Animals in mental health

I am a cat person, as evidenced by my plethora of pictures of my cat Reidar. I am also a rabbit person, as evidenced by my pictures of Stormy, my gray Rex. I love my animals and they return that love. At least I think they do. Sometimes I’m not so sure about Stormy, but I know Reidar does.

Reidar and Stormy are great for helping me with my mood swings. Cuddling up to them seems to help ease some of my depression. Reidar sitting on me keeps me grounded when the hypomania sets in. I absolutely love my furry babies.

Animals are very useful for people with mood disorders. Animal assisted therapy is a real thing. Those with mood disorders are encouraged to bond with animals who can help them. There are those service animals who are trained to deal with psychological problems, which can be useful. But just having a pet can be beneficial as well.

I read through an article on WebMD (yes I know it’s not the greatest site, no it didn’t tell me I was dying). It talked about the benefits of having an animal in your life. One of the points it brought up was uncomplicated love. Even when your relationships with friends and family are strained, your pet will love you without judgment. Then there’s activity. If you’re so depressed you don’t want to move, having a dog to walk is a drive to get out of bed. There’s the companionship of your furry friend when you want to isolate so you’re not entirely alone. There were other points, but those are just a few of the ones that stuck out to me. I’ve included the link to the article at the bottom of the post so you can take a look at it yourself.

A wide range of mental health conditions are now treated through pet-therapy programs. Interactions with animals are considered to offer benefits to patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, and challenging psychiatric disorders. There have been several studies, and many articles written on it. I’ll have a couple more links for you at the bottom of this post.

I’ve often thought of getting a dog that I can take out in public with me to help me deal with my anxiety. Unfortunately, that would be classed as a therapy dog and wouldn’t be protected through the Americans with Disabilities Act. Many times, people don’t see mental illness as a “legitimate” disability and it makes things difficult for us to get the help we need. That help can include the company of a service animal to help us deal with our mental illnesses.

If you have the ability to do so, look into adopting a pet that would be suitable for your family and your life. You’d be surprised at just how much of a benefit a furry/finned/scaled companion can be. I don’t know where I’d be without Reidar. He’s saved me several times in the past. He’s six now, so he’s got some years left in him, but sometimes I can’t help having a dark turn to my thoughts and imagine what would happen if he were to die. I’d be devastated, and it would have a definite negative impact on my mood. These thoughts start cropping up and I start looking for him. Then he does something typically cat-like and I crack up laughing and the thoughts are gone.

If you are seeing a therapist, talk to them about animal assisted therapy. They may know more about it than I do and would be able to point you in the right direction for assistance. They may even have local contacts for you to get you started on the path.

Links to articles on pet therapy:
WebMD
Dogtime
PsychCentral
Theravive

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