4 Ways a Service Dog Can Help with Anxiety and Depression
|Image via Pixabay by jarmoluk|
It’s a New Year, so what better time to get your anxiety and depression in check. It just so happens that a pet can help with that!
Though many people associate service dogs with physical disabilities, psychiatric service dogs are on the rise as mental health becomes a more widely discussed topic. If you have anxiety or depression, you may benefit greatly from a psychiatric service dog.
Not only will a service dog be able to perform tasks to help you with your illness, but they will also improve your quality of life and lower your risk of co-occurring problems such as addiction. If you are considering a psychiatric service dog for your depression or anxiety, here are a few of the helpful tasks they would be able to perform on the job.
Deep Pressure Therapy
For people with many different disorders, deep pressure therapy can be highly effective in calming a person down. A service dog or even an emotional support animal can perform this task by either placing the front paws on their handler’s chest (if it is a large dog) or climbing on top of their handler’s chest (if it is a small dog). The pressure provided can soothe panic and anxiety attacks as well as calm depression.
Check for Intruders
Many people with anxiety or related disorders can experience paranoia. Often, this can translate into believing that someone is in your home. A service dog may be taught the command “Who’s there?” which triggers either alertness or a sweep of the home. The dog can be trained to head out and attempt to find another person in the house.
If there is truly an intruder, they may be trained to sound the alarm and begin barking. If the dog returns with no alerts, their handler can rest assured that the home is safe. An easier option may be to simply teach the dog to listen closely. If they perk up and listen for a potential intruder but settle back down, you can also feel more secure in your home.
One of the more common psychiatric service dog tasks is reminding their handler to take medication. The dog will either retrieve the medication or nudge their owner until they get up and take it. This can be very helpful for depression where motivating yourself to get up and do a necessary task seems impossible.
These service dogs can also be trained to run and retrieve a fast-acting medication in the event of an emergency situation.
Security Bluff Commands
For many people with anxiety, there is an irrational fear that something bad will happen when out in public. There is a heightened perception of risk of attack when in public alone. Though service dogs are prohibited from learning actual security tasks (such as barking or growling at strangers), they can learn very useful bluff commands.
For example, a service dog may learn the command “Cover me” which will cause the dog to assume a guard dog pose behind you. If you are standing at an ATM or unlocking a door and feel that someone may come up behind you, the dog will have all the appearances of guarding your back, making it far less likely that someone would risk attacking you.
Anyone with a mental disability can qualify for a psychiatric service dog. It is important to know the difference between an emotional support animal and a service dog. If your illness does not necessarily impact your daily life outside the home, you may want to consider training an emotional support animal. If your disability impedes your ability to function properly, a service dog may be right for you.
Just remember that a service dog will require up to several years of training and can be costly (dog ownership costs more some places than others). Do your research first and then decide if a service dog is worth the time, energy, and money. Never attempt to pass an ESA off as a service dog.