How Man’s Best Friend Can Help with PTSD

Surprise! Every person’s favorite four-legged friend can actually help people who suffer PTSD. In a nutshell, PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental health condition that affects people who have gone through a traumatic event. People may experience mood swings, panic attacks, and general anxiety.

It has been proven that service and therapy dogs can sense the symptoms of PTSD and can also help stop their owners anxiety, mood swings or panic attacks. By being able to sense their owners’ stress signals, the dogs can interact with them in order to move them back into a positive mental state.

Specifically, there are six ways that a service dog can help their suffering owner:

Firstly, therapy dogs can reduce suicidal thoughts by decreasing the signs of depression. The dogs also give their owner motivation to exercise and go on with their day. Simply having a dog in the house can also help the person’s loneliness and isolation.

Secondly, service dogs can also mitigate anxiety and the behaviors that go along with it. Since the dogs are trained to pick up the symptoms of an anxiety attack and either nudge, paw or lick their owner until the person’s focus is redirected to the dog. For an attack that happens in public places, the dog is trained to act as a “cushion” between their handler and other people.

Service dogs can help to interrupt night terrors by laying on their owner’s chest, or even turning on the lights in order to wake them up. They can also perform room searches and safety checks and inform their owner that the house is safe, as hypervigilance—an extreme awareness of one’s surroundings, is a key symptom of PTSD.

If a person happens to experience disassociation, which can consist of flashbacks or a disconnection of the self, therapy dogs are trained to guide the owner to a safe place, or even a specific person.

Lastly, service and therapy dogs can remind their owners to take their medications and can even bring them to the person. They can also alert their handler if someone is at the door, or to do tasks such as eating and sleeping.

There are numerous resources for finding a therapy dog. Some include Paws of War, Service Dogs for America, Paws for Veterans, Dog Wish and New Horizons Service Dogs. Some services may even train the owner to understand and work with their dog.

All in all, dogs are more than just fun, cute companions; they can also be life-changing for those who are in need of help.

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