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Can Service Dogs Help People With Anxiety Disorders?

Up to 18% of American adults experience some form of mental health disorder, such as anxiety disorder, according to Medical News Today. People suffering from anxiety-related issues can gain a lot from having a specially trained service dog. With pets becoming part of our everyday lives, it’s easy to see why medical experts and therapists are recommending companion animals like dogs to help people suffering from mental or physical disorders cope with their conditions.

Can Service Dogs Help People With Anxiety Disorders?

In this article, we’ll take a deeper look into service dogs. How they benefit people with anxiety? What is the process of getting one for yourself or a loved one?

What Are Service Dogs?

Unlike your favorite pet dog at home, service dogs are specifically trained to perform tasks that can help people with disabilities or mental issues. Depending on an individual’s needs, this can be anything from helping people with visual impairments, mobility impairments, hearing issues, or mental problems like anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

All service dogs have to complete specialized training, and are legally recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These dogs can go anywhere with their owner, from airplanes to restaurants and other public places. The question is, what does it take to own one? HealthCare.com notes that you need to ask yourself some critical questions: Does insurance cover service dogs? What are the best dog breeds? What are the benefits?

Benefits of Having an Anxiety Service Dog

Service dogs offer numerous benefits to their owners. They can easily detect early signs of an anxiety attack before it happens, potentially preventing a medical emergency. These dogs can also help fetch specific medications during an anxiety attack or help bring someone to cater to their needs when in distress. People who frequently suffer anxiety attacks when in different environments also benefit from these dogs as they can help them calm down.

Simple distractions like licking their face, or even offering a paw to hold can help them relax. Anxiety service dogs are also trained to provide deep pressure therapy to help soothe feelings of anxiety. These dogs can also remind owners to take medication at different times of the day and even retrieve a phone during anxiety attacks. On top of these benefits, being around dogs also comes with more benefits like encouraging exercise, more time outdoors and company.

Interacting with animals, whether service dogs or not, may also:

  • Improve mood and reduce stress levels
  • Encourage more positive social interactions with other people
  • Lower blood pressure and heart rate
  • Lower anxiety and reported fears
  • Lower cortisol levels, that’s one of the body’s primary stress hormones

How to Get a Service Dog

If you’re interested in getting a service dog to help you or a loved cope with anxiety issues, you can easily get one from registered specialist organizations, or in some cases, register your own dog as a service dog with the help of the National Service Animal Registry. However, there are specific requirements that you have to meet before you get a service dog from such organizations. These may include having:

Can Service Dogs Help People With Anxiety Disorders?
  • A deliberating mental condition or physical disability
  • A medical recommendation letter from a licensed health expert or your doctor
  • Patience and strong communication skills to ensure proper bonding with the dog
  • A love of dogs
  • The ability to attend the required handler training program
  • The ability to consistently train your service dog and show care
  • A stable and safe home environment
  • The finances to fully care for and maintain a service dog for 12 years or more

While not everyone with anxiety may qualify for a service dog, having an emotional support dog can be more beneficial. Emotional support animals are different from service dog. They act as close day-to-day companions and offer emotional support to people facing various mental and physical difficulties.

Conclusion

Owning a service dog is not the only solution to coping with anxiety. Solutions vary from person to person, so it’s vital to find what works best for you. What you may need will depend on how you’re feeling, and what the main triggers of your anxiety disorder are. To lower your anxiety levels, consider going for frequent walks, practice mindfulness, get a full night’s sleep, perform breathing exercises and exercise as regularly as you can.