Health Hour

How your furrball helps you deal with depression and anxiety : International Dog Day Special

Emotional support animals and psychiatric assistance dogs are accepted widely for reasons such as – Companion therapy with traditional counselling and treatment for patients with mental disorders. Trained by experts, these animals provide necessary support and safety of their humans, says Dr. Neha Patel, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital.

Here are 5 benefits of a dog for patients enduring mental disorders like depression or anxiety.

Endless Emotional support Waggy tails and endless waits

It is very clear that the life of our pets revolves around us. They do all the random little acts to make you feel special! The unconditional love they give us is extraordinary and it’s the reason everyone must have a pet in their lives. They wait from the moment you leave your house and know when you’re close and about to reach!

“Most dog-owners perceive the bonding with their pets as unconditional and thus completely reliable. When such individuals experience severe symptoms of depression such as loneliness, sadness or of anxiety such as fear, nervousness, the dogs—due to the bonding, acts as the calming source of emotional support. Dog owners are thus less likely to need emergency clinical assistance as compared to other patients of mental disorders,” says Dr. Patel.

 Woof-woof you’ve got a furry goof

People with mental illnesses are commonly indifferent and avoid interacting with new people. But, dogs can play the role of social bridge as dog owners often stop and speak with each-other. Fresh social interactions enrich the sense of belongingness which can help in some mental disorders.

3, 2, 1 Go!!

People who suffer from depression and anxiety are advised to stay active by doctors. They must indulge in some physical activity. Having a dog ensures you would go on walks and play with them. “Depressive individuals are likely to restrict their movements, which in turn starts the cycle of low energy requirement, consumption and lethargy. Dogs are active, playful and more likely to force their handlers to move, exercise and go on walks.

Ting, Ting, Ting!

When you have a dog around, you have to build a schedule to take care of them. Having a furrball is very close to having a baby! One of the reasons for increasing cases of mental health issues in pandemic might be lack of a structured day and routine.

Reduces stress and eliminates loneliness

Touch and movement in stress management play vital roles. Petting or cuddling a dog helps to lower blood pressure and relieves the symptoms of anxiety. “Oxytocin is an important hormone in humans that brings down the stress levels and helps the body to fight pain. It also promotes growth and healing. It stimulates positive social interactions,” says Agnihotri.

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