At any given time in the United States, it’s estimated that 8% of Americans struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. There are many causes and treatments for PTSD. One of the ways those living with PTSD can cope is with an emotional support animal.
Here’s some more information about living with PTSD and how you may be able to use an emotional support animal to help you deal with the day-to-day challenges this disorder can bring.
What is PTSD?
The American Psychiatric Association states that post-traumatic disorder is a condition a person may develop after they witness or experience a traumatic event. People living with PTSD tend to have intense and disturbing thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, anger, fear, and sadness. Often those living with PTSD feel estranged or detached from the world around them and avoid situations that remind them of the events that traumatized them in the first place.
How an Emotional Support Animal Can Help
Emotional support animals help their owners by alleviating some of the symptoms they experience as a result of PTSD. ESAs can be any type of animal you’d like, but for those with PTSD, dogs are often a good choice because of their intuitive sense for when their human becomes stressed and overwhelmed.
Dogs also make great ESAs for those living with PTSD because:
- They don’t judge
- They help relieve stress
- They trigger the release of “feel-good” hormones in the brain
- They trigger the emotion of love for many people to help those with PTSD feel more attached
- They give the person with PTSD a reason to get out of the house and spend time outside
The only caveat to getting an ESA is making sure you get an animal that fits into your lifestyle well. If they don’t, then they could become an added source of stress in your life.
How to Get an ESA
Many conditions qualify you for an emotional support animal. In addition to post-traumatic stress disorder, these include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Learning disorders
- Attention deficit disorder
- Severe anxiety
- Cognitive disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
If you have PTSD and think an ESA sounds like a good addition to your therapeutic program, then talk to the mental health professional or doctor you see to treat your PTSD. They can provide you with an emotional support animal letter written on their letterhead. This letter must include:
- The type of license they have
- The date of their license
- Their license number
- The state that issued their license
The letter must also have details about you, such as:
- That you are a current patient of the provider issuing the letter
- That you are under their care for treatment of PTSD
- That you are limited in participating or performing at least one major life activity due to the PTSD
- That you are being prescribed an emotional support animal for treatment
The letter must also be dated, since it’s only good for one year.
What an ESA Letter Entitles You To
Remember, an emotional support animal is not the same thing as a service animal. In contrast to service animals, ESAs do not need to be trained, because their only function is to provide support to you. Having an ESA letter from your doctor means that you are entitled to certain privileges such as access to public places.
Service animals are allowed in all public places, but emotional support animals are only allowed on airplanes and apartments (even if they include a no-pet policy). It’s important to remember that in order to be in those places, they must be well behaved and have the ability to follow basic commands.
The access given to ESAs on airplanes and in dwellings are written into law. The Fair House Amendment Act and the Air Carrier Access Act both protect you and your ESA.
It’s important to note that your ESA is not entitled access to markets, restaurants, or any location where foods is served. Even if employees tell you it’s OK, they are legally supposed to turn you away due to health and safety regulations.
Are There Restrictions for Emotional Support Animals?
Remember, any animal can qualify as an ESA – it doesn’t have to be just a cat or a dog. Any animal you choose as an ESA will be evaluated on whether or not they pose a threat to the health and safety of others. That’s why exotic or wild animals may be denied.
Living with PTSD
There are many ways you can treat PTSD if you suffer from it, but an emotional support animal is worth considering if you haven’t thought about it yet. This condition qualifies you to use one, and they can enrich your life in so many ways. Being able to go through the daily motions of life without anxiety and added stress is just one of the many gifts emotional support animals can provide for you, so consider looking for one at your local shelter – and maybe you can both help one another.