Most people are aware of just how helpful service animals can be for individuals with physical disabilities. For instance, hearing dogs can assist people who are deaf or have hearing impairments, guide dogs can help people who are blind or have visual impairments, and mobility dogs can help people with mobility issues. But you may not be aware of just how much animals can also assist people with mental disabilities.
Emotional support animals, like dogs, cats, rabbits, and others, can all aid people with mental disabilities by providing comfort and companionship. And a psychiatric service dog can help to perform tasks for people with certain mental health conditions and learning disabilities to help them live more independently.
Psychiatric service dogs can perform physical tasks like waking their owners up in the morning and reminding them to take medication. They can also provide emotional support, especially in overwhelming social situations.
Let’s explore three mental health conditions that a service dog can help with.
Everyone experiences occasional anxiety, but anxiety disorders cause sufferers to continually feel anxiety and fear, making it challenging for people with the conditions to do things like go to work and attend social gatherings.
There are lots of different types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, and certain phobias.
Treatments are available for anxiety, including types of therapy and medication. A sufferer of an anxiety disorder can also get a psychiatric service dog to help manage the anxiety.
A trained service dog can pick up on signs of anxiety attacks before they occur, distract during anxiety attacks to help the sufferer calm down, warn other people to give the sufferer space, and provide a sense of safety.
A psychiatric service dog can even be trained to apply physical pressure to help its owner calm down during times of high anxiety.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD is a condition that can develop after someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event that involved a serious physical threat or harm, such as war, a sexual assault, or the sudden death of a loved one. People with PTSD can feel intense fear, horror, or helplessness. But a well-trained service dog can help its owner in various ways.
It can help to foster a greater sense of security, encourage a daily routine, and give medication reminders, for example.
A dog specifically trained to help people with PTSD can also know how to spot indications of stress, like fidgeting, stomping, and crying, and then nestle its owner to soothe him or her.
PTSD dogs can also be trained to wake up their owners when they are having nightmares.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder involves someone having repeated sensations or unwanted thoughts, known as obsessions, or the urge to compulsively do something again and again. People with OCD can have either or both obsessions and compulsions.
A service dog can help sufferers of OCD in various ways. When the dog notices its owner is displaying symptoms, it can combat the obsession or compulsion by physically interrupting the behavior, such as through tactile or deep pressure stimulation.
Also, OCD can make sufferers lose their sense of time and place. A service dog can help bring its owner back to the present.
A psychiatric service dog can also help people with OCD to calm their minds and reduce their stress through the simple acts of love and being a constant companion.
There are other ways in which a service dog can help someone with OCD. For instance, they can remind their owners to take medication, and they can even be trained to lie on top of their owners during severe anxiety attacks.
Should you get a service dog to help your mental health condition?
If you have a mental health condition, you should consult your doctor to explore your treatment options. Ask your doctor about the possibility of having a service animal to help you manage your condition better, and take things from there.
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