What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder (formerly called manic-depressive illness or manic depression) is a mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
There are three types of bipolar disorder. All three types involve clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. These moods range from periods of extremely “up,” elated, irritable, or energized behavior (known as manic episodes) to very “down,” sad, indifferent, or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes). Less severe manic periods are known as hypomanic episodes.
NIMH, The National Institute of Mental Health has much more to say here.
Common Treatments/Coping Mechanisms for Bipolar Disorder
As more and more people seek holistic alternatives when developing their treatment plans, the use of assistance animals such as psychiatric service dogs is becoming more commonplace.
The most effective treatment for bipolar disorder is a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Most people take more than one drug, like a mood-stabilizing drug and an antipsychotic, benzodiazepine, or antidepressant. However, it’s important that treatment be ongoing — even after you feel better — to keep mood symptoms under control.
And this is where a safe, holistic alternative can bridge the gaps between traditional treatments and the assumed need for a combination of treatments made into a personal plan. Find out the remaining details here.
What are Psychiatric Service Dogs?
A psychiatric service dog (PSD) is a type of assistance animal that’s trained to perform specific tasks for individuals living with a mental illness. These unique tasks are directly related to the handler’s disability.
Most of us are accustomed to seeing guide dogs supporting those with physical disabilities like a hearing or sight impairment. However, a psychiatric service dog helps people with typically unseen, unnoticeable disabilities.
For example, those with Bipolar disorder that experience mania, dissociation, or similar challenges can greatly benefit from the service of a PSD. Those who live with social phobia, depression or other depressive disorders can also find the service of a PSD to be incredibly beneficial.
Certapet’s Blog is updated weekly and full of informative articles, testimonials, and data from mental health professionals. For a more in-depth overview of this complicated subject, read our full article.
How Can Service Dogs Help with Bipolar Disorder?
The ultimate function of a psychiatric service dog is to alleviate or diminish the negative effects of bipolar disorder on the handler’s life. The tasks a service dog is trained to perform to aid someone living with bipolar disorder depend on the individual’s circumstances and personal challenges and needs.
Mental Health Benefits
Emotional Support animals have innate abilities and can be trained to perform many other tasks, perfectly and regularly, by recognizing their handler’s distress and outward reactions. Combating a lot of mental health issues by reducing stress, increasing a calm mood, grounding, and maintaining hold on reality are all within the dog’s capabilities. And training can only serve to further improve these supporting tasks.
To find out more, read on.
Physical Health Benefits
Psychiatric service dogs can help all people with one or more mental health issues, especially Bipolar disorder. Support dogs improve heart health and blood pressure by encouraging a person to get outside, move around and, even exercise more regularly.
Also, the love given to emotional support animals not only strengthens your bond with your dog but teaches you to love yourself and others more.
Specific Tasks Service Dogs Can Perform to Support Their Owner
The various types of mental disorders, including Bipolar disorder, carry between them many symptom similarities but also some distinct differences in how they manifest, how long they last, and how to safely deal with them.
We have several articles on our website’s blog page to help gain greater understanding about the lengths service dogs can go towards improving your well being. This one in particular describes in great detail this topic.
Here are a few ways emotional support animals can help people with Bipolar disorder, PTSD, and/or anxiety:
- Bring medication or remind their partner to take prescribed medicine at a specific time(s)
- Awaken their partner at a specific time each day
- Remind their partner to go to bed at a specific time to keep sleep cycles regular
- Bring a portable phone to their partner or call 9-1-1 if the handler exhibits behaviors that might indicate a manic episode or severe depression
- Interrupt potentially dangerous behaviors in their partner by nudging, nagging, or distracting with play
- Alert the handler to the telephone, doorbell, or smoke alarm if their partner is asleep or possibly sedated due to medication
- Calm or interrupt hypomanic or manic behaviors by leaning into their partner, or placing their head in the handler’s lap
- Provide a link to reality if their partner experiences delusions during a manic episode
Emotional Support Dog vs. Psychiatric Service Dog: What’s the Difference?
PSDs and ESAs are both a type of assistance animal that a licensed mental health professional or doctor can prescribe to someone as part of their treatment plan.
However, only PSDs are recognized as official ‘service animals’ under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As legally recognized service animals, they’re entitled to the following rights:
- Public Access Rights (under the Americans with Disabilities Act they can accompany their owner into grocery stores, restaurants, etc.)
- Travel Rights (under the Air Carrier Access Act, they can accompany their owner in the airline cabin and the owner does not have to pay a pet fee)
- Fair Housing (under the Fair Housing Act, they can live in housing units even if there’s a no pets policy)
- Educational Facility Access (under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, they can accompany their owner into schools, colleges, universities, etc.)
