To truly grasp just how beneficial psychiatric service dogs are to people with mental illness, we must first understand what mental illness looks like and how it affects the lives of those it affects.
A mental illness is a legitimate condition that involves changes in thinking, emotion, or behavioral patterns (or any combination of one or more of these characteristics). Often a mental illness is associated with anxiety, depression, and distress and can hinder an individual’s ability to function, affecting family, social, and work life.
Mental illnesses do not discriminate, affecting individuals of any age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, social status, income level, religion, or other characteristics. Although mental illness can manifest in individuals of any age, nearly three-fourths of individuals with mental illness begin to show signs of a mental condition by the age of 24.
Mental health is a complicated subject, and mental illnesses present differently for each condition type. Some mental health conditions are mild, causing limited interference in an individual’s daily life. On the other hand, certain mental illnesses can be so severe that the individual may need to be hospitalized or medicated.
Coping Mechanisms and Common Treatments for Those with Mental Conditions
A mental illness or mental health disorder diagnosis can be overwhelming, and managing the symptoms of a mental condition will likely seem daunting at first. Thankfully, there are plenty of available treatments, including:
- counseling or psychotherapy
- prescription medications
- mental health support groups
- creativity and exercise-based therapies
- residential treatment program
- hospital programs
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy
When developing mental health treatment plans with their doctors and other mental health professionals, individuals increasingly turn to psychiatric service dogs to relieve the burden of living with a mental illness.
What is a Psychiatric Service Dog?
Psychiatric service dogs or mental health service dogs are animals that are specially trained to provide support to those with mental conditions. The tasks that a psychiatric service dog will perform are unique to the disability of its handler.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) outlines the requirements for using service animals, including mental health service dogs, and what mental disabilities qualify for a service dog.
Mental health service dogs can benefit those suffering from panic attacks, social phobias, depression, and other mental health issues. While most people associate service dogs with guide dogs who help individuals with physical limitations, such as those who are visual and hearing impaired, psychiatric service dogs help individuals with unseen and unnoticeable disabilities. A good example is a PTSD service dog trained to help veterans or others with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Learn more about the laws regarding service dogs and your rights as a psychiatric service dog handler.
What Mental Disabilities Qualify for a Service Dog?
Mental health service dogs are trained to help those with certain mental conditions including, but not limited to:
- social phobias
- bipolar disorders
- obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- panic attacks
How Can Psychiatric Service Dogs Assist Those with Mental Illnesses?
As the discussion of mental health continues to evolve, mental health service dogs are becoming more widely accepted in the public sphere. That’s because studies show that mental health service dogs can significantly improve the lives of those coping with the day-to-day realities of having a mental health condition. From keeping strangers at bay to recognizing the signs of a panic attack before it occurs, there are many ways that a psychiatric service dog may help an individual with mental illness.
The Mental Health Benefits of Psychiatric Service Dogs
Having any dog around, in general, can improve mental health. A trained psychiatric service dog goes much further in ability than a regular dog and can help someone tremendously with a mental health condition.
Mental health service dogs can:
- prevent/treat a panic attack
- reduce anxiety
- help individuals diagnosed with ADHD or Autism
- aid individuals with depression, bipolar disorder, or PTSD
- reduce the risk of addiction
The Physical Health Benefits of Psychiatric Service Dogs
In addition to reducing stress, improving daily life, and decreasing the symptoms associated with mental illness, mental health service dogs can also positively influence their handler’s physical health dramatically.
Psychiatric Service Dogs can improve your heart health by decreasing blood pressure and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease thanks to the increased activity, exercise, and socialization that the animal will bring into your life.
Final Thoughts on Metal Health Service Dogs
This article is just an introduction to help you understand the basics and get you started. As you can see, psychiatric service dogs improve the lives of people with mental illness in many ways, and there’s a lot more to learn on the topic. For more information on getting and benefiting from a mental health service dog and to learn about psychiatric service dog registration, contact the friendly staff at USA Service Dogs. They are a leading organization in helping you receive aid from your service dog anywhere you go without hassle. USA Service Dogs has helped over 100,000 dog owners with guidance and assistance navigating laws, facility access, identification kits, and equipment.