Traveling can be nerve-wracking, even in the best of situations. But the current state of the world and the COVID-19 pandemic has made flying that much more anxiety-inducing. For those who deal with nerves getting the best of them when it comes to traveling, it can be hard to calm down prior to boarding a flight. There is one thing that can help, though, and that’s an emotional support animal.
Emotional support animals have been proven to help reduce overall levels of anxiety, ease depression, and ease the symptoms of other mental or mood disorders. If you’re traveling by plane, having an emotional support animal by your side can be the difference between being too scared to fly and being ready to head to your next destination.
Does anxiety qualify for an emotional support animal?
Many disorders qualify for an emotional support animal. Learning disabilities, depression, intellectual disabilities and motor skills disorders can all qualify you to get your own emotional support animal.
Also on the list of qualifying conditions is anxiety. In order for anxiety to qualify for an emotional support animal, the condition must interfere with a person’s daily life and cause copious amounts of debilitating worry and fear.
To get an emotional support animal for anxiety, you must first have a visit with your primary health care provider or mental health care provider to determine that your condition is chronic, severe, and would benefit from the support of an ESA. A letter from your doctor stating your condition and the limitations you face will help smooth things along when getting an animal certified to become your ESA.
Benefits of emotional support animals for anxiety
Having an animal around for interaction and companionship has been proven to help humans regardless of whether they have a health condition or not. It has been shown that being around animals increases chemicals within the brain that lead to feelings of happiness and calmness, and lowering chemicals involved in the stress response. It can be of great benefit to have an emotional support animal around, particularly when it comes to specific mental health conditions.
Emotional support animals can help to ease their companions’ anxiety disorders, as well as circumstantial anxieties such as travel anxiety. ESAs can also help to reduce overall levels of worry and fear for those suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder on a daily basis. An ESA’s presence can give its owner a sense of safety in situations or environments that increase anxiety levels in those with the disorder.
Emotional support animals also provide connection that a person with anxiety can hold onto if their symptoms begin to flare up in any given circumstance. They can help to boost confidence in their owner, as well as providing a general sense of calm. Emotional support animals may also reduce the risk of a panic attack (or lessen the duration or severity of one) by being there for their owner while it happens.
Are emotional support animals allowed on planes?
When it comes to emotional support animals on planes, the general rule of thumb is that some animals are allowed and some are not. Certain rules and regulations need to be adhered to if you want your emotional support animal to fly with you. For example, your ESA must be able to fit in your seating area with you without creating any obstacle or disturbing other passengers. Your ESA will also have to be well-behaved and able to refrain from any actions that may affect other passengers’ flight experience, such as relieving themselves on the floor, barking excessively, trying to run around, or creating general disturbances.
As of 2020, new rules have come into effect in the United States that allow airlines the option to ban certain emotional support animals as per their own discretion. Animals that can be turned away include cats, birds, turtles, and most other animals. The new laws concluded that in most cases only emotional support dogs will be allowed to travel with their companion, and even then, the ESA must be trained to perform the work required to help the person with their disability.
Passengers may also be required to fill out special forms with the Department of Transportation that vouch for their animal’s health, level of training, and in-flight behavior. These new rules will come into effect in 2021.
Other forms of transportation and ESAs
When it comes to other forms of public transportation, such as trains, emotional support animals are generally considered pets and will only be allowed to travel with their companion based on the specific pet rules of the rail line. If there are no pets allowed on a certain mode of transportation, it is unlikely that an ESA will have an exception made for them. If an emotional support animal is allowed to travel by bus or other modes of transportation, the rules and regulations will be vary widely depending on each place, transport mode, and set of rules.
Traveling with an emotional support animal can significantly reduce feelings of stress, nervousness, and worry. Emotional support animals are great travel buddies, and if you suffer from anxiety, they can make the whole experience much more bearable.