In recent years, emotional support animals have become more and more common, even receiving federal protections in the United States.
Under the Fair Housing Act, no pets housing policies do not apply to emotional support animals, meaning that renters can live with their emotional support animals without requiring clearance from their landlords.
But what exactly can emotional support animals do for people? The science behind these pets is ongoing, but the benefits appear fairly clear.
1. Support animals can help with various issues
According to various studies, emotional support animals can provide an individual relief from issues like general anxiety disorder, fears of flying, fears of leaving the home, post traumatic stress disorder, and depression. Those who have the help of emotional support animals showed increased self-esteem, more motivation, more overall sociablity, and decreases in the symptoms of diagnosed mental health conditions.
Emotional support animals are not necessarily a silver bullet to dealing with mental health and emotional issues, but researchers have begun painting an encouraging picture of what emotional support animals can do for their human companions.
2. Animals lower our stress levels
It has been well studied that our pets have the ability to reduce stress in our lives. Spending time with our pets helps increase oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is a peptide hormone that plays a role in social bonding and has a positive effect on our health and stress levels. Oxytocin helps slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure.
3. Emotional support animals help us let go
Emotional support animals don’t just help us cope with things like PTSD and anxiety, but they can help us actively recover as well. People who have emotional support animals as companions reported fewer feelings of anger and resentment about the past and increased feelings of happiness and well-being. If anything, we can look to animals for inspiration. A barking dog or a hissing cat can go from angry to happy again over the course of just a few seconds. Our animal companions can let go, and so should we.
Mindfulness is all about living in the present moment. Escaping the present moment and returning to the past is sometimes the go-to defense when dealing with traumatic events that have happened in our lives. But something that our companion animals can teach us is to live in the present moment. Activities like meditation and yoga can help root us in the present moment, but playing fetch with a dog or cuddling a cat can also help root us in the present. Living in the moment can help us break free from past traumatic events and press onward.
5. They remind us what’s important
Emotional support animals help keep us grounded and thinking about what’s important. The responsibility that comes along with a support animal reminds us that we have important things in our lives to prioritize, like cleaning up after and caring for our pets.
6. Emotional support animals help us accept ourselves
Feeling the heat of judgement coming from others can be an enormous impediment to recovering from trauama and working through emotional issues. Emotional support animals help us feel more comfortable in our own spaces, in no small part because there is no judgement coming from them. Emotional support animals love their human companions no matter what, even when we’re at our worst.
7. Animals remind us of the importance of self-care
When recovering from past trauma, basic things like self care can take a back seat. But when you watch your pets go about their lives, you see that they take good care of themselves. They drink plenty of water, keep themselves groomed and clean, and get plenty of exercise through play and interacting with you.
Our emotional support animals are a good source of inspiration for someone recovering from trauma or coping with mental health issues.