Home » Anxiety and Psychiatric Service Dogs: What You Need To Know.

Anxiety and Psychiatric Service Dogs: What You Need To Know.

Updated on June 22, 2023 by Patricia Thompson

Anxiety is the most widespread mental health condition globally, affecting millions of people of all ages. It is a complex mental disorder that can manifest in various forms, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder (SAD).

Key Statistics:

Statista on Anxiety

  • 3.9 % of the global population suffers from anxiety disorders.
  • 6.2 % of the US population suffers from anxiety disorder.

Anxiety & Depression Association of America on Anxiety

  • General anxiety disorder affects 6.8M, or 3.1% of the population.
  • Women are twice as likely to be affected as men.
  • Around 31% of all adults will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their life.
  • Phobias are the most commonly occurring anxiety disorder, affecting more than 19.3 million adults in the U.S.

Many people dealing with anxiety wrongly interpret these as personality defects and ignore them, which can cause the symptoms of anxiety to worsen. However, it can be debilitating when extreme anxiety persists over an extended period. If you think you’re experiencing anxiety, you should get medical advice immediately!

It’s also crucial to remember that many alternatives are available for treating anxiety. However, a psychiatric service dog can also help to treat anxiety. It is one of the natural and cost-effective ways to treat anxiety.

Let’s find out what is psychiatric service dogs and how these dogs help to treat anxiety. We will also learn how to obtain one for your medical conditions.

Anxiety and Psychiatric Service Dogs

What is a Psychiatric Service Dog?

A psychiatric service dog or a PSD is a dog that is specifically trained to aid in mental health conditions such as Anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, phobias or depression, etc. They can also assist their owners in daily life by performing tasks.

PSDs are protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and provided with specific laws and rights given to service dogs.

How Can Psychiatric Service Dogs Help with Anxiety?

There are various ways in which your psychiatric service dog can help you with multiple types of anxiety disorders. These are:

Therapeutic and Tactile Distraction

Tactile stimulation and deep pressure therapy can offer a therapeutic distraction to people dealing with anxiety. Psychiatric Service Dogs, or PSDs, must be trained to apply pressure on their handler’s chest or lap to promote emotional control and induce calm, relieving them during tense situations.

Providing medication on time

A psychiatric service dog can remind their owner to take medication on time and keep bugging them until they do so. You can train your psychiatric service dog to get the prescription and a bottle of water if you cannot because of your health condition.

Ease Claustrophobia

If you feel suffocation or restricted while standing in small or enclosed spaces, psychiatric service dogs can help you by building a gap. A psychiatric service dog expands the size of your bubble by standing between you and others. A PSD can also detect minor signs of any triggering event that is about to occur and will take the person to a safer location right away where they can feel safe and relaxed.

Evaluate Possible Threats

For some people, entering a dark room, turning a corner, or seeing a crowded place might cause anxiety. In these situations, necessitating the immediate aid of a psychiatric service dog is essential. However, if you have a trained PSD with you at that time, you can take their assistance because they will enter such places ahead of you and investigate that area so you can enter.

What Tasks Do Psychiatric Service Dogs Perform For Anxiety Patients?

Psychiatric Service dogs can perform various tasks tailored to your needs. Some common tasks include:

  • Alerting the handler to signs of anxiety.
  • Providing deep pressure therapy during panic attacks.
  • Creating a physical barrier between the handler and crowds or triggering situations.
  • Creating a safe environment for them in emotional distress time.
  • Retrieving medication during anxiety episodes.
  • Providing a sense of comfort and emotional support during stressful situations.

How To Train Your Dog For Psychiatric Service Dog?

If you’re considering getting a psychiatric service dog for anxiety or already have one, you should know how much training they need to provide better assistance. Thankfully, there are various training methods that you can adopt to train your psychiatric service dog. These are:

Working with a Professional Trainer

This training method is one of the most common methods people adopt to provide their psychiatric service dog. Under this method, you will train your psychiatric service dog with a professional trainer. These experienced professional trainers are fully aware of the tasks that your psychiatric service dog can carry out for you based on your dog’s breed, size, and weight.

Getting an already-trained dog

This is another type of training method in which you don’t have to look for a professional trainer or train your dog. You can visit dog training organizations or businesses that provide trained psychiatric service dogs. If you want immediate assistance and don’t want to spend too much time and energy training your dog, you can adopt an already-trained dog.

Self-training

Self-training is ideal if you have enough time and energy to spend with your dog! Training your dog on your own requires a lot of research and hard work. It is advisable not to choose a self-training method if you’re dealing with the symptoms of mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD because it can affect your mental health more.

Once your dog has completed the training and is ready to assist you, you can apply for a psychiatric service dog certification or a PSD letter.

What is a PSD Letter?

A PSD letter is an official document stating that you are suffering from a medical condition, and your dog may help treat your symptoms. With a PSD letter, you can live and travel with your PSD without discrimination.

How to Get a PSD Letter?

To apply for a PSD letter from the comfort of your home, follow the steps mentioned below:

process to get psd letter

How To Choose a Right Psychiatric Service Dog

There are certain factors to be kept in mind before choosing a psychiatric service dog based to your mental health condition, such as:

Temperament

Choosing the psychiatric service dog breed with the right temperament is essential. This means dogs should not readily become angry or stressed. If their owner ignores them for a while, they should avoid becoming combative.

Socially active

Psychiatric service dogs must be outgoing and socially active. This is the most crucial requirement because they have to lift their owner’s spirits at their lowest phase of life. Psychiatric service dogs must be friendly but not highly excitable because overly excitable canines can be too rough with others.

Adaptive

Psychiatric service dogs must always be adaptable to every place or location. They should be trained to adapt to different settings. These dogs should support their owners when their owners feel low. No matter the environment, they are required to make their owner comfortable.

Trainability

Choosing a dog breed that can learn new skills and improve its existing skills is essential. Some are easier to train and have an instinctive desire to please their owners and carry out various activities, so if you’re planning to get a psychiatric service dog, ensure that you find a dog breed that is easy to train.

About the Author

Patricia Thompson
Patricia Thompson
Patricia Thompson is a highly skilled clinical psychologist with over five years of expertise in the field. She possesses extensive knowledge and experience in using clinical guidance and providing recommendations for emotional support animals (ESAs) as a form of treatment for mental illness. Patricia's profound understanding of the therapeutic benefits of ESAs enables her to offer valuable insights and practical advice to individuals seeking emotional support. In addition to her clinical practice, Patricia also writes for Fast ESA Letter, sharing her expertise and advocating for the importance of ESAs in mental health care.

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