May 09, 2022 3 min read

Almost one in five adults in the U.S. lives with some kind of mental illness. That’s around 52.9 million people. 

There are various forms of treatments for different kinds of mental health issues. One form of treatment that many people still overlook is: owning a pet. 

When you have an animal in your life, the pet can help you reduce symptoms of mental health issues in numerous ways.

A woman sitting with her golden retriever near a lake

Emotional Support Animals Help People with Various Mental Health Issues 

Emotional support animals are pets that help people to mitigate mental health symptoms and emotional disabilities, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  

Emotional support animals are usually prescribed by mental health professionals as part of treatment plans. Find out more about how to qualify for an ESA. 

Regardless of whether an assistance animal is prescribed or not, people with various types of mental health issues can benefit from having pets. So, let’s take a closer look at exactly how pets can help. 


Interacting with Pets Reduces Anxiety and Stress 

Many studies concerning pets and mental health show that playing with animals, or simply petting them, lowers stress-related hormones. In fact, people can see benefits within five minutes of interacting with animals.  

So, pets can be great for people who suffer from anxiety. 

And studies show that playing with a dog or a cat raises people’s levels of dopamine and serotonin, which help to relax the nervous system. 

Basically, when you interact with a pet, you release hormones that make you happier. 


Pets Provide Companionship and Comfort 

Loneliness can lead to depression and vice versa. 

By simply having a pet to share their lives with, people can dramatically reduce their feelings of loneliness; especially when the animal is one that you can interact with, like a dog or a cat. 

When people with mental health issues like depression have a pet to share their days with, they’ll be less lonely and always have another being to comfort them. 

Quite simply, pets are amazing sources of companionship, comfort, and motivation. 


Owning a Dog Can Help Sufferers of Depression to Become More Active and Happier 

It’s now well known that exercise is good for alleviating symptoms of depression. 

Therefore, people who suffer from mental health problems like depression can benefit from having a dog.   

When they own a dog, they have to take it out for a walk every day. So, a sufferer of depression would be forced to leave the house, get some fresh air, and get some valuable exercise on a regular basis. 


Pets Can Help to Support Social Connections 

Having pets can help people with mental health issues to form social connections and feel less isolated. 

For instance, when you walk a dog, it becomes easier to meet new people. You have a common topic to talk about with other dog owners when you’re in the park. 

In turn, with more social connections and less isolation, people with mental health issues like depression and social anxiety can see their symptoms improve and become mentally healthier. 


Pets Give Unconditional Love 

Pets like dogs and cats love their owners unconditionally. 

No matter what mental health problem people are experiencing, when they have the love of another, their feelings of well-being can significantly improve. 

Pets don’t judge. Pets like dogs and cats are happy to see their owners and want their attention. If you need another being to hug, dogs, cats, rabbits, and other pets are there when you need them. 


Love is the answer to most problems. And the unconditional love of pets can do wonders for people with mental health issues.