In October 2019, San Francisco 49ers adopted the NFL’s first-ever emotional support animal—Zoë. It’s a great decision to help players manage anxiety and stress related to the game. Researchers have found that living with an emotional support animal can help patients with mental illnesses such as anxiety. As a result, the number of mental health patients applying for an ESA letter has increased over the past few decades.
Actually, pets provide love, comfort, and companionship, thus managing symptoms of anxiety sufferers. There’s no surprise that almost all pet owners consider their pets as family members. And, pet owners are happier and live longer than non-pet-owners.
According to a 2016 survey, 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvement with animal-assisted therapy. And, 75% of them confirmed improvement in the mental health of their family members or friends from pet ownership.
Let’s discuss how having an emotional support animal can help you manage symptoms of anxiety. Also, we will shed light on how to get an ESA letter online, how much does it cost, and more.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is one of the most common mental illness among Americans. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, this condition affects 40 million adults aged 18+ i.e. 18.1% of the US population every year.
Some of the common symptoms of anxiety include-
- Excessive worrying
- Weakness and lethargy
- Rapid heart rate
- Heavy sweating
- Trouble sleeping at night
- Breathing problems
- Tense muscles
Anxiety can interfere with a patients’ ability to function in everyday life. They usually struggle meeting deadlines, managing staff, and making new friends because of the fear of judgment & rejection.
How Animal-Assisted Therapy Works?
Before we discuss how can an ESA help in managing anxiety symptoms, let’s first discuss what is an emotional support animal?
An ESA is an animal, which provides comfort and love to help its owner manage emotional/psychological symptoms. You can make any animal emotional support animals, such as dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, hedgehogs, rats, ferrets, mice, etc. ESAs can be of any age and so puppies and kittens also qualify.
In anxiety sufferers, loneliness is one of the most common contributing factors. Having an ESA at home can help in getting off any feelings of loneliness, making the patients feel good.
When with your pet, you don’t have enough time for those negative thoughts. This is because you’re busy grooming, feeding, walking or playing with your support animal. No negative thoughts mean no anxiety.
Pets are natural stress relievers. Spending time with your emotional support dog or cat can help you feel happy and relaxed. Animals can change the way how you react to stressful situations, thus improving your quality of life.
Insomnia and other sleep disorders also contribute to anxiety. An ESA can help you sleep better by providing comfort, sense of security, and reducing nightmares.
What Studies Have to Say?
It’s clear that pets can help humans improve mental health. This applies to pet owners suffering from mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, etc. Here’s what studies say-
- According to a 2009 study, living with a companion dog can help reduce anxiety levels in elderly residents for the long term.
- A 1991 study found that dogs helped women regulate autonomic stress.
- In 2001, a study confirmed that pet owners had lower blood pressure levels and heart rates. And, they performed better in psychological & physical stress and recovered quickly.
Prescription Medications vs Emotional Support Animals
For treating anxiety, there’s a wide range of prescription medications available. The common ones are—
- SSRIs (citalopram, escitalopram & fluoxetine)
- SNRIs (duloxetine & venlafaxine)
- TCAs (amitriptyline, imipramine & nortriptyline), and
- Benzodiazepines (alprazolam, chlordiazepoxide, diazepam & lorazepam)
Although these medications can help in encompassing feelings of worry and fear, they can have several unpleasant side-effects.
Animal-assisted therapy is a natural, effective treatment for anxiety, and is often prescribed by mental health professionals.
Why is it Important to Apply For an ESA Letter?
In the United States, pet owners have to face a lot of problems when finding a rental apartment. Additionally, they have to pay hefty pet travel fees to fly with their lovable pets. For example, one-way pet travel fees by airlines are-
- Delta Airlines- $125
- JetBlue - $125
- United Airlines - $125
- American Airlines - $125
- Alaska Airlines - $100
Getting an ESA letter provides full freedom to enjoy animal-assisted therapy. You can fly with your lovable emotional support dog without paying any pet travel fees.
Additionally, you can live with your support animal in a rental apartment, even in no-pet regions, without paying any monthly pet deposits. To avail this facility, you need to provide your landlord with an ESA letter for housing signed by a licensed therapist.
How to Get an ESA Letter
To get an ESA letter, you need to talk to a licensed mental health professional. For verification purposes, the professional may ask you questions about your conditions, and may also ask you to submit your medical history.
Always be open to discuss your condition, and answer all the questions honestly. After you are approved, you will receive an ESA letter. To ensure you get a legitimate letter, make sure ESA prescription is on the official letterhead and contain details such as date of issue, name, license number and signature of the therapist, etc.
Who can write an ESA letter?
To get an ESA letter, you must visit a licensed mental health professional. The professional can be a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist who is authorized to issue emotional support animal letters to patients with mental illnesses.
Can I Get an ESA Letter Online?
The advancement in technology has made the lives of people a lot easier. With telemedicine services, you can obtain an ESA letter within a few minutes. You do not need to book an appointment, visit a therapist’s office, and wait for hours for your turn. Here's the complete process on how to get an ESA letter online-
- Sign up an account online
- Talk to a licensed therapist through HIPAA-compliant platform
- Receive your ESA letter in PDF format through the email
How Much Does an ESA Letter Cost?
An ESA letter costs $89.9—less than one-way travel fees. As support animals are allowed to fly and live with their owners, you need to provide a separate letter to avail of each facility. However, you can also get a 2-in-1 ESA letter for housing and travel for just $119.9.
Anxiety can interfere with your relationships and ability to function in everyday life. Negative thoughts and loneliness reduce your self-confidence and increase stress levels. To control your anxiety levels, you can get various medications such as SSRIs, SNRIs, TCAs, and Benzodiazepines. But, these medications can cause side-effects such as headaches, weight gain, etc.
Medical studies have found that having an emotional support animal at home can help you manage anxiety symptoms such as loneliness, stress, and excessive worrying. Animal-assisted therapy is based on the fact that being around with pets can provide you with love, comfort, and companionship, thus managing mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and stress.
By converting your pet into an emotional support animal, you can avoid the common pet restrictions such as living or flying with your emotional support animal.
Talk to a licensed therapist to get your ESA letter today!