There are many stages to depression, ranging from feeling blue to becoming suicidal. Research conducted at depression clinics show that no matter where a person falls on the depression spectrum the human-animal bond can help countermand persistent symptoms. The natural dynamic of a mutually beneficial interaction creates the foundation for the human-animal bond. Each participant influences the others behavior, creating a catalyst to emotional, psychological, and physical stability.
Living or routinely interacting with an animal can lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormone secretion, and increase the release of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphin, which is the brain's natural happy cocktail. The human-animal bond works in such a way that it encourages a person to seek out the companionship of an animal because it builds up a "happy-chemical habit," which naturally neutralizes the release of copious amounts of stress hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine, also known as the "fight or flight cocktail." Those suffering with depression do so because their stress hormones are usually perpetually "turned on" in the system. Studies indicate that artificially forcing a chemical change in the body through pharmaceutical consumption does not address root cause issues for long-term change, whereas introducing an animal into the equation creates actual environmental modification.
Nursing home studies show that it is not necessary to live with an animal to receive emotional and physical benefits from the human-animal bond. Regular visits from an animal improved the overall health of residents while reducing the sensation of loneliness. This is wonderful news for those with animal-limiting life circumstances because the research supports the efficacy of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), animal volunteerism, and animal activities like horseback riding. Animals can help alter human behavior and bring out the best in the self, even when one might feel at their worst. Their unconditional love and mere presence affords people the opportunity to connect to something greater than just the self. They encourage touching, hugging, laughing, and communication; all which promote positive mental health.
For those struggling with depression talk to your therapist about AAT as an option. Discuss what life options are available to you to incorporate positive routine animal contact. If you are a silent sufferer, please consider calling the United States national hotline 800-273-8255 or chat online with a caring professional. In the smile of every animal, rests hope.
This is Deb Duxbury, for Animal Life, reminding you to please spay or neuter your pet.