Service Dog Registration Of America

What Mental Illnesses Qualify for a Service Dog?

2022-05-12

Emotional support animals have been in the spotlight for several years, but they aren’t the only ones that can assist with mental and emotional disorders and disabilities. Psychiatric service dogs can help, too. 

These animals undergo training to assist people with disabilities that hinder them from performing essential tasks like crossing the street and collecting their mail.

While many people assume service animals only assist with physical disabilities, they are also widely used among people living with mental illness. These psychiatric service dogs go through intensive training to supplement people's limitations.

Not just anyone can own one of these animals. You have to have a qualifying illness or disability to secure a trained dog. To find out what mental illnesses qualify, read on through this guide.

Depression

Current estimates suggest that 84% of service dog owners have them because of depression. Clinical depression is a serious psychiatric disorder that induces persistent feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and emptiness. Other reactions, like anger or irritability, are also overlooked symptoms of depression. 

For many, depression and chronic depression are not standalone conditions. They can develop out of other physical and mental conditions that isolate people from the world.

With isolation comes depression, but no one has to be alone. Getting a service dog can help those with depression in many ways. They can nudge or paw their owners to pull them out of depressive spirals. They can encourage their human companion to open the blinds and windows to let in fresh air and sunlight and be a constant, needed companion.

Chronic Anxiety

According to the American Psychiatric Association, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses. Those who struggle with anxiety may feel plagued by the inability to do anything they need to do.

Service dogs can help those with anxiety. They can go through training to pick up on symptoms of anxiety attacks before they even begin. They can also retrieve medication if the owner is too anxious to retrieve it themselves and apply physical pressure to the anxiety attack sufferer. 

These incredible animals can learn various tasks that bring a sense of calm and comfort.

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is one of the most debilitating mental illnesses. Sufferers can see hallucinations, suffer delusions, have disorganized speech and behavior, and even be prone to violence, whether self-inflicted or outwardly inflicted. 

Those diagnosed with schizophrenia can use service dogs to ground them back into reality. The animal can provide a sense of stability, routine, and trust. Dogs are creatures of habit, and they can help those with schizophrenia build their own set of habits which can help stave off symptoms of the illness.

Bipolar Disorder

Formerly known as manic depression, those who suffer from bipolar are prone to mood swings and emotional volatility. 

Service dogs can support those with bipolar by warning others to give the owner space. Sometimes a bipolar episode is depressive and withdrawn, but other times, it's manic and unpredictable. In the event of the latter, a service dog can help its owner claim the space they need to ride out an episode. 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a condition where unwanted, intrusive thoughts compel a person to think, say, or do things they don't necessarily want to do. It is a condition that can induce a lot of anxiety and depression.

Service dogs can help address the main symptoms of OCD, which are irrational fear, difficulty tolerating uncertainty, needing things to be orderly and symmetrical, and self-harming thoughts. 

Just being in the presence of a service dog can help calm the owner. OCD sufferers take medication, so a service dog can remind the owner to take their dose on time and help ground them when symptoms become too much.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Those who have suffered traumatic incidents can develop a condition known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The symptoms are anxiety, heavy breathing, accelerated heart rate, and reliving the traumatic incident.

Service dogs can detect oncoming episodes and offer comfort to offset the intense bouts of anxiety. They also help lead their owners out of internal spirals by encouraging them to go outside, walk and play. They can also communicate the owner's needs to others in public settings. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Service Dog?

As defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service dog is an animal that has gone through specialized, individual training to perform tasks or work for individuals diagnosed with a disability. 

Service dogs are different from emotional support animals, which don't require training or certification. ESAs also don’t have to receive accommodations to enter public businesses like restaurants. 

Service dogs receive these protections under the ADA because their owners need them to navigate the world and do essential tasks.

Do I Have to Register My Service Dog?

Service dogs can benefit from registration if you want to keep up to date with legal changes that may positively impact your companion animal.

Registration is a simple process, but your dog must undergo training and testing in order to be considered a true service dog. Speak to your veterinarian or find an organization that focuses on how you can begin training your dog to become a service animal.

Can I Fly With My Service Dog?

Recently revised rules from the Department of Transportation state that while emotional support animals are no longer allowed on flights, but service dogs are still a protected class. 

There are regulations you must abide by when traveling with your service dog. They must not use the bathroom while on a flight, and they can't be let off leash or out of their kennel. They also can't pose a threat to other passengers. 

Getting the Help You Deserve

If you or someone you know is living with a mental illness that makes life difficult, look into getting a service dog.

These animals can act as companions, help improve motor functioning, and encourage speech in those with speech difficulties. Do your research and find out of a service dog could help you or someone you love today.

If you do qualify, also consider registering your service dog. Doing so will allow you to navigate legal changes with up to date information, avoid uncomfortable questions, and the right knowledge to protect your and your service animal's rights.