An Alternative to Anxiety Medication: A Furry Best Friend

yorshire terrier dog sitting with girlAnxiety can cause all sorts of problems and affect any type of person, children, adults, and the elderly can and often do all experience anxiety over a variety of things. Whether it be social fears or stressing about bills or other responsibilities, anxiety can alter the way people see and interact with the world. When everything seems scary, dangerous, or about to collapse into chaos it can be hard for people to remember the positives and live happy lives. Plus stress causes physical consequences, making the body more susceptible to illness and environmental damage. The prevalence of anxiety troubles in today’s society has led to an ever increasing amount of people looking for treatments, and many times doctors simply prescribe an anti-anxiety medication. While these may work for some people and have their uses, they’re not always the best way and shouldn’t be the first course of action taken to ease anxiety.

Prescription medications can be costly, can cause unwanted side effects, and have risks for abuse. Natural supplements tend to be safer and work better with the body but they often lack scientific proof of their benefits and have not been approved by the FDA, and therapy isn’t for everyone. But there is something that can be done to ease anxiety symptoms, something that doesn’t involve any sort of medication or supplements and has other health benefits as well: owning a pet.

Pet ownership gives a person something they can care for and control beyond the chaos of the world, a pet owner is in charge of their animal’s life and provides them food, shelter, and love. While this may sound like a big responsibility, and it is, it’s also relatively easy to do and the rewards are immense. Animals aren’t aware of social rules, they cannot and will not ever judge their humans by their looks or circumstances. As long as you show a pet kindness, it will love you back unconditionally. And for many with anxiety, this can be a miracle. Studies have shown that petting a cat or dog can alleviate stress and lower blood pressure, and the sound waves of cat purring have been shown to reduce stress and improve health. Even birds, reptiles, and small mammals can be held or petted to some extent and reduce stress reaching upward

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development conducts studies on children’s anxiety levels in social situations which either do or do not include animals. The results show that children, especially children with autism or general social anxieties, feel measurably more comfortable when animals are present, allowing them to feel more comfortable interacting with their peers. But this goes beyond children, as adults walking dogs are more likely to have people start casual conversations with them. Even complete strangers are brought together in solidarity by the presence of an animal.

The downside is that your pet cannot go everywhere with you, dogs can go on walks and participate in many outdoor events but they cannot be taken to school or work. Some classrooms have pets but they’re not left free to roam the classroom and interact with the students very often. While the business world will probably never allow more of a pet presence, having your pets with you in your free time can still greatly reduce stress levels. Just thinking of how the pet will be there to cheer them up when they get home can help prevent people from becoming as stressed throughout the day as they normally would.

How has pet ownership changed your life? Have you noticed any reductions in your anxiety levels when there are animals around? Share your feedback in the comments below!

By Samantha Dillon, DR Vitamin Solutions