It is no secret that people love their pets. Some people even go to the extent to claim that their pets are as important as any other member of the family; I may or may not be this type of person. Although it’s not uncommon to get the warm and fuzzies while scratching your dog’s stomach or cuddling with your kitten, doing these simple tasks can actually help your mental health. There are studies showing that the unconditional love we get from our little companions can provide numerous psychological benefits. Pets are even shown to be an amazing support aid for people who are recovering from substance abuse.

Owning a pet can provide multiple benefits for someone struggling with a mental illness. They can provide a form of empathy and therapy by making their owners feel loved, especially when the pet senses something off about their owner. Pets can also serve as a substitute for friends and/or family, if their owner has an absence of human relationships. They can also enforce the owners to feel a stronger sense of self-worth. Taking care of something other than themselves can give pet owners a purpose and a greater desire to keep pushing through life.

Here a few other ways that pets benefit your mental health:

  • Stress and Anxiety: Petting, sitting with, or hanging out with your pets can cause a release of serotonin and lower cortisol levels. The release of serotonin and the lower levels of cortisol, which is a stress-related hormone, can cause you to feel calmer, less stressed, and less anxious. Also, just hanging out with someone or something you love is known to help relieve stress and anxiety.
  • Depression: Owning a pet is also a great form of emotional support and companionship. Your little fur baby can help you with feelings of loneliness and is a loyal, loving creature who will accept you as you are. Pets can also give you something positive to focus on other than the negative feelings that come with depression.
  • Social Connections: While walking your dog, it is common to stumble upon conversations by other dog walkers or people interested in your dog. These interactions with other people can create great conversations, build friendships and decrease feelings of loneliness.

Here are some additional resources: 

Resources about how to get a pet:

Resources for how to take care of a pet for new pet owners:

Alternatives to owning a pet:

Guest Blogger: Maddy Mandell, MHA Intern

Maddy is a Senior at University of Delaware, studying Health Behavior Science, with two minors in Human Development & Family Sciences and Disabilities Studies. She will be attending New York University, starting in the Fall of 2021, to earn a Master’s degree in Social Work.

Sources: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/pets-can-help-their-humans-create-friendships-find-social-support-201505067981

https://www.fortbehavioral.com/addiction-recovery-blog/the-psychological-benefits-of-pet-ownership/

https://www.dailypaws.com/living-with-pets/pet-owner-relationship/ways-pets-improve-your-health