Pet owners around the world can attest to the many emotional benefits they receive from their furry companions. Get dog owners talking about their pets and they’ll tell you how the hardest days can be eased by petting their pooch. It’s no surprise, then, that the therapeutic quality of animals have been noted by the medical community. In fact, more and more studies are showing the benefits of pet therapy and how animal companionship can have a great impact on people suffering from depression or anxiety.
Depression is a severe mood disorder characterized by prolonged periods of:
- Sleep disturbances
- Appetite changes
- Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
- Difficulty focusing
- Thoughts of death and suicide
Having animal companionship gives victims of depression something external to focus on. A pet creates a sense of purpose, provides structure to their owner’s day, and invokes responsibility that can help draw owners out of their depression symptoms.
Pet therapy benefits are known to be especially great for older people who suffer from depression and anxiety. As people age, they have the tendency to become more lonely and bored. Over time they may begin to feel insignificant and become unwilling to engage in new experiences. Pet ownership offers the potential to change all that. Walking a dog, for example, offers a greater chance for socialization and less isolation and research has shown that seniors who own dogs go to the doctor less frequently than those who don’t. Additionally, tests show that humans and dogs alike experience massive releases of beneficial hormones within minutes of interaction with each other.
Dogs have a natural ability to love and comfort their owners with a complete lack of prejudice or rejection and this is something that is of vital importance to depression or anxiety sufferers of any age. The truth is, however, that all sorts of animals can help treat the symptoms of depression. You may be surprised to learn that all of the following animals have been noted for their therapeutic qualities:
- Small animals, such as guinea pigs or ferrets
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression and feel as if pet ownership and animal-assisted therapy could be a step in the right direction, speak with your doctor or mental health professional for help with pairing with the right type of pet based on your therapeutic needs.
For more information on the benefits of pet therapy for depression or anxiety, contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.