How Pets are Helping People with PTSD

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PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious condition that affects many people worldwide. Most people have experienced something dramatic or shocking at least once in their lifetimes. While most recover from the event with time, there are people who relive the terrifying event over and over again for weeks, months, years, or even a whole lifetime. PTSD is caused by this kind of extreme recollection of the stressful event.

What exactly is PTSD?
Our bodies have a flight or fight response put in place to protect us from extreme situations. A person who is suffering from PTSD might keep getting flashbacks that they can’t avoid, nightmares, and scary thoughts that come out of the blue. This can be very scary. They tend to go to great lengths to avoid any situation that might remind them of the stressful event and this can have a big impact on their overall quality of life. The level of support that a person has after a traumatic event can impact how they cope with the situation and move on from it. People who don’t have strong support systems are most likely the ones that develop PTSD.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?
There are a number of factors that can impact the types of symptoms you have. For one, all people are different, so the way in which you cope with a situation plays a part in the symptoms that you might have. Secondly, everyone experiences different kinds of traumatic events. Your symptoms will vary according to the situation you went through. You could have the following types of symptoms:

  1. Symptoms of re-experiencing
    These are the symptoms that are triggered by your own thoughts and memories of the event. You might get sudden flashbacks and feel as though you’re reliving the whole event, you might even manifest physical symptoms like sweating or a racing heartbeat. You might have frightening thoughts and nightmares you can’t escape from.
  2. Symptoms of avoidance
    These are the symptoms which cause the patient to avoid the people and areas that had been associated with whatever incident they went through. They tend to avoid anything that could remind them of the event and this impacts their quality of life.
  3. Symptoms of reactivity
    These are the most constant type of symptoms. These symptoms are capable of interfering with your everyday life. You find yourself getting easily startled or angry, you might feel as though you’re always on edge, and you’ll have difficulty falling asleep.
  4. Symptoms affecting the mood
    These are the symptoms that start manifesting themselves right after the traumatic event. You might feel pessimistic and negative towards the world around you and yourself, you’ll have trouble recollecting key aspects of the event, you will feel an overall loss of interest in daily life and the things you used to find pleasurable, and you could start developing distorted feelings like blame and guilt.

How can pets help?
Pets generally tend to calm us down when we are stressed or riled up. Emotional support animals can do that for PTSD patients. They help alleviate some of the constant symptoms that people living with PTSD experience on a day to day basis. Dogs are the most sought after emotional support companions. They have special senses that tell them whenever their owner is getting overly stressed or overwhelmed with negative emotions. Dogs are fun to be around and they help heighten your mood levels. Owning a pet means that you’re responsible for its care and well-being. This keeps you from feeling detached from the outside world. Caring for another living being other than yourself helps you to keep in touch with your love emotions.

Pets also require you to get out of the house and interact with the outside world. So the chances of you shutting yourself in and ignoring the world are very little when you have a pet to take care of. Dogs are compassionate creatures. Although they can’t communicate it through speech, actions speak louder than words do.

Here’s why dogs have the power to help people with PTSD:

  1. They are vigilant creatures
    They are always aware of their surroundings. If you’ve ever had a nightmare with your dog in the room, you will be able to relate to this. He tells you immediately whether there is any actual danger present. You’re never alone when you’re with your dog and when you’re with him, you have all the protection you’ll need. It’ll give you a sense of safety and that does a lot for your confidence to go on with your life and not let the past affect the future.
  2. They are very protective
    He will always have your back and knowing this puts you at ease.
  3. They are very responsive to authority
    People who go through PTSD have no control over their symptoms and the seemingly random emotions they go through every day. It’s normal to want to have something you can control. Dogs love it when their owners take control. Dogs can give you the feeling of authority that you so crave.
  4. They give love freely and unconditionally
    Many people who suffer from PTSD are scared that their family and friends won’t view them as the same person because of the trauma they went through and what it did to them. Dogs don’t care about any of that. They love you for who you are. Knowing you’re accepted gives you joy. Your dog will accept you for you, no matter what.

Animals are really wonderful creatures. They help you to remember what love and loving felt like. They take you to your happy place and can literally provide a shoulder to cry on when you need it the most. They even help you to relearn trust.