Feeling anxious? Talk to your pet, they know exactly how to help. 

Pet Health

Laura Vissaritis

Every now and then, we all experience anxiety.

Whether stuck in a traffic jam, preparing for an exam or simply waiting at the doctor's surgery; anxiety is a natural and normal trade-off for survival. 

Whilst, we are all invariably hit by the ugly anxiety monster at some time in our lives, it affects us differently, with some people suffering much more extensively than others. Those of us who are hit hard, often find it difficult to mediate unhelpful thoughts, experiencing a range of relentless symptoms that can leave us feeling helpless and hopeless. So who do we turn to in times of distress? Who will listen? Who promises not to judge and will offer overwhelming comfort when we need it the most? If you asked me, I'd say an animal.

Research shows that talking openly without fear of judgment about our distress can alleviate it much more effectively. When we know the person listening is completely invested in our well-being, we divulge more, making the healing more likely to succeed. Whilst qualified and experienced psychologists are at our fingertips to help us in times of need, one thing pets have over them is the lack of a time limit. Time is immaterial to a pet. They are there for you as long as you need and the more loved they feel, the more time they have for you.

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Men in particular are known to present less to doctors with anxiety symptoms. They are also less likely to openly express their feelings, fears and phobias. Whilst 1 in 3 women present with anxiety symptoms, just 1 in 5 men admit to having anxiety in a clinical setting. But whilst men are less likely to declare anxiety and depression symptoms, they are more likely to commit suicide. Although causes are multi layered, there is a link between anxious males and fear of being judged, making them less likely to seek help. Additionally, those of us who don't have access to family or friends find it difficult to reach out.

For many, a pet is all they have. Studies have shown parallels between the effects of anti-anxiety medication and pet therapy. Medication can increase the amount of serotonin (a neurotransmitter) in the brain, which is seen to assist in optimal functioning of the brain as well as receptiveness to learning and change. When there are higher levels of serotonin in brain cells, research shows that symptoms of anxiety and depression can significantly decrease. Guess what? Interacting with a pet can have the same effect! Increasing exercise with your pet, engaging in play behaviours and a mutual cuddle increases serotonin levels as well as a range of other neurotransmitters that relate to feeling good. So it seems that more we love our pets, the happier we are! 

Whilst I am not advocating for pets to take over the esteemed psychology profession, they do make remarkable therapists. Talking to a pet is a safe and helpful approach to managing daily stress as well as some mental disorders. Whether you just want to talk about your day, a difficult customer, why your partner won't talk to you or why you are too scared to go in an elevator, pets have better hearing than we do for a reason. 

When you open your heart and mind to your pet, you engage in a unique relationship of mutual trust and respect. To me, there is no relationship quite like it. Who else is as happy to see us when we return, sad to see us leave, and unconditionally at our side rain, hail or shine? I just hope that we provide the same for them.

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We all love spoiling our fur-kids, yet only 26% of dogs and 19% of cats in Australia have pet insurance - and that could be very hurtful when the vet bill arrives! With HIF Pet insurance, you'll enjoy affordable cover for cats and dogs of all ages. Plus, claiming is easy thanks to our online member Pet Pawtal!

Laura Vissaritis

Please note: Laura's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic please consult your veterinarian.

Category:Pet Health


Shelagh King posted at 4:59 PM 29-May-2017

I truly enjoyed reading this blog and totally agree. My pet Tia has been a saviour to me in times of need. She is always there to greet me with a happy face, when I return home from work and always a smiling happy face to greet me when I awake each morning. She listens when I have lengthy chats with her, if I have something on my mind. She sits alert with me whilst I contemplate under the evening stars when we go for our evening walks. She is my protector and in return I will protect her. The bond is great with her and she has helped me more than she knows. She is always there for me no matter what. The greatest gift next to a child is the companion of a beloved pet. She has been the best therapy ever and helped me through my rough patch.

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