Recent years have seen a number of soldiers coming home wounded not just physically, but also carrying the mental scars of war back home as well. In times past, this condition was often ignored or treated with disdain, but in the past few decades we have come to recognize post-traumatic stress disorder for what it is: a difficult but treatable condition that our soldiers can overcome with time, therapy, and hard work. A big part of that process for many returning veterans is a dog.
How PTSD Affects Us
The role of dogs in therapy is well-known. Many times you can see a therapy dog in a hospital room being petted by the occupant, their face lighting up and their day made generally better by the carefully trained, specially-chosen dog. Dogs aren’t just helpful for those suffering from physical ailments, however; in fact, they are best at helping those suffering from mental ailments make progress in their own recovery.
To understand how dogs can help, it is important to understand just what post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is and how it harms others. Generally speaking, it is an anxiety disorder typically occurs after a person has been through an extremely traumatic event, one in which you believe you or the lives of others are in danger. Fear, a lack of control, and other high-anxiety emotions flood your system, leaving a lasting impact on your mental makeup. Combat is often the cause of this in veterans, but you don’t have to be a vet to have PTSD; abuse, assault, accidents, and natural disasters can all lead to PTSD in an individual. Feelings of anger, fear, and confusion can persist long after the event, making it difficult to reintegrate back into a normal way of life.
How a Dog Can Help
PTSD dogs are specially trained to work with individuals suffering from PTSD. They can provide help during a medical emergency, including treatment-related assistance. They can help those suffering from PTSD deal with the emotional stress they face on a regular basis, which is incredibly important in the recovery process. Dogs provide a sense of security and calm for their owner, while also providing an opportunity to exercise – which is itself a very important part of recovery, as the physical exercise becomes a positive activity for the patient while the biological effects of exercise can help speed recovery.
Spending adequate time with a PTSD service dog can adjust your serotonin levels, lower your blood pressure, mitigate depression, and more. This can lead to a calmer, happier, more stable disposition on your part, and that’s something everyone wants. Who knew that dogs could do so much for us?