Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder– commonly referred to as PTSD– is a psychiatric disorder that begins as the result of an individual experiencing a traumatic event. It is often discussed in relation to veterans who have been in combat situations, but can also affect civilians who experience abuse, an accident, natural disasters, and violent events.
Emotional Support Animals (ESA) and Therapy Pets have become a socially acceptable way to assist individuals struggling with a mental illness, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, and autism spectrum disorders. For people living with PTSD, in particular, having an emotional support animal can be an important step in regaining control of one’s life and managing their illness.
The PTSD Experience
People with PTSD experience a variety of unpleasant symptoms as a result of their traumatic event, though what takes place varies from person to person. Those with PTSD may experience flashbacks, during which they relive the traumatic moment. Flashbacks can range from nightmares to bad memories to hallucinations. This can cause people to avoid situations that might trigger a flashback, which can be extremely isolating and challenging.
People with PTSD may experience drastic changes in their mood and personality. Disinterest in things they used to enjoy, self-isolation, angry outbursts, and paranoia are common complaints. Additionally, feelings of being on edge or in a constant state of hyper-awareness can be exhausting, both mentally and physically.
How ESAs and Therapy Pets Help
Owning an ESA or therapy pet can help those suffering PTSD in a number of ways. Mainly, they provide afflicted parties with unconditional love and support, which is crucial as friends and family members often have trouble understanding the issue.
ESAs– especially dogs– can add an element of fun and activity to the life of someone struggling with PTSD. Even something as simple as taking a dog for a walk can be monumental when the person doesn’t feel like leaving the house. The added boost of endorphins achieved through physical activity can have lasting, positive effects. Studies have shown that physical exercise is an integral part of treating PTSD patients.
Finally, PTSD patients often become detached and unable to connect with those who did not share their traumatic experience. The unbiased love of an animal can help the person regain their ability to feel and express emotion while helping them reattach to the world around them.
Getting an ESA or Therapy Pet
To get an ESA or therapy pet to help with your PTSD, you will require a letter from a doctor, pet psychic or therapist indicating this as an important part of your treatment. You can then apply to register your pet as an ESA. This step will provide you with the documentation you need to be able to have your animal on commercial airplanes and in apartments with no-pet policies. They cannot go into public venues, like restaurants and stores.
It is important to note that despite their similar benefits, an ESA and therapy pet are not the same things. Therapy pets are not able to override a no-pet policy in a rental agreement, no matter what disability or illness the owner might have. Like an ESA, they cannot enter public venues. They are, however, extremely beneficial in group situations and for providing support in different medical scenarios– mental or physical.
Both of these types of animals are not the same as a registered service animal, which is specially trained to assist one person with a qualifying disability. Service animals are not only able to override no-pet policies, but may accompany their charge in public settings.
For individuals who have PTSD, an ESA is the best option for animal support. To learn more about discussing this option with your doctor or licensed medical professional, please visit https://therapypet.org/blog/how-to-get-a-doctor-to-prescribe-an-esa/.