Treating Mental Disorders with Pets and Animals

Palestinian puppy, Israeli girl

Mental Health is at the forefront of science and medicine, with more and more studies being conducted to find treatments for mental disorders. While studies continue to be published about the importance of mental health, only recently has the topic become more socially acceptable.

Sites like BetterHelp know how important it is to put your mental health first. They can connect you to hundreds of licensed therapists and social workers to work with you. If you’re interested in learning more about therapy, visit the link below:

Many people have turned to alternative treatment forms to cope with their symptoms. One of these alternatives is pet and animal therapy.

Humans have always had a symbiotic relationship with pets like dogs and cats. Originally for utility, our relationship with our pets has evolved into one of love and family. We treat our pets like family members because we share a bond with them.

puppy therapy

Pet owners can attest to the benefits of having a pet, but now science has studied how animals can help people with mental disorders. Their studies have shown that having a pet can reduce symptoms of mental disorders in many cases.

Case Studies

In a 2018 study, researchers found that subjects with pets experienced less severe symptoms of depression and PTSD. Patients quoted that their pets provide unconditional love and support without judgment or reproach.

Another study from the University of British Columbia found that therapy dogs contributed to a significant decrease in stress and anxiety among college students.

A 2013 study found that therapy pets effectively helped children with Autism. The research states that pets can be an emotional bridge to children by recognizing visible cues and rewarding children with affection and play.

cats as therapy

While more research needs to be conducted, researchers are confident that a positive correlation between pets and people with mental illness exists.

Benefits of Pets on Mental Health

Below are some of the most widely accepted benefits of pet ownership.

Decrease in Stress Hormones

Having a pet can dampen your anxiety and stress just by interacting with your pets. Studies show that spending uninterrupted time with your pet can decrease the production of stress hormones and make you feel calm. People with social anxiety disorders have also benefited from less anxiety because of their pets.

High Self-Esteem

A companion that gets excited when you arrive home can make anyone happy. It’s this unconditional love and excitement that can raise someone’s self-esteem. When we have pets, we have to take care of them to make sure they live long lives. Caring for them gives us purpose and makes us feel important. This sense of obligation can help to dampen some symptoms of depression. A 2016 study showed that older adults experienced less depression when tasked with feeding and taking care of crickets over eight weeks.

Increased Physical Activity

Unless you have a house cat, pets need to relieve themselves outside. This forces pet owners to go out for walks and wake up early. Exercising 30 minutes a day has been cited as one of the best ways to improve mental health, and walking your pets can help get you outside and moving. Pets can also help us socialize and build social skills by interacting with other pet owners. This interaction may help people with social anxiety disorders practice skill-building in a safe setting with their pets to divert any anxiety.


Having a pet lets you stay in the moment and forget about your worries. The here and now is all that matters to pets, and playing or interacting with them can help practice mindfulness.

Final Thoughts

Science proves that the bond between man and animal is special, and this bond can help dampen some of the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Please note that while they may be therapeutic, pets are not a replacement for therapy. If you feel you have moderate to severe symptoms, reach out to a licensed therapist.

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