Dec 1, 2016
Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, can make it impossible for an individual to live freely and fully. An emotional support dog can help those with social phobia learn to interact in the world more easily and with greater confidence.
What social phobia looks like
There are so many ways that social anxiety disorder can manifest in life.
Some of these are physical reactions that occur uncontrollably in social situations. Physical symptoms make it challenging to interact in social situations and therefore extend the anxiety out further.
- shaking or trembling
- excess sweating
- difficulty speaking
- lightheadedness or dizziness
- rapid heart rate
Then there are the psychological realities of social phobia to contend with. These symptoms manifest in ways that make it difficult to live life normally. Coping with the psychological symptoms of social phobia can create havoc with life for suffers, and the effects tend to become worse with time if interventions aren't made. Psychological symptoms of social phobia include:
- intense worry about social situations
- fear of talking on the telephone
- overwhelming worry for days or weeks prior to an event
- staying away from social situations
- intense fear of dating
- attempting to blend into the background
- fear of using public restrooms
- worry about becoming embarrassed in social situations
- worry about others noticing stress and nervousness
- fear of interactions with people
- missing work or school because of worry/anxiety
These are just some of the most common symptoms of social anxiety disorder. Any form of anxiety that relates to interacting with other people can be a symptom of social phobia.
Emotional Support Animals Offer Solace for People with Social Phobia
Dealing with social phobia is a major challenge for so many individuals. Though the symptoms are easy enough to uncover, combating those symptoms is no small task.
Many people with social anxiety disorder or social phobia have found that life with a registered Emotional Support Animal (ESA) takes live from being totally unmanageable to being livable again. Yes, the difference between living well and being constantly on edge is as simple as a dog.
ESAs offer support for all kinds of emotional disorders that are related to social phobia as well. Like PTSD, depression, OCD, anxiety, etc. All by simply being there for their owner when emotional distress overwhelms them. But how does it work?
Animals, and in particular dogs, have an undisputed positive impact on the lives of their owners. That’s especially the case for individuals with mental disorders along the lines of anxiety. The research has been clear on this fact, and the evidence is growing with each new study that is published.
Here are some examples of how it all works as revealed in scientific studies:
- Companion dogs improve anxiety levels
- Pet owners have lower heart rates and blood pressure levels
- Companion animals help people recover more quickly from psychological stress
- Reaction to psychological stress is better with companion animals
- Companion dogs help women to regulate autonomic stress
These are all areas that are important for individuals with social phobia, and remember that these are only the things that have been studied by researchers. The benefits of ESAs are much more than even these pieces of the puzzle, as individuals who have used an emotional support dog for dealing with social anxiety disorder will tell you.
Social Situations are Easier with an Emotional Support Dog
Facing social situations is the heart of what makes social phobia so debilitating. There are social situations all around us. They’re everywhere.
Emotional support dogs offers significant benefits in terms of motivation, reducing stress levels, and facilitating positive social interactions. ESDs give their owners non-judgemental support that becomes a gateway for social interactions with people. Forging a relationship with a loving dog companion can become a foundation for creating positive relationships with people.
Dogs are a perfect way to inspire conversations among people who don’t know each other. They’re the perfect ice breakers – especially in the casual social situations that can be the central challenge for people with social anxiety disorder. Having an emotional support dog means that the animal can come along almost everywhere, providing the support that’s needed in the places where it’s needed the most. After all, it’s generally out in the world where the support is needed in the first place.
The other thing that dogs provide for their owners is unconditional love without bounds. Unlike people, who can offer negative experiences in terms of emotional rejection or inappropriate reactions, a dog always has a smile and a hug to offer. A furry, four legged friend is never going to push you away.
These dogs are a perfect companion for other treatments for social anxiety disorder, boosting the effects of counseling or medication while creating a gateway to independence. Emotional support dogs offer the guidance and solace long after a counseling session or round of treatment.
Image credit: Foter
Building relationships can start with a loving dog
Social anxiety is centered on fear of negative interactions with other people. An emotional support dog offers a stepping stone to creating relationships, thanks to the genuine interactions that a dog can facilitate.
Looking into the eyes of a dog has a similar effect on the brain and body that looking into the eyes of a human has according to psychologists. It actually increases the levels of oxytocin, the happy relationship hormone. That helps to rewrite long held emotional paths within people who have social phobia. It creates a bonding experience that leads to more. So often, individuals with social phobia struggle with where to start creating relationships thanks to the isolation that’s central to the disorder. Emotional support dogs give them a place to start, and a companion that they can take with them nearly everywhere to keep that support going.
The comfort that’s provided by living with and caring for an animal promotes mental wellbeing that’s exactly what individuals with social anxiety disorder need in order to overcome their condition. Life doesn’t have to be something that causes stress – it can be a freeing and exciting experience. Individuals with social phobia have the chance to live life fully and without fear thanks to the constant companionship provided by an emotional support dog.