationship that supports the emotional development for each.
A broad relationship with benefits goes both ways, and that’s something that buoys the case for emotional support animals.
Learn more about emotional support animals
Emotional support animals are an amazing way for individuals to create a better life holistically, reducing the need for prescription medications, alleviating physical health issues, and improving the quality of both social and emotional health, all while offering an incredible bonding experience that lasts for many years.
You can learn more about how to bring the benefits of an emotional support animal into your life by clicking here to find out about the qualification process for ESAs through My Pet Certs. It’s easy to get started, and it’s a decision that you will never regret thanks to the marvelous physical, emotional, and social benefits that come with having an emotional support animal in your life.