Emotional support animals (ESAs) are pets (usually dogs and cats) who provide vital assistance to people suffering from a mental illness. While it's become increasingly acceptable in recent years to talk openly about the struggles of living with a mental illness, not everyone who could qualify for an ESA is taking advantage of the life-changing difference living with an ESA can make. To qualify for an ESA, pet owners need to have a letter from a mental health professional verifying that they're living with a disability, so there is a process you have to go through in order to have your pet registered as an emotional support animal. Tags can denote your pet's status, and there are certification costs, but the benefits associated with ESAs far outweigh the cost and effort.
One of the principal benefits from living with an ESA is the impact they have on lowering stress levels. If you suffer from anxiety, having your pet present with you in public spaces will diminish the feelings of alienation you may feel. Time spent with your pet releases endorphins which make it easier for you to cope with anxiety, and the mere act of petting your ESA produces a calming feeling that helps you deal with stressful situations.
Dogs are perfect ice breakers. If you feel nervous around strangers and crowds, your ESA will make it easier to engage in conversations in a positive way. Having a pet you can take anywhere encourages you to get out more and go for long walks where you can expect to meet and interact with other people and their pets. This offers the positive reinforcement from meeting and talking to people you might not get without an ESA.
When you're taking care of a pet, you transfer your attention from yourself to another living being. If you're afraid of flying for instance, it can be tremendously helpful to comfort your pet and give them the kind of support that someone might give you. Feeding and caring for your ESA helps divert your thoughts away from things that might be troubling you and offers a sense of satisfaction from knowing the love you give your ESA is returned to you tenfold.
If you tend to dwell on your own insecurities and problems that upset you, ESAs force you concentrate on the moment at hand. Dogs and cats don't fixate on issues affecting them in the past or future; they're always present in the now. This is one of the most instructive things about pets. When you're with them, petting them and talking to them, you're as present in the moment as they are and less likely to focus on negative thoughts and fears.
If you would like to take advantage of the benefits offered by emotional support animals, contact the National Service Animal Registry. We've been providing people with emotional support animal certification since 1995. To certify your ESA, visit our certification page or give us a call at (866) 737-3930. Get your pet registered today!