Study shows pets can help people with mental health challenges
If you suffer from conditions like anxiety or depression, having a pet may be one of the best things you can do for your mental health.
We’re not just saying that because folks at this blog are animal lovers. Instead, a new report in BMC Psychiatry shows that people living with mental health challenges may benefit by having a furry little creature.
The Short Story
The research involved surveying seventeen different academic papers to assess the positive and negative impact of pet ownership for people struggling with various mental health conditions.
What investigators found was that the pets acted as conduits for emotional and social nourishment, thereby helping the owner better manage their feeling states and moods.
As part of the study, they also discovered that pet owners struggling with mental health issues like anxiety and depression became more social; a goal that is often the aim of traditional talk-therapy as a treatment outcome.
Guy Counseling spoke to Kari Harrison, a Chicago based psychotherapist about the study to get her take on the findings.
“Pets have a way of helping people feel better about their life situation. For people struggling with different forms of anxiety and depression – and even PTSD – having a dog or a cat or other kind of pet can really be helpful,” said Harrison.
Recently, a study was released that showed military veterans suffering from PTSD might experience meaningful relief from symptoms through therapeutic horseback riding.
We were curious about the connection between animals and the amelioration of emotional pain and asked Harrison her thoughts.
“Animals – be it horses, dogs, cats or even rabbits – allow people to feel less isolated. That helps when someone is feeling down or anxious. What you’ll find is that when an owner has the ability to interact with their animal, like petting or playing, they tend to have a more stable mood. Plus, pet owners feel a need to be needed. That’s huge for someone with a mental health condition,” said Harris.
If you struggle with a mental health challenge, this research seems to show that owning a pet might be a good option for symptom management.
“It’s a good choice for people who isolate or feel lonely. Obviously, they need to be able to have the financial resources to care for an animal. But if they can afford it, they should. In some people, I’ve seen a complete turn-around in how they feel and look at life,” said Harris.