Often times, those with depression or anxiety avoid contact with the outside world, either out of fear or stress of what might happen.
“Anxiety and depression involve emotional turmoil and negative internal ‘self-talk,’” Dr. Katie Kangas, co-founder of the Pet Wellness Academy, explains. “These thoughts typically spiral into unrealistic negativity and this continues in a vicious cycle.”
Dogs help break that cycle by providing comforting companionship and a sense of purpose for their owners.
Dr. Kangas and Certified Behaviorist Colleen Demling weigh in on some of the other ways dogs can help those suffering from depression:
- Responsibility for their well-being. “A dog needs to be fed, needs to be walked, and needs to be pet, so on days when a person feels least motivated, a thump of a happy tail motivates a person to get back to living,” Demling says.
- Unconditional love. “This 100% acceptance without judgment when a person is depressed, anxious, lonely, wearing the same clothes as yesterday and can’t get out of bed helps people feel like they have a true friend during their difficulties,” Demling says.
- Recognize signs of a panic attack. “The mere presence or non-reaction to a stimulus of a trusted companion often calms an attack,” Demling explains. “Dogs can also be trained to use passive methods to block strangers from approaching their handler unexpectedly.”
- Staying connected. “In today’s society, with the advance of internet and technological connection, we are losing real interpersonal connection, and that is contributing to more emotional problems and disorders,” Dr. Kangas explains. “Love and connection does exist in the world, and animals are a great resource to find this within one’s life.”