What are emotional Support Animals?
An emotional support animal (ESA) is an animal that is intended to support people with mental health concerns. A doctor can recommend ESA’s based on their patients emotional needs and mental health. For instance, someone seeing a therapist can say that they would benefit from a furry companion and if the therapist approves they can get one. They offer comfort for their owner or handler, which is one of the main reasons people get these types of animals.
Why they work.
They appeal to your senses, foster emotional connectivity and help people manage life in times of crisis.
Patients with ESA’s report significant improvement in the following areas:
- increase in being social
- Boosted self esteem
- Feeling more safe and comforted
- More motivation
- A decrease in the symptoms of the diagnosed illness
- Increased sense of purpose
The benefits of emotional support animals.
- We like to look at them, they are so cute and beautiful. We are visual creatures and we enjoy looking at things we find cute or aesthetically pleasing. Also, a significant part of our brain and emotions are attached to processing what we see, which can trigger a happy response and make you smile.
- They’re soft. We like to pet them and it calms us down. Research has shown that playing with or petting animals can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease levels of the stress-inducing hormone cortisol. Example: “Lenny” from Of Mice and Men; he finds comfort in petting rabbits and mice.
- They offer companionship and make people feel less lonely, which is especially important for people who live alone and experience symptoms of depression and anxiety. They also provide comfort to people dealing with difficult situations including navigating through trauma.
- Give people a reason to live if they are not willing to live for themselves. Example: “I can’t kill myself, who will take care of my cat?” Animals provide unconditional love and companionship. But, they also require love and care in return, which can be an emotionally rewarding process (to take care of something) I.E. increased sense of purpose.
- Increase physical health. Emotional support animals have been shown in recent studies to help to lower blood pressure, decrease respiration rates, and improve ability to cope with pain. People residing in nursing homes are more active when there’s an animal involved in their daily routine. In addition, emotional support animals have been shown to reduce 82% of PTSD symptoms after just one week of owning one.