November 7, 2016

Companion Dog for Depression- What You Need to Know

Companion Dog for Depression

What is Depression?

Depression is defined as a state of low mood and apathy or aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings and overall sense of well-being. Most Americans have dealt with depression at one time or another. The Center for Disease Control, or CDC, reports that around 9% of Americans admit that they are occasionally depressed, and 3.4% suffer from major depression. Those who suffer from depression can feel sad, empty, anxious, hopeless and helpless. They may also lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. Depression can effect decision making and cause relationship difficulties which can lead to fatigue, insomnia or even in suicide. This is where a companion dog for depression could be a great way to help lessen or alleviate your depression.  

Types of Depression

There are many types of depression. Some of these include; Persistent Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder and Post-Partum Depression, just to name a few. Persistent Depressive Disorder or dysthymia, as it is formally known, is described as major depression that has lasted longer than 2 years. Bipolar Disorder is characterized as suffering from manic depression in conjunction with extreme and uncontrollable highs and lows. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a common form of depression that usually occurs in the winter months, due to the shorter days and lack of sunlight. Finally, Post-Partum Depression is a form of depression that new moms suffer from following child birth. Once upon a time, Post-Partum Depression was a taboo subject. More and more it is being discussed as a serious form of depression. All of these and many more forms of depression may be reduced by a companion dog.

Symptoms of Depression

·         Fatigue or decreased energy
·         Insomnia or excessive sleeping
·         Overeating or appetite loss
·         Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems
·         Feeling hopeless or being lost
·         Difficulty concentrating, remembering details or making decisions
·         Restlessness or irritability
·         Loss of interest in hobbies or activities that once were pleasurable   
·         Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
·         Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts

What is a Companion Dog for Depression?

A companion dog for depression is also known as an emotional support animal or ESA. An emotional support animal is defined as an animal that, by just being with a person, mitigates the emotional or psychological symptoms associated with an owner’s condition or disorder. An emotional support dog needs no special training, unlike a therapy or service animal. All that is needed for an ESA is a prescription from a licensed medical professional. An emotional support animal is simply there to calm and cheer up their owner during  a depressive episode.

How does a Companion Dog for Depression Help?

Companion dogs can help a patient deal with their depression in various ways. Dogs are commonly referred to as “man’s best friend” due to their friendship and undying love for their owner. Dogs stay by their owner through thick and thin, and being greeted by a happy dog with a wagging tail helps to relieve a patient’s depression in some cases. Reaching out to a licensed medical or mental health professional is the first step in seeing if a companion dog could help your condition.While some feel they need medicine to help with their disorders, others feel more comfortable with a companion dog by their side. 

Companion Dog for Depression

Companion Dog for Depression- Final Thoughts

The Fair Housing Act allows you to have an emotional support animal in your house or apartment even if they have a no pet policy. Be careful of sites asking you to pay for an ESA letter without communicating with a licensed medical or mental health official, as these are usually scams. If a licensed mental health professional determines you qualify for an ESA, they will write you a prescription for an emotional support animal and you will be on your way to ending or alleviating your depression.

See If You Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal

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