How Dogs Help With Depression and Other Mental Illnesses

by | Jul 10, 2019 | Dog Psychology, Health and Nutrition

It’s safe to say that dogs can provide an excellent form of companionship. After all, dogs are considered to be a man’s best friend for a reason. In fact, 60 percent of U.S. households report having a dog as a pet. 

But, did you know that dogs have proven to help humans battle mental illness and that dogs help with depression? 

Time and time again, research has proven that dogs can have a profound effect on mental illness. This can be anything from reducing levels of stress and loneliness to providing meaning and a social crutch to the lives of their humans. 

If you’re suffering from a mental illness and wondering how a dog can help, you’re going to want to read this. We’re uncovering the six most significant ways that a dog can help to make the darkness of mental illness appear more hopeful. 

After all, we’ve all heard how powerful the bond between animals and humans can be. It’s time to see what that’s all about and how a dog can help to bring light back into your life. 

1. Reduces Stress 

Did you know that simply being in the presence of a dog can help to promote stress relief

Studies have found that playing with and petting dogs can actually increase the production of a stress-reducing hormone called oxytocin. For anyone suffering from nerves or extreme stress, these moments of stress relief can be extremely powerful. 

It’s also important to consider how a reduction in mental stress can have such a positive effect on your physical health. Lower levels of stress can result in lower blood pressure as well as a slowed heart rate.

In fact, a recent study found that dog owners have a reduced risk of coronary artery disease, lower cholesterol and are more likely to survive a heart attack. For those suffering from high levels of stress, these factors may be incredibly important.

2. Provides Companionship

For those battling mental illness, it’s common to experience bouts of loneliness. This sense of loneliness may sometimes be further complicated by a general lack of motivation to socialize with others. 

In the darkness of depression, a dog can help to provide a sense of support that is entirely different from human support. Remember, a dog’s love is unconditional and isn’t dependent on your struggles or successes in life. 

In having a companion by your side, you may find that you feel more confident in your general social life. 

3. Lowers Anxiety 

Just as dogs can help to lower stress levels, they can also help to lower levels andinstances of anxiety.

This could be anything from general social anxiety to bouts of anxiety that stem from mental illness. Some service dogs are also capable of detecting signs of an anxiety attack before they take place. 

In many instances, those suffering from extreme anxiety may experience trouble leaving their home. Seemingly simple tasks such as errands and general walking may seem incredibly out of reach. In these moments, the mere presence of a dog may help to lower the stress and anxiety that comes with these tasks. 

4. Provides for A Social Crutch

Let’s face it, those fighting depression and mental illness may sometimes suffer from social anxiety.

Similarly, depression may also result in a lack of motivation to socialize oneself. Instead, those suffering from depression tend to isolate themselves and take a step back from seeing friends and family that were once important to them. 

However, a dog can also help foster new relationships. While conversing with a stranger may feel intimidating, the sheer presence of a dog can help to ease this tension. With a dog, both parties can connect and converse through the presence and subject of the dog. 

A dog can also help open the door to communication with others that generally wouldn’t take place without that dog. In a social situation, a dog helps to minimize the uneasiness that strangers may typically experience in new situations. 

5. Betters Our Sense of Purpose 

At the end of the day, our dogs give us a sense of purpose and allow us to feel needed.

This notion of taking care of someone or something has endless mental health benefits. In knowing that you are successfully taking care of another life, you’re able to feel more gratitude and accomplishment throughout your day. 

Even when you’re lacking the motivation to take care of yourself, a dog will always require your love, care and attention throughout the day. When a dog is counting on your guidance, the days of sleeping past noon and ignoring your alarm are long gone. Instead, the sheer presence of a dog will force you to wake up and enter the outside world. 

For those who are lacking in daily motivation, this sense of purpose that stems from dog ownership may be just what you need. 

6. Increases Self-Esteem

Similarly, a dog helps to increase our worthiness and self-esteem. 

We all know that it feels good to do something for others. In our hearts, we feel accomplished and satisfied when we help someone else or show them our love. 

This same idea rings true when it comes to dog ownership. Simply taking care of a dog and providing it with the love, attention and care that it needs allows us to feel good inside. These good feelings, in time, translate to higher self-esteem and a more significant sense of self-worth. 


How Dogs Help with Depression 

If you’ve been finding yourself in the darkness of depression, it may be worthwhile to consider the companionship of a dog. 

While a dog may at first just feel like a friendly companion, it has been proven that dogs help with depression. In combination with other forms of therapy, a dog can help to battle serious bouts of depression and a variety of mental illnesses. 

It’s clear that pets have the ability to bring humans immense joy and unconditional love. If you find yourself nodding your head, it may be time to consider how adopting or searching for a dog can help to brighten your days. 

If you enjoyed reading this article, be sure to visit our health blog for access to similar articles.