ESAs on the other hand, do not have the same privileges when it comes to public access and travel, due to new DOT regulations put into place on January 11, 2021. Many major airlines now only recognize ESAs as pets, which means owners will have to pay a pet fee. (More information on these regulations and the airlines that have changed the policies here: https://www.certapet.com/new-dot-regulations-for-emotional-support-animals/ ). However, people can still enjoy fair housing rights with their ESAs, even if they live in a no pets unit.
The reason for this difference is that PSDs have to be specially trained to perform a certain task or type of work that helps support a person living with a disability (ESAs on the other hand receive no special training – they’re just meant to offer comfort through their companionship).
To be considered a service dog, a PSD must be trained to perform a specific task (examples here: https://www.certapet.com/how-to-train-a-psychiatric-service-dog/ ), which is why partnering with a professional trainer is the best option.
We’re currently onboarding our professional dog trainers and will be offering this option very soon. In the meantime, those interested in getting a psychiatric service dog can begin the process by seeing if they qualify for a PSD through our free screening here: https://www.certapet.com/psychiatric-service-dog-screening/
How to Get a Bipolar Service Dog
In order to obtain a psychiatric service dog, or therapy dog, you must receive a recommendation from a licensed mental health professional or a doctor. This ‘prescription’ takes the form of a letter, which will be written on your health professional’s letterhead and include their license number.
There are no limitations to the breed of dog you can use as your psychiatric service dog. Your PSD can therefore either be a dog you already own, a dog you adopt from a shelter or rescue group, or a dog you receive from a service dog organization. Keep in mind, however, that the dog must be specially trained to perform certain tasks in order to be recognized as a service dog under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Certapet wants you to get a service dog as quickly as possible. And we know our services can do just that through our certified telemedicine evaluation and rapidly submitted recommendation letters. If you have additional questions, read these Healthline and Top Dog Tips articles.
How to Train a Bipolar Service Dog
In the sections above, we touched on the different training methods of an emotional support assistance dog. Here are some more details, along with a supporting blog post, regarding the typical training of a service dog, therapy dog, or support dog.
There are two components of an effective training regimen for all service dogs. First, the General Public Access Test is performed to instill good manners in service dogs, ensuring that they behave appropriately in public settings. The second step, the specialized task/work training is done, which satisfies the requirement of all PSDs to be able to perform a specific action that’s directly related to their handler’s disability.
No matter from where the Bipolar disorder stems, or how it affects which aspects of your life, this two step training process can not only create a service dog out of any dog but tailor their abilities to combat each and every symptom the handler may encounter.
The Best Bipolar Service Dog Breeds
Any breed of dog could be transformed into an emotional support dog or psychiatric service animal. It could be a dog you have owned for years or one you just picked up from a shelter or adoption agency. But, like with most things, there are a handful of dog breeds that are superiorly adept than the rest.
Here are the top 10 Breed for Psychiatric service dogs in the setting of Bipolar Disorder:
- Labrador Retriever
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Golden Retriever
- Yorkshire Terrier
- English Bulldog
- Miniature Schnauzer
BPHOPE.com explains their detailed list here.
Are you interested in getting a psychiatric service dog?
Here at CertaPet, we can help. CertaPet is an online telehealth platform that improves access to mental health care in the U.S. with a focus on providing services to individuals who are seeking animal assisted interventions as part of their treatment plan.
We are currently coordinating with emotional support dog trainers who specialize in the service animal space and who will soon work in tandem with our network of licensed mental health professionals to make the process of getting and training a psychiatric service dog affordable, convenient, and hassle-free.
We’ll have more information available soon about our Psychiatric Service Dog Training options. In the meantime, you can take our FREE pre-screening below to see if you qualify for a PSD!
Can you have a service dog for Bipolar Disorder?
Absolutely, yes. Service dogs are trained to assist in the activities of daily living for those who have one or more mental health conditions, including mood disorders and Bipolar Disorder.
How do you qualify for a psychiatric service dog?
We have a fast, easy, and stress free way to determine just that. We start with a free screening, move on to a telemedicine evaluation from a licensed professional, and finish with a personalized plan and ESA letter of qualification.
What can a psychiatric service dog do?
Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.
Can I use any breed of dog as an emotional support dog or psychiatric service animal?
Any breed of dog can take to the psychiatric service training well and you can even use one you already own. However, there are particular breeds that excel in these kinds of emotional, stressful, and difficult situations.
How are support dogs trained?
Service dogs can be trained by you, the handler, or by you with the assistance of a certified trainer. A third option is to adopt a service animal from an accredited training organization for service dogs.