I’m walking toward the door of my apartment building. I’m heading out to do a few errands. I hear a familiar female voice. I go around the corner, and sure enough, there’s my favorite pug, Homer, and his mom! She and I chat for a few minutes while Homer happily accepts my ear scritches.
While I’m normally a little anxious around people I don’t know well, I’ve often find it easy to talk to other pet parents. The presence of a pet takes the focus off me, which reduces my anxiety and allows me to have enjoyable conversations with friends and strangers alike.
Though I do not have Social Anxiety Disorder (also known as social phobia), pets can be tremendously helpful for those who do.
What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
The most prominent feature of social anxiety disorder is an intense persistent fear of situations where one might be judged, evaluated, or scrutinized, such as being on a job interview, answering a question in class, public speaking, meeting new people, or asking someone for help in a store.. Those who have social anxiety may have trouble eating or drinking in public or using a public restroom. People with social phobia tend to try to avoid social or performance situations. When avoidance isn’t an option, someone with social anxiety disorder experiences a great deal of fear.
How Pets Can Help Someone with Social Anxiety Disorder
People with social anxiety can benefit from pets in many ways.
Pets Give You a Reason to Get Out: Dogs, specifically, are likely to help you get out of the house more often, even when you may not feel like doing so. Dogs, like us, need regular exercise for their physical and mental health. It’s hard to say no to your dog when he’s looking at you with those eyes, begging you to go out for a walk.
Exercise is good for human and dogs alike. Not only does exercise benefit us physically, it also benefits us mentally. Exercise increases endorphins and serotonin in the brain, which lifts mood and reduces feelings of anxiety.
Pets Can Boost Self-Esteem and Confidence: One of the greatest things about pets is that they love humans unconditionally. Your pet doesn’t care if you’ve made a mistake, if you got the answer wrong in class, or if you had a bad day at work. Our pets love us just as we are. The unconditional love of a pet can boost self-esteem and confidence.
Pets Are Good Ice Breakers: Pets make great ice breakers. You might be surprised how many people smile, say hello, or even start a conversation with you when you’re out walking your dog or at a pet-related event. Though it might sound anxiety-provoking to have people stop you and start conversations, the best part is that these people will be more focused on your pet than they are on you. Many pet lovers enjoy sharing stories of their pets with others. Bonding over pets is a great way to make new acquaintances and friends.
Dogs Can Help You Stay Safe: A specially-trained psychiatric service dog is trained to help someone with social anxiety disorder in social situations. A psychiatric dog can sense your anxiety and get you to a safe place before you become overwhelmed. He can also act as barrier, standing between you and another person to give you more personal space. These specially-trained dogs can also remind you to take your medication and call 911 for you using a K9 rescue phone. Additionally, these dogs provide pressure therapy, putting the weight of their body on your abdomen and lap to provide physical and mental relief from anxiety.
Little Angels and Midnight Sun Service Dogs are two organizations that offer psychiatric service dogs for people with social anxiety disorder.
It’s important to note that a pet won’t cure social phobia. However, along with other forms of treatment, such as medication, psychotherapy, and breathing exercises, a pet can make facing social situations easier for those with social anxiety disorder.
Sierra M. Koester has been writing in the pet space since 2006. She runs the blog Fur Everywhere. She joined the awesome team at The Cat Blogosphere as Content Manager in June, 2022. She is currently working on editing her upcoming anthology, Purrseverance, a collection of stories about cats who have overcome challenges in their lives from their perspective. Sierra’s home is ruled by her two special needs cats, Carmine and Tylan, who are the center of Sierra’s world.
1 thought on “Four Ways Pets Can Help Somone with Social Anxiety Disorder”
My parents say I am the glue that holds the family together. I don’t know about that, although sometimes I step in sticsky and trail it around the house