Symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness, feelings of hopelessness, withdrawal from social situations, lack of energy, difficult making decisions, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping and thoughts of death or suicide. Doctors often treat depression with medication and counseling. Animals can help people with depression, too, and help alleviate many symptoms of the disorder. Simply having a pet may help but animals can also be included as a component of formal therapy or treatment for depression.
Any pet can help someone with depression. Having an animal depend on you for its care can provide a reason for getting out of bed in the morning. Cats make good pets for depressed people because they are usually friendly and like to be petted or stroked but they don’t require the high level of care dogs require. They don’t need to be walked several times a day, for instance.
Dogs can also help someone with depression. Studies show exercise helps relieve symptoms of depression and walking a dog every day provides plenty of exercise. Walking a dog can also help depressed people that have a tendency to withdraw from others and isolate themselves because it brings them outdoors where they can interact with others.
Some treatment centers use equine-assisted therapy with patients with depression. At Sierra Tucson, therapists use horses in therapy with patient for a number of reasons. The non-judgmental nature of horses allows patients to interact with them without fear of rejection. Horses react to patients’ moods, allowing patients to become more aware of their emotions. Patients can learn about their feelings, behavior patterns and healthy relationship by interacting with horses. They also learn about developing trust.
While pets and therapy animals help some people with depression, others benefit from service animals. Dogs are the most commonly utilized service animal although other animals can also be trained as service animals. Service animals help people with severe depression regulate their emotions and function in society. They may also do things like bring a person his medication when he has an anxiety attack.
One study conducted by Professor Michael Reveley of the University of Leicester Medical School found that swimming with dolphins reduced symptoms of depression in many patients. One group of patients swam with dolphins while a control group swam regularly and engaged in the same activities as those in the study group but without the involvement of dolphins. All patients stopped taking psychiatric drugs four weeks prior to beginning the study. Those that swam with the dolphins experienced a decrease in symptoms of depression and for many of those patients, the improvement lasted several months after the last session with the dolphins.
Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression/DS00175. Depression.
Depression News. http://www.coolnurse.com/depression_pets.htm. Depression and Pet Ownership.
Sierra Tucson. http://www.sierratucson.com/therapies_therrecactvts.php#38. Equine-Assisted Therapy.
International Association of Assistance Dog Partners: Service Dog Tasks for Psychiatric Disabilities. http://www.iaadp.org/psd_tasks.html.
Daily News Central. http://health.dailynewscentral.com/content/view/0001957/35/. Dolphins May Provide Best Antidote to Depression.