By Samantha Larson
Animals are man’s best friend. They are the companions that inhabit this planet with us. We worship, anthropomorphize, and domesticate them. Dogs are loyal companions, and cats are treasured friends. Some animals bring comfort and love, while others bring support and purpose. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “The number of adults with any diagnosable mental disorder within the past year is nearly 1 in 5, or roughly 43 million Americans.” That’s an alarming number, and it goes to show that many adults and children alike need support to cope with their mental disorders. Who better to fill that position than animals?
Dogs and cats are the most common household pets. Their whole world is their owners. That responsibility may seem large and unnerving at first, but once you fall into a routine that coincides with your pet, it may become an enjoyment. Many people find comfort in a routine, and if you are struggling with mental disorders like anxiety or OCD, a daily routine with your pet may provide you stability in your day to day life.
It’s commonly known that exercise can help significantly with depression. Many who have depression are often unmotivated to exercise, but if one has a dog, there is a need to exercise. Dogs are active creatures, and would love nothing more than to spend time sniffing things and trotting along sidewalks with their best friend. Walks and runs are essentials to a dog’s physical health, and they improve the owner’s mental health greatly. Being out in nature, or exploring your neighborhood with your best friend will definitely help to lift your spirits. I can vouch for this, for I have struggled with depression for over a decade, and nothing clears my head more than a long hike with my beloved German Shepherd, Bodhisattva.
A fellow Glenelg student, Arielle Goron-Futcher is an avid reptile owner. She owns five leopard geckos, a pictus gecko, a bearded dragon, and a ball python. For a lot of people, having that many reptiles may seem difficult, however for Goron-Futcher, she's quite the reptile master. For those who don't know, reptiles can be complicated to care for- they need specific heat and humidity levels, a proper calcium loaded diet, and weekly or daily baths. They’re prone to illnesses like scale rot, crypto, and mites. Goron-Futcher is very versed in caring for reptiles, and all of hers are either very healthy, or getting the proper treatments they need to become healthy. When asked her how owning so many reptiles affected her anxiety, she replied;
“Reptiles have helped me organize and focus myself when it comes to dealing with my tasks day to day. They are also my main stress relief when I come home from a long day of school and errands. Reptiles have been immeasurably beneficial as a long term coping method for myself.”
It’s never fun to have an anxiety attack. Trust me, I’ve learned from my own personal experience. Sometimes it can feel like you're having a heart attack, or it can feel like you're about to start spewing your own guts. Sometimes, even during a anxiety attack, it can still be hard to ask for help. People are complicated beings, and many don't reach out for help with their anxiety because they are too apprehensive about what others may think. Animals, do not judge. If you struggle with anxiety, an animal may just be your saving grace. It doesn't have to be just a dog or a cat, many other creatures can bring comfort. Birds, reptiles, rodents, and fish are all common household pets that would all help to deter an anxiety attack or just the general hum of anxiety. If you have a dog or cat, curl up and just focus on petting them, feeling their soft fur between your fingers. Focusing on something small and comforting can help decrease your anxiety.