Struggling with a mental illness can be a lonely experience. This loneliness applies even more to people who are living with agoraphobia. This anxiety disorder makes it challenging or nearly impossible for them to leave their homes and interact with the outside world. Because of this isolation, individuals living with agoraphobia can benefit immensely from owning an emotional support animal (ESA). If you’re wondering, “Can ESAs help agoraphobia?”, read on for more information.
What is agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia typically begins in your late teens or early adult years (but can also appear in childhood or later adulthood in some cases). This disorder is marked by intense fear and avoidance of places or situations that cause panic or anxiety. These situations often make you feel trapped and helpless, resulting in you feeling like there’s no way to escape or get help. Because of this fear, you can start to completely steer clear of situations that make you feel anxious. For example, if you’ve had a panic attack in a park, you can develop a fear of this happening again, so you may decide to avoid going to parks altogether. Living with agoraphobia, you have a difficult time feeling safe (especially in public places where there are lots of people). The experienced fear is often completely out of proportion to the actual danger of the situation. This can lead some people to feel like they’re completely unable to leave their homes without feeling absolute terror. Agoraphobia occurs when these symptoms and behaviors of avoidance last for six months or longer, and you’re at an increased risk of developing it if you have a panic disorder or other phobias, have recently experienced stressful life events (especially a traumatic event), or have a blood relative with agoraphobia.
Because agoraphobia is a chronic condition, it can last for years or even be lifelong. There are treatment options out there – psychotherapy and medications can be helpful. However, because people have to end up confronting their fears and opening their world up again in order to improve, it can be a daunting task to recover. Therefore, it’s essential to provide people with other coping mechanisms to help make things as easy as possible for them. This is where emotional support animals and agoraphobia can go hand in hand.
What is an ESA?
An emotional support animal is a pet (that can be from a variety of species) that acts as a constant companion who can comfort their owner. Qualifying conditions for needing an ESA include a number of different mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Because agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder, it can also be considered a condition that can be alleviated or improved through owning an ESA. Getting your pet certified as an ESA requires you to get a certification from your mental health provider, in which they verify that you have a mental illness and could benefit from an ESA. You can also reach out to MooshMe; they can connect you virtually with a mental health professional that can help you get your pet certified. Once you have a certified ESA, you are protected under several federal laws. This means you have the privilege of flying with your ESA in the cabin of the airplane with you when you travel, and you can’t face housing discrimination because of your ESA.
Can you get an emotional support animal for agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia and ESAs are actually a perfect match. You can keep your ESA with you at home at all times to help provide you with someone to connect to – even when you can’t manage to leave your home to socialize with other people. They’re also helpful in lowering anxiety levels, so if you are able to venture out into the world, you’ll have a safe, comforting presence with you to help manage your fear and panic.
Which ESAs are best for agoraphobia?
There are lots of different animals that can help with agoraphobia including cats, bunnies, etc. As long as the animal has a calmer nature and is affectionate, they’ll be able to help you alleviate symptoms of panic and distress. Dogs often make the best ESAs for people with agoraphobia because they can offer a distraction during times of anxiety, as well as motivation to leave the home (like to take your dog for a walk or out to a dog park). There are many dog breeds that make good ESAs, such as Bichon Frises, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Labradors, Border Collies, and Poodles. By having one of these animals as a constant companion, you might find that it’s less lonely when your agoraphobia symptoms are heightened and you’re homebound. When you are feeling stronger and are able to leave your home, you might discover that you feel a little less fear and panic because you have your ESA by your side.
Working towards recovery from agoraphobia can be challenging and overwhelming. But you can make your journey to recovery easier by having an ESA who can make you feel safe – no matter what situations you find yourself in. You can try to slowly raise your tolerance for stressful situations and head out into the world as much as possible (with the help and support of a trusted therapist). Although living with agoraphobia can feel like you’re trapped and isolated, you don’t have to just accept the loneliness that comes with it. Consider getting an ESA, so that they can bring a little more love into your life and give you a renewed openness to venturing outside.