Health & Wellness Living in Recovery Mental Health

Should You Consider an Emotional Support Animal?

You adore your pet and consider them therapeutic. At times, it feels like they understand you in ways that other people cannot. Read More

4 puppies

Does the following sound familiar? 

You adore your pet and consider them therapeutic. At times, it feels like they understand you in ways that other people cannot. When you feel sad or angry, they seem to know what’s going on inherently, and they adapt to provide you with the support you need.

You’ve probably heard about emotional support animals, but could you benefit from this type of clinical companionship? Let’s get into what you need to know.

Emotional Support Animals Vs. Service Dogs

Emotional support animals (ESAs) provide support, stress relief, and a sense of safety. These assets can be invaluable for conditions like depression, anxiety, or PTSD.

On the other hand, service dogs have training in specific tasks designed to help someone cope with their medical or mental health condition. For instance, a service dog might retrieve medication, alert people about seizures, or pull a wheelchair.

ESAs may have some training, but their overarching role is to provide companionship and emotional connection. Unlike service dogs (which have full public access rights), ESAs have far more limitations for legal rights.

Emotional Support Animal Benefits

woman with puppyThere are numerous health benefits associated with pet ownership. Research shows that pet owners tend to have lower stress and feelings of loneliness. They tend to get more exercise and opportunities for socialization. Finally, they typically benefit from lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

All of these benefits can have profound effects on your mental health. Additionally, having animal support can simply make you feel loved and connected- a great safeguard against challenging symptoms.

ESAs overrule housing restrictions with no-pet policies. This protection applies to any housing limits, even those with breed or size constraints. Having an ESA can also help you waive pet fees or pet-related deposits.

In the past, ESAs could fly with their owners for no additional fee. However, as of January 2021, new regulations now state that these policies vary from airline to airline.

Qualifying For an Emotional Support Animal

Psychiatric disorders listed in the DSM-5 can qualify you for an ESA. You will need a proper diagnosis provided by a qualified mental health professional. Subsequently, they can write you a recommendation letter.

These letters typically include:

  • Their identifying information (license type, license number, state of license)
  • The date that the healthcare professional issued the letter
  • The specific need for an emotional support animal

Of course, you shouldn’t take the decision of having a pet lightly. All animals can be time-consuming and expensive. Moreover, they require ongoing attention and care.

Before moving forward with getting an animal, it’s a good idea to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I willing to put in the time and effort to train my pet?
  • Can I afford the cost of owning a pet?
  • How will a pet fit in with my lifestyle and family?
  • How do I foresee my life-changing in the next few years? And how will a pet accommodate those changes?
Final Thoughts

An ESA can make a profound difference in your mental health. Chances are, your pet already provides you with comfort and companionship. Qualifying for an ESA simply allows you to enjoy more privileges!