While there are many coping skills to choose from in managing anxiety, many people
find interacting with animals to have a calming and therapeutic effect. Research has
discovered numerous health benefits of having a pet, whether it’s a dog, cat, rabbit, or
another type of animal. Throughout this article we will look at what anxiety is, how pets
can play a positive role for individuals living with anxiety, and considerations to keep in
mind when selecting a pet.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is defined as an “emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts
and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” It is normal to experience anxiety
before or during a stressful event. However for some individuals, anxiety is excessive,
ongoing, and uncontrollable. If symptoms of anxiety are negatively impacting an
individual’s daily functioning, it may indicate the presence of an anxiety disorder which
requires professional treatment. For more information about generalized anxiety
disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder, visit
Mind Diagnostics: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/blog/obsessive-compulsive-disorder.
5 Benefits of Having a Pet When Living With Anxiety
1. Pets reduce stress.
Studies have shown that interacting with animals decreases levels of cortisol (a stress
hormone) in the body and also lowers blood pressure. There is nothing like returning
home after an intense day and relaxing with your pet for instant stress relief.
2. Interacting with a pet can be grounding during times of high anxiety or
In the midst of overwhelming anxiety or a panic attack, petting or sitting next to an
animal can be incredibly calming. Focusing on the feel of an animal’s fur can help to
ground an individual in the present moment when their anxious thoughts are spiraling
out of control.
3. Certain pets encourage consistent physical activity and time outdoors.
Dogs in particular serve as a motivator for carving out daily time for walks outside. Both
regular physical activity and spending time in nature can boost an individual’s mood and
reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
4. Having a pet decreases feelings of loneliness.
Living with an animal provides companionship, particularly for individuals who live alone
or would otherwise feel socially isolated. Pets provide excellent company throughout the
ups and downs of your everyday routine. Even during difficult weeks, you can count on
your pet to love you unconditionally and help you feel less alone.
5. Caring for an animal provides a sense of purpose each day.
Having a pet can be very therapeutic, as caring for an animal adds a sense of meaning
and structure to each day. Knowing that you’re needed and relied on can keep you
going even when your anxiety makes you want to hide from the world.
Selecting the Right Pet for You
If you are thinking about getting a pet to reap these benefits on your mental health, it is important to take the time to consider which would be the best fit for you. Factors to consider include how much time you can devote to a pet, costs of food/supplies/veterinary care, the amount of space in your home and potential allergies.
While pet ownership is very fulfilling, it is also a responsibility not to be taken lightly.
Therefore, you want to make sure you are ready for the commitment of having a pet
whatever type of animal you select.
The takeaway Having a pet can be very calming and an effective source of stress relief for those who live with anxiety. Caring for an animal can boost physical and mental wellness by promoting physical activity, providing social support and a sense of purpose. Take the
time to do further research if you are considering pet ownership for the many positive effects it can have on your life.