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How Pets Can Support Mental Health: Benefits and Considerations

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

Pets can play a significant role in helping individuals with mental illness cope with their symptoms and feel more connected to the world. Pets provide love, joy and companionship, and the bond can be especially therapeutic for mental health patients. Here, we

will explore the physiological and psychological benefits of having a pet and weigh the pros and cons.


Physiological Benefits of Interacting with Pets


  • Oxytocin Release: Engaging with pets boosts oxytocin, a hormone that plays a pivotal role in emotional bonding and stress relief.

  • Decreased Cortisol Levels:  Due to decreased stress, cortisol levels may reduce. This results in reduced anxiety and stress.

  • Lower Blood Pressure: Especially prevalent when interacting with dogs, petting can lead to a calmer demeanor with lower heart rate and blood pressure.

Psychological Benefits Through Life Occupations

  • Routine Establishment: Pets help in setting a daily routine. Routines can help people coping with mental health issues to structure their day, accomplish tasks and feel secure.

  • Physical Activity: Walking a dog or playing with a pet ensures some level of physical exercise.

  • Enhanced Social Interactions: Pets can act as a bridge to social engagements.

  • Purpose and Belonging: The unconditional love from a pet provides a person with a sense of worth and belonging.

Pros and Cons of Having a Pet for Mental Health


Pros:

  • Companionship: Acts as a remedy for feelings of loneliness.

  • Tactile Comfort: The comfort from physical touch is invaluable.

  • Grounding: Particularly for PTSD sufferers, pets offer a sense of reality.

  • Achievement Through Training: Training a pet can lead to feelings of accomplishment.

Cons:

  • Financial Commitment: Pets entail costs from food to medical care that can be significant.

  • Occasional Stress: Illness or demanding behaviors from pets can induce stress.

  • Long-term Responsibility: Owning a pet is a commitment, which can feel daunting during tough times.

  • Potential PTSD Triggers: Sudden movements or sounds can be triggering for some.

Making the Right Choice

Owning a pet requires a careful evaluation of one’s ability to provide for the animal, especially during challenging personal times. Yet, the comfort and healing they bring to those with mental health issues cannot be understated.

For readers wanting to explore this further, please look at the resources below on therapy dogs and emotional support animals.

Seeking more methods to navigate stress and trauma? Visit us here to book your appointment.






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