When you’re suffering from major depression, many find comfort with their pet – their best friend and biggest supporter. For tens of thousands of years, pets have been mankind’s best friend. Many even consider them part of their family. Whether it’s their unconditional love or their sixth sense when it comes to compassion and understanding, there’s a substantial body of research that indicates pets can improve our mental wellbeing.
The therapeutic power of pets is well documented. People who do not have strong social support can benefit from having a pet and the emotional bonds that pets provide. One study looked at seniors who were not living with human companions, but were living with a pet. The likelihood that the seniors who didn’t own a pet would end up being diagnosed as clinically depressed was four times higher than that found in the pet owning seniors of the same age. There was also evidence that showed seniors who owned pets required fewer medical services and were much more satisfied with their lives.
The bond with a pet comes with feelings of constant companionship, love, acceptance, and affection. This often translates to a reduction of stress, fear and anxiety, and an increase of oxytocin levels in the brain. According to a survey conducted by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership. Specifically, pets and therapy animals can help alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness and social isolation.
Many people who suffer from major depression feel they are not in control of their lives. With pets come great responsibility, which according to depression research, promotes mental health. By taking ownership of a task, we apply skills to a job. By taking care of a life and succeeding, we reinforce to ourselves that we are capable of caring for another life, as well as ourselves. Similarly, pets add structure to our lives forcing us to get up, get out, and do things.
Not only are people happier in the presence of animals, they’re also healthier. Research shows pet owners have significantly lower blood pressure and heart rate before and while performing stressful mental tasks. Pets require regular exercise in order to prevent health, weight, and behavioral issues, and promote bonding. Taking the time to walk your pet or throw a ball, getting out and about in nature, releases feel-good endorphins and takes your mind off worries, thus helping ease your symptoms of depression or help keeping your depression at bay once you start feeling better.
While getting a pet, seeking pet therapy, or finding ways to spend more time with your companion animal are great ways to support mental health, you should speak with a professional medical advisor for best course of treatment.
If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of major depression, contact the TMS Neuro Institute in Los Angeles to schedule a free consultation, or call 888-823-4TMS (4867).