Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses diagnosed in Americans. Many utilize therapy of varying kinds as well as medications to manage the disease. Have you ever wondered, though, if having pets can help anxiety? In short, the answer is yes, and Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital is excited to share how.
The Link Between Animals and Lower Anxiety
The study of the human-animal bond is one that has gained a lot of attention. There are quite a few scientific studies documenting the positive effects of pet ownership.
Pets have been shown to have dramatic effects on overall human health, including improved cardiovascular health, improved immune system development, and improved mental health issues (like playing an important part of managing post-traumatic stress disorder).
When it comes to anxiety, many studies take place in a medical setting. In particular, decreased anxiety has been shown in:
- Patients hospitalized with heart failure who received visits from therapy dogs versus human volunteers
- Patients in the emergency room when visited by a dog
- Patients with a history of dental anxiety during cleanings supervised by a therapy dog
- People allowed to observe fish
- People encouraged to pet living animals while being exposed to something stressful
Human-animal interaction has been shown to have positive effects on both adults and children’s anxiety levels and can be a great resource for our mental health.
How Pets Help Anxiety
Having a pet really can be an important tool to help lessen anxiety for many of us. The reasons may be different for every individual. We know that pets help lessen anxiety in people by:
- Encouraging (or demanding!) daily activity such as walks or play sessions
- Providing companionship
- Being good listeners
- Aiding in social interactions and helping to create social connections
- Helping to create a sense of schedule and structure
- Increasing self-esteem
- Creating a sense of purpose
- Encouraging getting out of the house
- Increasing physical activity
Having an animal in your life can really help to decrease the negative feelings of fear, loneliness, and distress associated with anxiety.
In general, animals have been shown to lower circulating cortisol levels in the body as well as to lower blood pressure and increase serotonin and dopamine (the feel-good hormones).
Our pets are truly (wo)man’s best friend in more way than one. Who knew that animals could bring so much positivity to our lives? Pets help anxiety in people, but they also do so much more.
If you are thinking about bringing a pet into your life, please contact us so that we can help you find the right fit for you. We love when pets and people come together!