If you’re one of the five million people living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the United States, you know that it can be immensely challenging to get through day-to-day activities. For those individuals who are struggling, emotional support animals (ESAs) can help to better manage symptoms, as well as being loving and affectionate companions.
First, here’s some insight into what the diagnosis of PTSD means. PTSD occurs after an individual has experienced a significant trauma (which covers a wide range of events from war to car accidents to assault etc.). After the event, people can have a variety of symptoms that fall into four categories: re-experiencing, avoidance, reactivity/arousal, and cognitive/mood symptoms. Each of the actual symptoms and their severity can differ from person to person.
Re-experiencing symptoms include flashbacks (where the person relives the trauma with physical symptoms like nausea, fast heart rate, sweating, etc.), fearful thoughts, and nightmares. These symptoms can be triggered by a person’s own thoughts or by outside sources. Avoidance symptoms include hypervigilance, insomnia, anger, or feeling on edge. Other cognitive symptoms include negative feelings towards self and the world, loss of interest in things that were once pleasurable, and distorted feelings of guilt or shame.
All these symptoms can contribute to overall feelings of overwhelm, despair, and depression. Emotional support animals can offer multiple benefits to someone’s psyche. Even if the day-to-day PTSD symptoms are manageable, people can definitely still benefit from owning an ESA. Here’s a list of some animals that make perfect emotional support animals for people with PTSD.
Dogs make awesome ESAs, because they’re very intuitive. When someone with PTSD is experiencing stress or overwhelm, dogs can sense it and will often cuddle with their owner to relieve anxiety or play with them to distract from the overwhelming feelings. Being outside with a dog or playing indoors (like with their favorite toy) can help the owner have fun and release endorphins. There’s also a great connection that can be made between someone with PTSD and their dog. Because having PTSD can make some people feel isolated, emotional support animals can help owners feel less detached from those around them. They can also provide an excuse for individuals to get out of the house and interact with the outside world.
Here are some suggestions for the best breeds for PTSD emotional support animals:
This breed is really easy to train because they’re so smart and are eager to please. They can easily be trained to help provide support during panic attacks, flashbacks, or other triggering events. They’re also very loving, so they can offer some supportive companionship to someone trying to navigate the rough road of PTSD.
Labs are also really easy to train, and their size can help PTSD individuals feel more steady and grounded. Because they do require some exercise, this breed can be great to encourage owners to get out of the house so their dogs can get some exercise and be in nature.
This smaller breed is great if individuals live in a place with limited space. They’re definitely lapdogs, so they’re ideal as emotional support animals who can provide comfort.
These dogs are another great breed on the smaller size. They are very obedient and trainable and often love to play – perfect if the PTSD sufferer needs their mood to be uplifted.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
This breed tends to be on the quieter side, which is ideal if the person with PTSD needs an ESA with a more gentle nature. They’re also intuitive and intelligent so they can better sense when their owner is in distress.
For people with PTSD who are interested in larger dogs, breeds like Boxers, German Shepherds, and Doberman Pinschers can be appropriate. They’re usually dependable and intelligent, so they’re easy to train. Also, these larger breeds can be ideal for individuals like veterans who need bigger or stronger emotional support animals.
Cats can also be a helpful emotional support animal for people with PTSD. They’re usually calm and intelligent, so they can sense when their owner is feeling agitated or distressed. Because many breeds can be docile with lower energy levels, they can provide companionship and comfort to their owner. For example, the Himalayan breed often forms a strong bond with their owner, so they work well as an ESA.
If PTSD symptoms are making it challenging to head outdoors, rabbits can be a good ESA option because they don’t require a lot of outdoor activity. They’re also perfect for individuals that don’t necessarily want to cuddle with their pet – although rabbits can still be petted for comfort. Rabbits do require some responsibility to take care of them, so this can be a good option if the individual needs motivation to push themselves to complete tasks.
For PTSD sufferers who want a unique pet, ferrets are a good choice. They’re very energetic and fun-loving, so they can be entertaining to play with indoors. They usually don’t like being held, but because they love to run around outside their cage, they still provide many opportunities for fun and bonding too.
It can be challenging for PTSD sufferers to find joy in everyday life. Emotional support animals can definitely help alleviate this problem – animals can bring so much light and love into their owners’ lives. Although an ESA can’t completely eliminate symptoms of PTSD, it can help lessen their impact, and you can feel like you have some responsibility and autonomy by taking care of your ESA. Loving emotional support animals can help show PTSD patients that they can cope with their symptoms in a healthy way, by providing love and care to their pets. If you or someone you know is suffering from PTSD and is interested in getting an ESA, log on to MooshMe for easy instructions on how to get started.