I don’t feel like talking to strangers. I can’t leave my comfort zone. I have lost interest in activities that I once enjoyed. I have no control over my life. And so on…
An anxiety patient’s mind keeps often repeats these sentences. Excessive worrying, negative thoughts, and loneliness can interfere with a patient’s daily life in several ways. To fight with anxiety symptoms, doctors usually prescribe medications, the common ones are—Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs), Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs), Benzodiazepines, Beta-Blockers, and Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOs). These medications usually work by balancing the brain’s chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine.
On the other hand, animal assisted therapy is becoming a popular choice for managing mental conditions across the world. The emotional support and love that pets provide us with come sans the side effects of medicines. There are several benefits to owning a dog altogether. Ask any dog owner and they won’t shut up talking about their pooch.
Let’s discuss why you should opt for animal-assisted therapy as an anxiety treatment over anxiety medications.
Major Risks Associated With Anxiety Medications
Although anxiety medications can help you get off anxiety symptoms, they are associated with some unpleasant side-effects. For example, the common risks associated with SSRIs are—dizziness, blurry vision, dry mouth, weight gain, nausea, headache, lack of sleep, and sexual problems.
Researchers have found that antidepressants may increase the chances of suicidal thoughts & destructive behaviors among patients under 25, especially within the first several weeks. However, the United States Food & Drug Administration wants that all antidepressants should carry a black-box warning saying they can cause risks of suicide among children and young adults.
Benzodiazepines can cause drowsiness, memory problems, headaches, confusion, depression, etc. Additionally, if you are taking these medications for two weeks, and stop using them suddenly, it may increase the chances of a seizure. Some of the potential side-effects of beta blockers are fatigue, dizziness, dry mouth, drowsiness, trouble sleeping at night, nausea, and shortening of breath.
Pet Therapy – An Alternative to Anxiety Medications
With medications have lots of side-effects, many patients don’t prefer drugs when it comes to anxiety treatment. Medical researchers have found that spending time with pets can help anxiety sufferers get off their symptoms completely. The beauty is—animal-assisted therapy doesn’t cause any side-effects as medications do.
Most pet owners are aware of the fact that sharing their lives with an emotional support animal provides immediate joys and entertainment. However, some are unaware of the emotional and mental health benefits of caring for dogs and spending time with them. In the past decades, scientists have done in-depth research to find out the benefits of the animal-human relationship.
Pets tune to human behavior and emotions easily. For instance, dogs have the ability to understand many words we use in our daily life. They can even interpret our body language, voice, and gestures. What’s more? Like a good friend, while looking into your eyes, they can analyze what’s going in your mind. If you feel anxious, these furry friends will sit in your feet showing love and boosting your mood.
Medical researchers have found that dogs and cats can help in reducing stress, depression, anxiety while improving cardiovascular health. Caring for pets can help children grow up active and avoid the common mental illnesses. Also, pets provide companionship to older adults as well.
Another reason why pets are good for promoting mental health is that they encourage exercise & playfulness. We all know that exercise makes us feel good. There’s a scientific reason behind this—when you exercise, the body releases more chemicals called endorphins, thus triggering a positive feeling.
Imagine you are petting a dog. You have to take it out for short walks to keep it active. Thus, you will also go for exercising with your pet, allowing you to boost mood, promote sleep and reduce stress levels. Now, look at the other side of the coin. Suppose, you don’t have a pet and will not be able to move out of your bed to go for exercising. Automatically, you will feel more anxious and stressed.
Pets are great social lubricants, encouraging you to open up with others, create and maintain relationships. You might have seen that pet owners usually stop anywhere and start talking about various topics.
In the United States, the government encourages people to benefit from animal-assisted therapy. Under the Fair Housing Amendment Act, you can live with an emotional support animal without paying extra pet deposits or fees. And, Under the Air Carrier Access Act, passengers can fly with their support animals without paying extra pet travel fees.
To register your pet as an emotional support animal, you need to talk to a licensed mental health professional and get your ESA letter.
In conclusion, living with anxiety is painful, and it can affect your life in a number of ways. SSRIs, SNRIs, beta blockers, and antidepressants are the common drugs for managing anxiety symptoms, they can lead to various risks. However, you can use pet therapy as an alternative treatment for anxiety. Living with dogs can help you boost mood, reduce stress levels, promote sleep, and get off excessive worrying & negative thoughts. So, for controlling your anxious thoughts, don’t buy medications, get a dog instead.