Emotional support animals have received a lot of attention in recent years, both positive and negative. If you suffer from an illness or condition, you may benefit from an emotional support animal. It can be difficult to decide if an ESA animal is a good therapy for you, but if you suffer from one of the conditions below, you may be surprised to learn how helpful they can be.

Anxiety

Unfortunately, anxiety is a very difficult condition to define and manage. It is generally characterized by a long-term feeling of unease or dread that can manifest in numerous ways, including but not limited to insomnia, loss of appetite, antisocial tendencies, phobias, nausea, heart palpitations or shortness of breath. Depending on the type of anxiety you have — and there are many different types — an emotional support animal could be extremely beneficial. Some sufferers of social anxiety find it incredibly difficult to leave the house and an ESA animal, especially a dog, can give them a sense of purpose and force them into a routine as dogs require regular walks. In addition, an emotionally intelligent animal can provide generalized emotional support for anxiety disorders of all types.

Depression

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Emotional support animals require little social interaction in comparison to humans, so socializing with them is a lot less pressure, lessening the sense of dread that someone suffering from depression may feel in social situations.

Although depression and anxiety are often conflated, they are two very separate psychiatric conditions. Having said that, it is common for those who suffer from depression to also suffer from anxiety and vice versa. Depressive episodes can vary in symptoms and severity, but general symptoms include a lack of interest in day-to-day activities, feelings of hopelessness and regret, low mood, self-hatred and insomnia. Alongside regimens of talk therapy or medication, it has been shown that the support of an animal can be extremely beneficial to someone who suffers from depression. It is very easy to feel isolated as a sufferer of depression, and an emotional support animal can offer you support when you feel completely alone. In addition, there is little pressure to visibly interact with an animal the way there is with a human. Emotional support animals require little social interaction in comparison to humans, so socializing with them is a lot less pressure, lessening the sense of dread that someone suffering from depression may feel in social situations.

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are defined as sudden bursts of fear that are accompanied by physical symptoms. Depending on the sufferer, these symptoms can include dizziness, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and sweating. Panic attacks are also accompanied by a serious and genuine sense of danger and fear, leading sufferers to act irrationally due to base adrenaline reactions. Panic attacks can also be a symptom themselves of depression or anxiety. Emotional support animals can often sense the signs that precede a panic attack and can lead sufferers to a safe space so that they do not injure themselves while panicking. They can also provide the necessary social support to a sufferer and help them calm themselves back to their normal state after a panic attack.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

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PTSD sufferers can often feel isolated, and an ESA animal can often calm them, making them feel grounded in an unsure situation.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a stress-based mental condition that has a range of symptoms resulting from a physical or mental trauma. It is most commonly observed in those who have fought in or suffered through wars and survivors of rape and sexual assault. The condition manifests itself in a range of symptoms that are often noted in other mental illnesses. These include insomnia, panic attacks, paranoia, hypervigilance and avoidance of situations like that of the initial trauma. It is not known what exactly triggers PTSD, but it is difficult to treat due to its erratic and unpredictable nature. However, animals can be very helpful in the treatment of PTSD. PTSD sufferers can often feel isolated, and an ESA animal can often calm them, making them feel grounded in an unsure situation. It also offers them a steady relationship when they feel they cannot rely on humans due to previous traumas.

Autism

Autism is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder, which means that it affects a person’s development through their brain. It is a varied condition, and different people with autism can show very different symptoms. It is usually diagnosed through the observance of different kinds of behavior, including poor social skills, repetitive behaviours and delayed speech. Autistic individuals often tend to self-harming behavior. Emotional support animals have proved exceptionally helpful in the alleviation of certain symptoms of autism, especially in children. Although many autistic children will experience extreme stress in performing the tasks associated with everyday life, ESA dogs have shown to give these children a sense of security in situations they find stressful. They can also help autistic children socialize, which is often something they find very difficult to do.

Emotional support animals can help individuals with a wide range of conditions, not just the ones listed. If you have a letter from a medical professional noting that you require your emotional support animal for the treatment of a condition, you can travel and live with them as you see fit. Whatever works for you is the best course of action, so feel free to live your best life with your ESA animal.