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Pets, anxiety and depression

answered 08:29 PM EST, Sun February 17, 2013
anonymous anonymous
My wife has GAD and moderate depression. She is on Xanax and St. John’s Wort. I am considering buying a dog for the family. I am not buying it specifically to help with my wife’s depression but I am hoping that a puppy in the house and the touching/petting and human contact that happens with a new dog will be uplifting for her. I am planning on doing all of the caretaking for the new dog so it should not prove overwhelming for her. This is something I try to do so she can use her limited energy on things that are most beneficial to her. But what I want to know is if there is any research that says that it is helpful for depressed/anxious people to have pets. Is it beneficial, neutral or detrimental. I cannot seem to get a clear answer on this subject. Thank you. John, P in Chicago.

Jody Hansen Says...

Jody Hansen J. Hansen
MA, LPC, NCC, FAPA

John, There are many studies reporting that pet ownership is beneficial to both depression and anxiety.  As far as anxiety symptoms, pets can be calming by way of petting the animal and enjoying the companionship.  Heart rate and breathing can both be reduced. Depressive symptoms can also be reduced through many means of pet ownership.  Walking a dog is good exercise which is proven to elevate the mood. Unconditional love that a dog can show is also uplifting. Also, stepping outside of one's depression and focusing on something else is proven to be useful as a tool for depression. You might consider a dog that is even tempered, potty-trained and,perhaps, does not shed thereby eliminating more work.  I also think that I would not surprise your wife. She might not like that someone is "taking charge" of "fixing her". Perhaps discussing the benefits of pet ownership might make sense to her. Preface the idea with the fact that you love her so much, you hate to see her struggling and that you would be caring for the dog. She also might like the idea of you both taking walks together and enjoying couple time.  Good luck and enjoy the new member of the family.

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Page last updated Feb 17, 2013

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