Animals and mental health
People who have pets know the physical and emotional benefits of having an animal in life. According to scientific research, living with an animal can help people who suffer from serious psychological problems, such as depression, schizophrenia, alcoholism, bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Pets help people manage their emotions and provide a distraction from their problems. Having someone who gives you unconditional love can ease feelings of worry, anguish, and loneliness.
Studies conducted on pets and their correlation with mental health have shown that petting and playing with animals significantly reduces stress-related hormones and lowers blood pressure. This can happen with as little as five minutes of interaction with a pet. They call this the pet effect. The Pet Effect, also known as the human-animal bond, is the mutually beneficial relationship between people and animals, which has a positive impact on the health and well-being of both. In other words, you are not the only one who benefits from this bond, your pet benefits too. If you or your pet suffer from anxiety, for example, both of you can be helped with a simple play session or by spending time together watching television while lying on the couch.
What types of animals can help?
Animals can serve as a source of comfort and support. Therapy dogs are especially good and helpful. Sometimes they are taken to hospitals or nursing homes to help reduce stress and anxiety for patients.
This type of dog helps adults or children with cancer, ADHD, autism spectrum, people with visual disabilities, post-traumatic stress, epilepsies, etc. Well they say that the dog is man’s (and women‘s) best friend!
Cats, for example, lower stress levels, possibly because they are more self-sufficient than dogs and do not require as much effort. Keeping a cat in the house has been found to decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression. Petting a cat has a calming effect on its owner.
Horse therapy (equino-therapy) is not totally new as there is evidence that these noble animals were already used as therapy in ancient Greece. The relationship with horses helps to overcome fears, increases self-confidence, develops communication and coping skills and problem solving, improves self-esteem, etc.
Farm animals are also a good support to help people with problems of shyness, stress, depression, etc., to feel better. There are specialized farms in which people with emotional or behavioral problems work participating in the farm tasks taking care of and being responsible for some animals, which helps increase self-confidence.
There are also dolphin therapies; Considered among the most intelligent animals as well as the pig, they also help different types of pathologies and diseases.
Benefits of having an animal:
Pets are also shown to increase our levels of oxytocin and serotonin. On the one hand, oxytocin is the love hormone and on the other hand, serotonin is the hormone that regulates the body’s needs and certain behaviors that we have. In general, endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin are those that allow feelings of well-being, pleasure and relaxation.
They help social development
For insecure and introverted people, having a pet can be a way to generate great social development. Above all, this happens with children: having a pet helps them to develop social skills that they have not developed in relationships with other children. A child who has a pet will stop being less lonely and want to relate more.
Just as they help improve social skills, they also improve self-esteem. Having a pet and doing activities with this animal reinforces security and self-confidence.
In the same way, many studies show that pets help with depression in that they have a great capacity to make a person reduce their negative thoughts. The emotional bond that is generated with a pet is so great that it can become a great anchor to life. A person with depression can improve as his pet can get him to get up to take him for a walk, feed him, take him to the vet, etc.
While it is clear that living with animals has many benefits to us, that doesn’t mean it is right for everyone. Taking on a companion animal is a big responsibility with financial and time commitments to think about. Before making the leap, do your research and make sure you invite the right animal into your home.
- At Refresh Recovery, we want to welcome you with your pet, whether a dog or cat, to make sure your addiction treatment with attention to mental health is done with the support of your companion.
by Tannia V.