Emotional support animals (ESAs) are animals that provide emotional support and comfort to their owners. They are not the same as service animals, which are trained to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities. ESAs, on the other hand, do not require any specific training, but rather provide emotional support and companionship to individuals who may benefit from their presence.
The purpose of emotional support animals is to provide comfort, companionship, and emotional support to individuals who may be struggling with mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or other emotional disorders. ESAs are often prescribed by healthcare professionals as a part of a comprehensive treatment plan, and may be recommended in conjunction with therapy, medication, or other treatment options.
ESAs can be a variety of animals, including dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, and even reptiles or rodents. The specific animal chosen as an ESA often depends on the individual's preferences and needs, as well as the housing or travel accommodations required for the animal.
8 Key Takeaways
Reduce loneliness: Depression and anxiety can often be isolating experiences. Support animals, such as dogs or cats, can provide companionship and unconditional love, which can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Promote social interaction: Support animals can also help promote social interaction, as people may be more likely to engage with others while out with their animal. This can be helpful for people with depression and anxiety who may struggle with socializing or initiating conversations.
Provide comfort: Support animals can provide comfort and a sense of security, which can help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. For example, the simple act of petting a dog can release oxytocin, a hormone that promotes feelings of calm and well-being.
Reduce stress: Support animals can also help reduce stress by promoting relaxation and reducing tension in the body. The act of caring for an animal can also provide a sense of purpose and a distraction from stressors.
Increase physical activity: Many support animals, such as dogs, require regular exercise. This can be helpful for people with depression and anxiety who may struggle with motivation to exercise. Regular exercise can help improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Improve mood: Support animals can also improve mood by providing a source of joy and happiness. The act of caring for an animal can also provide a sense of accomplishment and purpose, which can be helpful for people with depression and anxiety who may struggle with feeling hopeless or unmotivated.
Boost self-esteem: Support animals can also boost self-esteem by providing a sense of responsibility and purpose. For example, caring for an animal can provide a sense of accomplishment and improve feelings of self-worth.
Increase sense of control: Finally, support animals can increase a sense of control by providing a predictable routine and a sense of structure. This can be helpful for people with depression and anxiety who may struggle with feeling overwhelmed or out of control.
2. National Institute of Mental Health. (2021). Anxiety disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml
3. Fair Housing Act: Emotional Support Animals. (n.d.). U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Retrieved from https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/PA/documents/HUDAsstAnimalNC1-28-2020.pdf