All human beings deal with anxiety to some degree. It’s how we’re wired. Anxiety, for some people, creates a negative impact on life. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), anxiety disorders affect over 40 million adults in the U.S. A growing number of people with anxiety disorders get help from emotional support animals. Also called an ESA, a support animal may be a dog, cat, or even a miniature horse. Learn how you can find a service dog or cat to help with anxiety.
Request a Prescription
Talking with your mental healthcare provider about your anxiety and the possibility of using an emotional support animal as part of your treatment. First, a therapist can help you get the most out of your service animal. Second, they can write a letter for you. While it’s not like a prescription you take to the pharmacy, an emotional support animal letter is your proof that your ESA is a necessary part of your daily life.
Adopt a Service Dog
If you already own a dog, great! Most of your work is already done. If not, you’ll want to find the perfect support pet for your unique needs. As mentioned above, support animals come in many forms, but the majority of people with anxiety get a dog. One of the best ways you can get a service dog is through adoption. Since emotional support animals don’t need to go through certification, and they don’t need to be a certain breed, you’ll find dogs in every animal shelter or rescue organization in the country who would love to be a part of your life. The only qualification is that the dog makes you feel secure and comforts you, especially when you experience symptoms of anxiety.
Training Your ESA
Once you bring your dog home, it’s training time! Not only do you need your dog to learn how best to help you, but it’s also essential for your dog to learn how to be a good citizen. That means training them not to jump on people or lunge at other animals. You want your dog to respond to you and obey your commands. By training, we’re talking about obedience and not being a nuisance when you take the dog out in public. If you and your dog can master sit, stay, down, and heel, you’ll both be welcome just about anywhere you want to go.
Register Your Support Dog
Unlike a certified service animal, you don’t have a legal requirement to register your support pet. Even so, you’ll enjoy several benefits when you register a dog for emotional support. ESA dog registration includes paperwork, which identifies your dog as a support animal. Paperwork is always a plus when you travel with your dog, apply for housing, or take your dog into places where only service dogs are allowed. You can also get a vest for your registered ESA, which is another way to show people your dog is on the official mission of caring for you. Don’t wait to get registered! For questions about ESA registration, contact National Service Animal Registry today at (866) 737-3930.
Frequently Asked Questions About Service Dogs for Anxiety
Do people with anxiety need service dogs?
Anyone suffering from anxiety can benefit tremendously from having a service dog. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recognizes only dogs as service animals for anxiety and other related disabilities. Service dogs are individually trained to perform tasks related to the disability of their handler. For example, service dogs for anxiety are trained to anticipate an anxiety attack, fetch medication, and provide a sense of calm.
In extreme cases of anxiety, where fine motor skills are impaired rendering you incapable of moving your limbs, your service dog can provide immediate physical assistance and help you cope with balance disorders. Regardless of the degree of your anxiety, having a service dog with you at all times will make your day-to-day life easier and reduce the burden of your condition to a great extent. You will have peace of mind knowing that you have someone to rely on during your time of stress.
Can service dogs for anxiety go anywhere?
Service dogs can go anywhere in public with their handler as long as they are harnessed, leashed, or tethered and maintain safe and non-disruptive behavior. Service dogs for anxiety are allowed in stores, hospitals, schools, libraries, parks, theaters, government buildings, restaurants, airplanes, public transportation, beaches, etc. But churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and other places of worship are exempt from the laws of allowing service dogs. A service dog is a part of your anxiety treatment and is not considered a pet. Therefore, all entities covered under the ADA are required to make reasonable modifications to their policies to accommodate people with disabilities and their service dogs.
If you own a service animal for anxiety, we recommend you to register it to make life easier for you and your dog. We provide lifetime registration for service animals based on a therapist-conducted screening. You can use this registration to avoid confrontations and hassles while taking your service dog out in public places.
Is social anxiety a reason to get a service dog?
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is one of the major types of anxiety disorder. The term is interchangeably used with ‘Social Phobia’. Typically, SAD is characterized as extreme self-consciousness and nervousness in a social setting. This can be large social gatherings, one-on-one social engagements, or everyday social situations. SAD affects millions of people globally. If you have been diagnosed with SAD or anxiety disorder by a licensed healthcare practitioner, you are qualified to get a service dog under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If you do not have an official diagnosis, you can request our “no-risk” PSD letter assessment. Once you are diagnosed with anxiety by a licensed therapist, you will become eligible to get a service dog for anxiety for all types of anxiety disorders.
What type of anxiety qualifies for a service dog?
Anyone suffering from mental, physical, psychiatric, sensory, or intellectual disability can get a service dog. Anxiety is a form of mental disability that warrants the usage of service dogs as a legitimate treatment procedure. There are different types of anxiety disorders which include Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). If you have been diagnosed with any of these specific types by a licensed practitioner, you are eligible to get a service dog that is specifically trained for the type of disability you have been diagnosed with.
Can dogs detect anxiety?
Dogs are sensitive animals. They have a highly evolved sense of smell which is 10,000 to 100,000 times more powerful than the human nose. When a human begins to experience an anxiety attack, it causes an increase in adrenaline and cortisol hormones along with elevated heart rate and sweating. Since dogs have super-sensitive noses, they can smell this change in hormones. This is why they see a panic attack coming way before you can. When dogs detect anxiety, they respond by trying to calm and reassure their owners or become anxious themselves. When you are feeling anxious, spending time with your dog will lower your heart rate and make you feel safe. Trainers build on this capability and train service dogs to identify other signals of anxiety in their handlers. You can also train your support dog for anxiety to calm you when you are experiencing anxiety.
Does anxiety warrant a service dog?
Anyone undergoing treatment for anxiety can get a service dog. However, it’s also important to understand that anxiety does not mandate having a service dog. Depending on the severity of your condition and the treatment procedure, your mental health provider may prescribe different ways to cope with anxiety. But if you feel the need for companionship, you can discuss using a service dog as a part of your treatment with your therapist. Having a service dog will make your life easier. Service dogs for anxiety are specially trained to perform tasks like reminding you to take medication, pulling a wheelchair, bringing medicine and water during an anxiety attack, and so on.
If you already own a dog, you can either train them yourself to assist you correctly in your times of need or you can enroll them in a service training program. If you do not own a dog, a doctor needs to verify your physical and mental limitations through an assessment to confirm whether a service dog will be of help. Once you are qualified, you can get in touch with an agency to help you locate a dog trained for your disability. Even though the wait and the adjustment period combined can be time-consuming, it’s worth it. Your perfect match will change your life for the better. It feels even more fulfilling when you realize that not only did you gain a great degree of independence with your service animal for anxiety by your side but also managed to help a dog find a home and a job.