An emotional support animal (ESA) is a type of animal that provides comfort to help relieve a symptom of the effect of a person’s disability. Under US law, an ESA is not a pet and is generally not restricted by species. This animal differs from a service animal. An ESA doctors review revealed that having an emotional support animal is very beneficial for the owner. To qualify for an ESA, its owner must have an emotional or mental disability that is certified by a mental health professional such as psychiatrist, psychologist, or other licensed mental health care provider. These may be invisible disabilities.
Mental health influences on how you think, feel and behave in daily life. It also affects your ability to cope with stress, overcome challenges, build a relationship, and recover from life’s setbacks and hardships. Strong mental health is not just the absence of mental health problems. Being mentally or emotionally healthy is much more than being free of depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues. Rather than the absence of mental illness, mental health refers to the presence of positive characteristics.
Having solid mental health doesn’t mean you never go through bad times or experience emotional problems. We all go through disappointments, loss, and change. And while these are normal parts of life, they can still cause sadness, anxiety, and stress. People who are emotionally and mentally resilient have tools for coping with difficult situations and maintaining a positive outlook. They remain focused, flexible, and productive, in bad times as well as good.
So whether you are looking to cope with a specific mental health problem, or handle your emotions or to feel more positive and energetic, there are plenty of ways to take control of your mental health. One of which is having an emotional support animal. They act as home healthcare for people who are struggling with a mental illness. It is also the case that some doctors prescribe an emotional support animal to provide the comfort the patient needs rather than medications.
Many different animals have been trialed as ESA. Cats, dogs, mice, rabbits, birds, hedgehogs, rats, pigs, ferrets, etc. can all be emotional support animals and of any age. But the most common ones are cats and dogs.
There are research studies on the psychological and psychosocial benefits of positive social interaction with a pet, such as holding or stroking an animal. These benefits include calming and relaxing, lowering anxiety, alleviating loneliness, enhancing social engagement and interaction, normalizing heart rate and blood pressure, reducing pain, reducing stress, reducing depression, and increasing pleasure. Based on the result of these studies, it is plausible that living with an emotional support animal may alleviate symptoms associated with several emotional and psychiatric disabilities.
The presence of an ESA can alleviate negative feelings in the short term and boost long term mood and functioning in people with mood disorders. Given the prevalence of depression internationally, ESA may offer a relatively low-cost strategy for improving symptoms of depression. They can support emotional functioning by helping people establish social interactions and connections.
ESA can act as a buffer in social situations that might feel uncomfortable for people with mental illness. They can encourage daily interaction and growth of social networks, which can protect against low mood. Caring for these animals can build self-efficacy, or belief that a person can control a given outcome, which can improve mental health. Besides, ESA can ward off feelings of anxiety through the provision of affection. Physical touch can help anxiety by creating a bond between the person and the animal.
Interestingly, people have more positive attitudes, and behaviors towards animals and benefits of ESA have been found in people of all life situations, genders and ages. So for better mental health, one needs an emotional support animal.