How an Emotional Support Animal Boosts Mental Health

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According to the National Institute of mental health, on average, one of four American adults have some type of mental disability. If you are part of this group, you can easily register and qualify for an ESA. 

Canines have long been touted as man’s best friend. As such, it’s no wonder that dogs hold such a special place in their owners’ hearts and are considered members of the family rather than merely pets. Dogs have had a proven impact on their owner’s health and quality of life, which is one of the reasons they make such a great Emotional Support Animal (ESA). What are those impacts and how can you get an ESA of your own? Read on to find out.

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

An ESA dog is a furry friend who offers comfort, compassion, and support. They provide their owner with a form of occupational therapy, by giving them a sense of responsibility during times of need. Emotional support dogs are allowed to go in some places that pets are otherwise not allowed to enter. For example, if you have terrible flight anxiety, your emotional support dog can accompany you on commercial airlines. If your apartment has a rule dictating that no pets are allowed, you can overturn the ruling with an ESA.

Emotional support dogs and other ESAs are not the same as a guide dog or service dog. Emotional support dogs are still viewed as a pet and do not require any special training, whereas guide dogs and service dogs are trained specifically to help one person with an impairment. While they are undoubtedly loved by their owners and have an intense bond with them, they are working animals rather than pets. That is, they have a specific job to do.

Service animals and guide dogs are allowed in grocery stores, restaurants, and other public areas that an ESA would not be.

Who is Eligible for an ESA?

Anyone struggling with a mental illness or disability is eligible for an ESA. For example, if you have depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, PTSD, sleep disorders, personality or mood disorders you are eligible. Additionally, if you are enduring chronic stress or have experienced a major loss (such as the death of a loved one), you may also be eligible. For more information about eligibility, visit

To be able to register your ESA you require approval from a medical professional. This can come in the form of a letter stating that they believe owning an ESA would be beneficial to your situation. This letter should come from a medical health professional that is involved in treating your mental health and knows the daily limitations your disorder causes. You can then have this information registered.

Why An Emotional Support Dog?

Why should someone choose an emotional support dog rather than an emotional support rabbit, cat, or parakeet? Ultimately, the choice is yours, and you should choose what speaks to your heart. However, dogs require lots of time and energy, which will encourage you to get out of bed and out of the house even if you don’t feel like it. Playing with your dog will increase your heart rate and release endorphins– the happy hormone– into your bloodstream.

Animal ownership, in general, has shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels. The constant companionship reduces feelings of isolation without introducing the stressors associated with social gatherings and interpersonal relationships that many with a mental disorder face.

As tempting as it may be, you should consider getting an older dog rather than a puppy. Puppies require a lot of extra attention and training, which can be stressful for someone who is already facing a mental disorder. Furthermore, their schedule is akin to that of a baby, meaning your sleep will be interrupted; this can exacerbate the effects of your disorder.

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