Mental health care has come along in leaps and bounds in recent years, with more awareness and advancements in treating this often maligned and ignored area of healthcare. One of the greatest new things that has come out of this change has been the appearance of ESAs.
Emotional support animals are pretty amazing, really. These animal companions are dedicated to helping their human feel better, just by being a calm, loving, soothing presence. Unlike service animals (like guide dogs), ESAs don’t need any special training, and just need to have a special bond with their owners, and to be able to help them live with the symptoms of their condition.
ESA: What Does it Stand For?
You’ve probably heard this abbreviation way more than what it actually stands for. ESA is short for Emotional Support Animal. Emotional support animals are tasked with supporting their owners, who are struggling with a mental health issue and need therapy.
What Do Emotional Support Animals Do?
Emotional Support Animals are animals that provide companionship, support and affection to those with a mental illness. Unlike service animals, who are specifically trained for tasks or duties related to their owners needs, Emotional Support Animals provide a generally supportive presence to their owners. These animal companions are dedicated to helping their human feel better, just by being a calm, loving, soothing presence. Unlike service animals (like guide dogs), ESAs don’t need any special training. They just need to have a special bond with their owners, and to be able to help them live with the symptoms of their condition. Emotional Support Animals and service animals are different, because service animals are properly trained whereas ESAs have no real training requirement.
What Are The Benefits Of An ESA?
It’s well-known that interacting with animals has wonderful benefits for the mind and body. Using an Emotional Support Animal can improve biochemistry in the brain, and improve psychological patterns for those struggling with mental illness. Time with pets helps to lower the stress hormone Cortisol, increase feel-good chemicals Oxytocin and Dopamine in the brain, and even improve heart function. Psychologically, the companionship and care of an ESA can help to improve lifestyle, encouraging socialising, exercise and a healthy routine.
Who Do ESAs Help?
ESAs are an excellent form of therapy not only because of their health benefits, but also due to their accessibility. Because technically any pet can be considered as an ESA, this form of therapy is cheap and readily available to those suffering from mental illness (make sure you go with a legitimate emotional support animal registration). ESAs have been shown to be effective for a number of those suffering from a mental health condition, helping out in different ways. Some of the most common conditions that can be assisted by ESAs include:
- Clinical depression
- Anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Post traumatic stress disorder
- Eating disorders
How To Get An ESA
If you’ve been diagnosed with one of the above conditions, or another emotional disability, and you’re hoping to get an Emotional Support Animal to help with your illness, you’ll need to talk to a licensed mental health professional or a medical doctor. After a consultation, if they think you could benefit from an ESA, they will issue you an ESA letter – an official document stating that you’ve been diagnosed with a psychological or emotional disability and the animal in question is part of your ongoing treatment. Those with disabilities may also want to consider applying for disability benefits. They may first want to check the social security disability requirements to make sure that they would qualify before proceeding with the application phase. People in need of additional support should seek it out wherever they can.
They have proven to be a vital and necessary aid for those who are struggling with mental illness, improving the lives of those that need them.
AD: Written in collaboration with CertaPet