Unleashing the Healing Power of Psychiatric Service Dogs
As the prevalence of mental health conditions continues to rise, so does the demand for mental health treatments. One of the latest forms of therapy is the use of psychiatric service dogs. These trained animals are known to help individuals with a variety of mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Here’s what research has found:
- Helps to reduce stress and anxiety levels
According to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, spending time with dogs can reduce stress levels and increase feelings of happiness. In this study, 24 college students were subjected to stress-inducing activities, half of whom spent time with a therapy dog afterward. The group who spent time with the dog had significantly lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, than those who did not.
- Boosts socialization and connection
People with mental health disorders often suffer from isolation and loneliness. Hugging a dog can release oxytocin, commonly referred to as the “feel-good hormone,” which helps to foster social bonding, decrease anxiety levels, and increase trust. The human-animal bond formed between people and psychiatric service dogs is also beneficial in boosting socialization skills and improving emotional stability, according to a study by the International Journal of Workplace Health Management.
- Provides a sense of safety and security
Individuals with PTSD often have difficulty sleeping and feel unsafe in their surroundings. Psychiatric dogs, trained to recognize environmental security threats, can help ease the worry and provide a sense of comfort in those suffering from PTSD. In a study found by Journal of Psychiatric Research, it was found that dogs trained to aid in PTSD provided a greater sense of safety in the lives of veterans, leading to decreased symptoms.
- Improves quality of life
The physical and emotional benefits of having a psychiatric service dog translate into an overall better quality of life. According to a study reported in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, people with service animals reported less depression and anxiety, and greater feelings of life satisfaction. Furthermore, people who have psychiatric service dogs are more likely to feel motivated and committed to their treatment plan than those who do not.
In conclusion, psychiatric service dogs play a vital role in helping people manage mental health disorders. Research has shown that these highly trained animals offer an alternative therapy that is both effective and life-changing. From reducing stress levels and helping to boost socialization skills, to providing a sense of safety and security – the benefits of service dogs for mental health are plentiful.
Jennifer Cattet Ph.D. is an author, researcher, dog trainer, consultant, and Executive Director of Medical Mutts, a non-profit organization specialized in the training of medical alert dogs for conditions such as seizures, diabetes, psychiatric disorders, etc.