Service Animals for the Win
Service animals are something we’re hearing a lot more of these days. We are really just scratching the surface as to their benefits for those suffering with PTSD and traumas in general. Let’s take some time to discuss some of the advantages of service animals.
Psychological disorders are more difficult to manage simply because most of the time, these disorders do not have symptoms that easily manifest. This is because often times, people suffering with PTSD keep things to themselves due to the fear made by the stigma that surrounds it. It is still an ongoing problem that has been difficult to do away with, making treatment that is supposed to be readily available more difficult to publicize.
Fortunately, when acknowledged, most need support only as a treatment process, or at least a part of it, and aid can easily come from many places.
Service animals have been used by therapists to provide support to those suffering from psychological disorders for quite a long time now. However, there is a misconception that these animals are only there to provide them emotional support, which is not entirely true. Emotional support is just one aspect, but they can do so much more.
What more can service animals do for those suffering from PTSD?
Service animals can respond to specific orders that help those suffering with PTSD. These orders include block, behind, lights, sweep, and bring.
The three most interesting of these orders are lights and sweep, especially for those who have PTSD.
With the light command, the service animal turns on the lights for the person just so the individual that enters the room does not step foot into darkness. This is particularly helpful for those who served in the military or the police force because many of the traumatizing experiences that may have caused the disorder happened in darkness or low light scenarios.
When the order sweep is given, the service animal enters the room and quickly scan the area for any intruders who may lie in wait and gives a signal if they find anyone. Not only does it help prevent triggering an anxiety attack, but it also allows the person to call for help before any harm can happen to them or their property, making it a win for all the parties involved.
At the core however, service animals help deal with the main problem of psychological disorders which is anxiety.
How do they help with anxiety?
Studies have shown that petting animals, especially dogs which are the most common of service animals, can stimulate the body to release hormones such as endorphins and dopamine. These 2 hormones are responsible for making you happy and keeping a person relaxed. As a result, anxiety attacks can be prevented, or at least minimized if ever the trauma has already been triggered.
Out of all these, the most basic, and probably the most beneficial effect of service animals is companionship.
It has been reiterated time and time again that in order to treat or cope with psychological disorders such as PTSD or depression, a strong support system is needed. These are the people who the individual can turn to if ever they need to share their experiences, or to help them when they feel an anxiety attack is about to happen. Without a strong support system, coping with the condition may be much more difficult as compared to when you have one.
Unfortunately, not everyone has a group of friends or a family that can be part of a strong support system. That is when service animals come in. They can easily be your family if you need one. This can be easier for police and soldiers, even firefighters and paramedics because, in some ways, dogs are more commonly used in these lines of duty. Hopefully, this makes adapting to the new situation easier.
Other Types of Service Animals
In spite of dogs being the ones commonly mentioned as service animals, it should be known that service animals are not limited to them. Cats, ferrets, horses, parrots, potbelly pigs, and even monkeys can be used if need be. However, those which are going to be made into service animals needs to be certified before they can be assigned to a person in need. In many places, there is no formal training for a service animal, but there are organizations popping up around the globe which address this.
Personally, though she’s not a registered service animal, I have a little, furball cat who has been part of my support network for years. I needed someone (and yes, I look at her like any other person) that was unbiased and non-judgemental which I could talk to at any time. She filled a gap for me that probably saved me in the end. She has sat beside or on me, unwaveringly loyal, while I told her about all my darkest moments. What I have gotten in return is more compassion and unconditional love than any human can give. The key to this partnership is that I offer her the same love in return. She is part of my family.
Psychological disorders are mainly treated and coped with using support systems, but not everyone is lucky enough to have family and close friends to call their own. Service animals are the second-best option available, while for others, it is the only available option.
Animals have an improved standing in society and rightly so. They have contributed to the community in more ways than we can fully appreciate. That is why advocacies for pets, and animals in general are founded. They deserve our utmost respect and appreciation.
Animals, whether registered or not, can have a profound impact for those suffering from PTSD. They can work miracles it seems (for me anyways) and should be offered the same compassion and respect that you desire from them. They will be there for you when no one else will.