Everyone has a down day. People will get sad in their lives, most of the time for a reason, like a death or loss. Sometimes it just happens, and that is perfectly normal.
For some people, however, they suffer from more than just sadness. Some people will suffer from clinical depression, which can dramatically impact their lives and can even be a deadly disease. For those suffering from clinical depression, this disease needs treatment, which can take many forms.
One form of treatment and support can be in the form of an emotional support animal. While it may seem odd, getting an animal to help with depression, for people who suffer from this illness, it can be a lifesaver.
First, let’s take a quick look at what it takes to be diagnosed with major depressive disorder, the clinical term for depression.
Depression is thought of as a whole person disease. This means that it impacts almost every area of a person’s life. True depression is not the result of a tragedy or other sad occurrence, it is something that just happens. It also needs to last for a few weeks to be diagnosed.
While not everyone will experience all of the symptoms, if you or someone you care about exhibit these symptoms, talk with your doctor or therapist. The common symptoms include:
- Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
- Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
Depression comes from many causes and for many reasons. Most frequently seen with clinical cases of depression, is that it is a chemical imbalance in the brain, that likely has always been there. This probably leads to developing really negative ways of thinking about the world and the self, and eventually, it becomes a terrible cycle.
A person becomes sad, feels worthless as a result and that nothing matters, then they withdraw from life, and as a result have no one to turn to, reinforcing that they are alone and unloved. This terrible downward spiral will continue until something can stop it.
Treatment and intervention are the ways to get ahead of this illness. An emotional support animal is one of the ways to get help for major depressive disorder.
Emotional support animals are one way that a life can be saved.
Animals may be an unorthodox way to get help for an emotional disorder, but they are being turned to more and more for severe cases of mental and physical illness. Looking at the help they provide, there is a lot of reason to believe they can be an integral part of the treatment of long-term illnesses like depression or anxiety.
First, think about how it feels being around an animal. They have this almost natural ability to lift the mood of anyone around them. One simply has to go into a pediatric unit in a hospital on a day when a therapy dog is brought in to see and hear the delight of the children in there.
Even hardened criminals in jail look down on people who harm animals because they remember the joy a beloved pet brought them at some point. Animals just elevate the mood of people around them, and that is one way of breaking through depression. While this may not be enough, combined with therapy and medications, emotional support animals can be the final piece to help someone with a mood disorder.
Second, they do not abandon people easily. Once an animal has bonded with a person, they are there for life, no matter what the person does, says, or thinks. At some point, someone experiencing depression will be miserable and drive away people around them. This is not conscious. They do not realize they are doing it, and probably do not want it to happen. They are hurting, and miserable, and lashing out at the world, which naturally drives people away.
Animals are tougher than people. They can handle misery and suffering and still cuddle with their owner and nuzzle them. An emotional support animal does just as the name implies, support a person when their emotions don’t allow others to do that.
Taking care of an animal is serious business. It takes a lot of time and effort to do that. A dog has to be walked. Litter boxes changed. Hamsters fed. This forces a person with a mood disorder to get up a move around. It makes people take action. This motivation is something that is sapped by depression, and once a person starts with small things, they get the motivation to do other things. Motivation is contagious, and taking care of an emotional support animal leads to taking better care of themselves.
Finally, an emotional support animal is a focus. It gets a person with a mood disorder an opportunity to get out of their heads for a little while. When someone has a major depressive disorder, they often have some of the most awful thoughts about themselves or others.
Having an emotional support animal gives them something else to think about, something to talk to, and something that cares for them unconditionally. This gets them out of their heads and helps break that negative cognitive cycle that comes with depressive disorders.
Emotional support animals are one way to provide ongoing support and intervention to people with a major depressive disorder. They are not the only way to get help, but they are an important support that can be with a person almost all the time, and provide the unconditional support that is needed.
These are not just a cat or a dog; these animals provide a needed service, which can be lifesaving for some with a crippling mood disorder. Emotional support animals are one way that a life can be saved.