How Dogs Can Improve Your Mental Health

mental health pic

this is an article sent in by Sally Jenson

Every dog lover knows that playing with or simply being around a dog can make you feel a lot happier. Dogs, with their joyful natures, their characterful antics, and their unswerving love are experts at bringing good cheer to a home. But did you know that there is a lot more to this than simple entertainment? Dogs have been proven on a number of occasions to bring real benefits to people’s mental health. Here are just a few of the ways in which dogs are helping to heal the troubled minds of the world.

Dogs And Depression

Depression is a major problem in the world today, and is reaching pandemic proportions. For those lucky enough never to have experienced it, it’s worth noting that depression is a cripplingly nasty condition which seriously affects the quality of life of those afflicted. More than a simple persistent low mood, depression is a disease which seems to suck the very soul from sufferers. Dogs, however, can help. There are a great many ways in which the presence of a dog can ease depression – they distract us from our morbid ruminations, they offer us unconditional love, they give us something to live for, they give us something to hug – but, perhaps most significantly, they give us condition-free contact with another being. Humans and dogs have been around each other for a long time, and we respond to dogs in a much more ‘human’, emotional way than we do other animals. Dogs can thus help us to fight off loneliness in a far more tangible way than any other animal (with the exception, of course, of other humans) – and they do so without ever making us feel judged, or like we have to make a massive social effort. In the war against depression, this kind of service is invaluable.

Dogs Can Help Out With Anxiety Attacks

Anxiety disorders affect far more of us than you’d think. Though they vary in type and severity, those which cause terrible anxiety or ‘panic’ attacks can have a truly dreadful impact upon a person’s life. However, dogs can help those suffering to manage their condition. Many companies now offer ‘Psychiatric Support Dogs’ which can be trained to help out in the event of an attack. How, you ask? Well, the services that these dogs perform include finding specific persons or leading their owner to safe places when the dog senses an impending panic attack, searching new areas to establish that there are no ‘triggers’ which may set off an anxiety attack lurking therein, redirecting problematic behavior, or simply soothing the sufferer with their presence. It’s also worth noting that the simple act of petting a dog can lower blood pressure, ease tension, and bring stress levels down. Dogs can be a wonderfully calming and emotionally supportive presence, which in itself is very valuable for someone suffering from anxiety.

Dogs Are Aiding PTSD Sufferers

In a similar manner to the Psychiatric Support Dogs which help those with anxiety, people suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress-Disorder (PTSD) can also benefit from canine support. Not only does a dog provide a suffering individual with something to love and be responsible for (which can help to keep their life running as it should), but the dog can also be trained to aid and intervene in potentially troubling situations. If, for example, a veteran may experience PTSD flashbacks or ‘episodes’ when hearing the sound of gunfire, a dog can be trained to hear gun-like sounds (fireworks, backfiring cars etc) before the noise reaches the less sharp ears of their master, and lead them to a ‘safe’ location.

Dogs Help Substance Abusers To Get Their Lives Back On Track

One of the great things about owning a dog is that your dog relies on you for its quality of life. We are happy to care for our dogs because they repay us in spades with such love, support, and joy. However, they can also teach us valuable lessons about responsibility. People who are struggling with substance abuse issues, or inclinations to self-harm are more likely to make an effort to recover if they have a dog. The dog teaches us not only that we have self-worth and are worth looking after, but it gives us a valuable sense of personal responsibility which is vital if struggling people are going to improve their lives. Of course, this is not to say that all drug addicts should be given a puppy, and there should always be someone else present to ensure that any substance abuser’s dog is well cared for, but the benefits are nonetheless very real!


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One thought on “How Dogs Can Improve Your Mental Health

  1. Stacey Ann February 8, 2016 at 7:00 pm Reply

    I definitely agree that the companionship and love animals have to give can make a difference. Animals are angels in disguise.

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