‘Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also harder to bear.’ C.S. Lewis
Based on a report by WHO, as many as 322 million people worldwide are living with depression. In India alone, the figure is over 5 crores. As the symptoms of depression are exhibited at many levels in an individual – mood, behavior, cognition, bodily functions, the treatment for depression is also at multiple levels.
Along with the necessary medical help, one way that can work wonders in dealing with the symptoms of depression is pet therapy. Animal-assisted therapy is increasingly being used to help people cope better with mental health disorders. A survey by Human-Animal Bond Research Institute said 74% people said they experienced an improvement in their mental health by having a pet around.
Let’s look at some areas of depression that pets can help cope with:
1. Lonely no more:
One of the most profoundly experienced symptoms of depression is the feeling of loneliness, the unsettling realization that one is alone in this battle. A pet changes this dynamic in a way that is typical only to them. From following you around all day as you go about household chores to snuggling with you when you finally call it a day, pets ensure that “lonely” is the last thing you feel. Their companionship is there to stay.
2. The missing 4-Letter Magic Word:
Being unloved & uncared for is another depression symptom that people living with depression feel. Pets redefine love by offering unconditional love as is quite difficult to find in another human being. This is simply because pets are not as complicated as humans and don’t have any ulterior motives for loving you. They honestly don’t need a list of reasons to love you. Another interesting claim by pet owners state that they can somehow sense when their owners are feeling low or sad and make sure they’re around a little more and love a little more during those times.
3. Worth & no less:
Feelings of worthlessness & being unimportant are often quoted by people going through depression. This symptom of depression is well taken care of by a pet. For a pet, you are the most important thing, period. Their world revolves around you. When you’re home, they follow you around everywhere and when you’re not, they would wait for you to come back to them.
4. Snuggle in and Sleep Tight:
Another key depression symptom is insomnia or restless sleep. A study published in Mayo Clinic Proceeding stated that people with pets in their rooms maintained 83% sleep efficiency, which is a comparison between the total time spent asleep to the total time spent in bed.
5. A Sense of Purpose:
Other symptoms of depression include loss of interest & loss of a sense of purpose in life. People going through depression often don’t feel like getting out of bed and find it difficult to place what to do with the day ahead of them. Raising a pet helps fill this void as they need to be fed, cleaned, taken on walks at regular intervals during the day, irrespective of how you feel about it! It ensures much needed physical activity and brings a certain routine to the day.
6. Social Time:
People going through depression often feel the need to be confined to the house and not step out. However, having a pet positively challenges this symptom as they need to be taken for walks and also for regular vet visits. Pets and babies have the power to connect strangers! A lot of people who don’t really know each other end up striking small talks in parks while walking their pets or while they await their turn at vet clinics. This helps with the much needed social connect which is key to people suffering from depression.
7. Suicidal Thoughts:
About 60% of people who commit suicide have major depression. If not diagnosed in time, depression may turn to be life-threatening. Depending on the severity of the condition, depression can make one question the very purpose of one’s existence, if their life makes a difference to anyone at all. A pet may make people find the reason to carry on. The question of their future without you may deter one from taking the drastic measure.
Therapy however is no replacement to the medical treatment. Homeopathy is an effective and safe way in treating depression. Under the direction of a skilled homeopath, one may find relief from the symptoms of depression. Homeopathic remedies are safe, dilute and free of side effects. They work as a catalyst, which push the body’s own systems towards a cure.