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How Pets Help with Depression

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According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. This condition affects over 16 million people each year, or nearly 7% of the American adult population. Though many doctors prefer to treat mental disorders medically, pharmaceutical drugs come with a risk of side effects. Rather than making drugs your first treatment option, consider something more natural and, quite frankly, more fun – pet therapy.

Related: Study Confirms Pets Help People With Mental Health Issues

Think about the last time you had a really hard day. When you went home and curled up in bed, how long did it take for your pet to come and find you? Pets have a way of understanding their owners’ emotions and they can provide a unique form of therapy simply by being present. Here are some of the ways pets can help with depression:

  1. They provide a soothing presence. Studies show that spending time with pets can lower your blood pressure and heart rate while also soothing mental disturbances.
  2. They offer unconditional love. Though pets may not experience love in the same way people do, their affection for their owners is unconditional. You can cuddle up with your pet and feel no judgment or shame, just love and acceptance.
  3. They provide companionship. When you are depressed, you may not feel up to any kind of social activity yet may not want to be alone – pets provide the right kind of companionship in these situations.

Related: Top 10 Therapy Dog Breeds

  1. They help create structure. Having a pet to care for gives your life a semblance of structure – you have to get out of bed because you have to feed and walk your pet. Somehow it seems easier to do these things for someone else than for yourself when you are depressed.
  2. They keep you active. When you are depressed, exercise may be the thing furthest from your mind, but it can actually help boost serotonin in the brain. Having a pet means that you need to exercise them which means more exercise for you as well.
  3. The provide some distraction. If you have depression, you may find yourself frequently getting caught up in negative thoughts and emotions. Having a pet to focus on instead of your thoughts can help bring you out of the depression into a healthier state of mind.
  4. They offer the healing power of touch. Sometimes the thought of human contact is just too much when you are feeling depressed, but you may still feel lonely at the same time. Pets provide the soothing and healing power of touch that can actually decrease your stress levels and boost serotonin production.

Having a pet is a big responsibility, but it is a wonderful thing. If you struggle with depression and are in need of a little unconditional love and support, a pet might be the perfect treatment. Take the time to carefully consider your options to make sure that you choose the right pet. You’ll need to think about how much time and energy you can afford to spend, as well as the costs to keep your pet happy and healthy.


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