How Dogs Can Help With Depression

By Guest Writer,Valerie Johnston

Effectively combating the effects of depression requires lifestyle changes that help people make positive adjustments. Having a dog in the home is a good way to make such adjustments because it requires a high level of responsibility with relatively low levels of stress. 

Dogs can be perfect companions for those struggling with depression. Whereas social struggles and insecurity can foster greater levels of depression, dogs don’t apply the same kind of social pressure as other people do. As non-judgmental, unconditional friends, dogs provide a light-hearted and loyal companion. People with dogs can get interact comfortably without the same stresses of interacting with people. Eventually, the benefits can help people pull themselves out of depression and get back to living life to its fullest

Overcoming the Symptoms of Depression

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Depression can feel like an all-encompassing condition that makes everyday life a struggle. It can lead to feelings of powerlessness and a lower drive for things that used to be enjoyable, along with physical fatigue and changes in sleep and eating patterns. In many ways, owning a dog can help address these symptoms and the factors that cause them.

Part of the benefit of owning a dog comes from the new routine necessary for taking care of a pet. Lack of structure each day can help contribute to anxiety and feelings of depression. Pet owners, however, are forced to include daily activities in their schedules, like walking and feeding the animal, that can help avoid those feelings of anxiety.

The feelings of helplessness that accompany depression can be a product of a lack of activity and responsibility in life. Achieving goals and feeling productive is an important step in overcoming depression, and owning a dog can encourage both of those feelings. While owning a pet requires a high level of responsibility, those demands can help provide positive focus and feelings of achievement for the pet owner.

Dogs also provide a good way of increasing social interaction, a big step in overcoming depression. In addition to being loving companions themselves, dogs provide opportunities for social interaction with other people. Owning a dog gives people company at home when they may have otherwise fallen victim to loneliness, and it also forces them to get out of the house. Dog owners are more likely to interact with others and meet other dog owners, eliminating those feelings of loneliness.

A Scientific Basis

While many of the benefits to owning a dog are anecdotal, there are in fact a variety of hormonal changes that take place when doing the activities associated with dog ownership.

The activity involved in owning a pet can help both physically and emotionally. Being forced to walk a dog can be an effective way of overcoming the disinterest and fatigue that characterizes depression. Endorphins are chemicals that trigger positive feelings during exercise. For this reason, exercise is a common prescription for depression, and with a dog around, going for walks becomes an obligation rather than an option.

Having a dog around can be a positive emotional influence because of their calming presence. Petting a dog helps lead to lower blood pressure and a positive hormonal change, improving a person’s mood and decreasing their anxiety. Serotonin is a hormonal compound commonly associated with happy feelings and mood, and it tends to increase when people interact with pets.

With the many benefits that come with owning a dog, it’s also important that owning a pet is only a step on the road to overcoming depression. Buying a pet should be part of a proactive plan for beating depression, and it comes with many other active changes to be effective. 

About the Author: Valerie is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for Healthline.com ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.