Do animals really help people with anxiety?

Many cancer patients have said having a animal such as a dog or getting to hangout with them has lowered their stress levels. J. Michael McFarland says “There is mounting evidence in human and veterinary evidence medicine that the emotional bond between people and companion animals can have a positive impact of emotional and physical health”. Animals help people relax and forget about their problems for a moment. Specifically for cancer patient named Laura McCracken who was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. She beat that and then had learned it metastasized in her brain. She then got a dog and it helped her sleep better and keep her entertained. Therapy dogs and other animals help people lower stress because the animals will help people forget what they were stressing about which then will lower their stress level.

Animals do lower stress levels:

A lot of patients are going through a lot of stress and they need to relax for a few moments. The are physically and mentally drained so having a fuzzy, cute animal there helps ease their mind for a little bit. Stewart B. Fleishman states, “Having an animal-assisted visit improved their quality of life and humanized a high-tech treatment. Patients said they would have stopped their treatments before completion, except for the presence of the certified Good Dog Foundation therapy dog and volunteer handler”. Dogs specifically help people because dogs wag their tails and smile and they are just as happy to see you as you are to see them.

Many people who are going through tough times such as an illness can feel lonely and feel like they have nothing to look forward to so having an animal come helps them by gives them attention and company while giving them something to look forward to. In many hospitals animals are not allowed. The people in a hospital are stressed so even if they just get to see an animal it will make them happy and smile and for a split second forget their stress.

Animals help kids know they are not alone and how animals give them unconditional love.The mom of a child named Mark explains, “Mark cares for the kittens and worries about them. He loves to interact with them and he will sing to them to help them ‘feel safe.’ He gives us glimpses into what he is feeling by telling us when he thinks the kitties are scared or nervous”. The animals help give the kids a sense of purpose. They lower their stress levels by knowing they are not alone and even sometimes animals get stressed. Many small children can relate to animals because animals and kids can feel the same emotions so they relate to each other. Kids also like to be hands on with things. In the example above involving Mark likes to care for the kittens because they help take his mind off of what is stressing him out. He also likes it because of how he can relate with them. Mark may feel vulnerable and he understands that he is not the only person who feels that way. This relationship with the animals helps lower stress because  it gives the kids something to relate to and a sense of purpose. They also do not feel so alone.

Animals do not lower stress levels:

Many trials have been done to prove animals do lower stress levels but many people think these tests are not accurate. People believe this because according to Michael Anestis investigations 12 out of the 14 sample sizes were to small and 8 of the groups being tested had no control groups. Many of the conclusions are biased also. Animals lowering stress all depends on the person too. Some people are afraid of dogs so bringing a therapy dog would just raise their stress level. In order to really prove if animals do lower stress levels there needs to be more tests done that are not biased. Many people do not like animals so it could raise stress levels but this point people make is bias because many people argue everyone likes some sort of animal. The test need to be monitored more closely with more people in them to get it more accurate.

Animals can increase stress levels if you chose the wrong one for you. Many dog owners did not just go out and buy their dog right away. People have to research what kind of animal they want so they know how much time and energy it takes to give it the right care. If you happen to chose the wrong type of pet it can stress you out more than before when you did not have a pet. When people get stressed they take it out on innocent things. If you chose the wrong pet and you become stressed you might stress others around you. Stress is contagious and this animal was supposed to lower it so you may take it out on the dog or whatever pet you picked which is not fair.

Animals lowering stress levels depends on the person but for many it helps them relax and forget what they were stressing about for a few moments. Animals can help people know they are not alone and give them a sense of purpose. Many people believe all the experiments that have been around animals have been bias but many believe in therapy dogs.

Featured image by DaPuglet | Flickr

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