Pets and Mental Health
Pets and Mental Health
Do you have a dog, cat, gerbil, gecko, etc? If so, you probably think they’re cute - and you wouldn’t be wrong! But your pet isn’t only adorable. They are fantastic for your mental health.
About 80 million US households own a pet, and most people consider them part of the family. But what most people don’t know about their house pet is that in three out of four cases, having a pet improved the mental health of someone in that household.
Stress, Anxiety, and Oxytocin
Studies show spending time with a beloved animal works quite well on anxiety and depression. This happens via a biological response. Scientists now know pets decrease stress and increase oxytocin. Oxytocin is known as the ‘cuddle hormone” because it is released while bonding with a loved one.
In this way, pets help with feelings of loneliness. Social isolation is a reality for most people in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and owning or adopting a friendly animal may be just what the doctor ordered in these trying times.
Pets and Your Social Life
For those already struggling with mental illness, a pet may not only increase oxytocin but also help facilitate social connection. This can be tailored to our current times, for example: maybe join a pet owner’s group on social media or video chat with friends who also have pets.
If you can’t have a pet of your own, there are other ways to bond with our little friends. Pet therapy is often available, where patients can spend time with a cute support animal and reap the benefits that way. Organizations like Paws for People and Pet Partners can help connect you with pet therapy and support animals in your area.
It’s Physical, Too
Pets don’t just improve our emotional wellbeing. According to the CDC, pet ownership has also been linked to such health benefits as:
Lower blood pressure
Lower levels of triglycerides
More opportunity for exercise
Maybe you’ve been on the fence about adopting or buying a dog/cat/etc. If your mental health needs a helping hand, perhaps now is the time to make the leap. When parties and cocktail hours are a no-go, it may just be time to snuggle up with an animal friend and feel the love.
While animals are known to lift our mental health, in many cases we also really need professional help. Bregman MD offers online psychiatry and therapy right to your smartphone or computer. Schedule an appointment online at www.bregmanmd.com/appointment/ or call 305-740-3340