Updated: Jan 13
One in 16 Australians are currently experiencing depression. That's 6.2% of Australians aged 16 to 85 have experienced an affective disorder in the last 12 months. This is equivalent to 1.16 million people today. One in seven Australians is currently experiencing an anxiety condition.
How exactly do dogs help anxiety, depression, and/or stress? Every individual’s situation is a unique one, of course, and must be assessed carefully for that person’s specific needs. But the possibilities of these incredible and boundless creatures are powerful and can be life-changing — so we’re more than happy to expound on them. While there can be many different solutions to the management of anxiety and depression, all your brain knows about any successful tactic is “it floods me with more serotonin.” Increased levels of serotonin is the key towards easing both anxiety and depression. Luckily, there are more than a few ways to get there. Even more luckily? Hanging out with dogs accomplishes a lot of them.
Research shows that when we pet a dog (or cat), not only is the feel-good chemical (also known as the “love hormone”) oxytocin released (the same one we feel when hugging a loved one), but our levels of the stress hormone cortisol dips. Oxytocin promotes attachment and is thus a foundational element of relationships. For someone struggling with anxiety and depression, this kind of attachment with a dog has the possibility of taking them outside the hopelessness of their anxious or depressed state, and perhaps allowing them to see new hope in a connection with a sweet canine.
As wonderful and supportive as friends and family can be when we’re experiencing the hopelessness of depression and the spirals of anxiety, the primal connection we have with dogs, their upfront expressions of affection, and their more-discernible needs (and expression of those needs), is a kind of powerful, moving simplicity that not only doesn’t pile on to the stresses of life but shows us the potential joys we weren’t able to see before.
As we’ve seen, dogs can be an incredibly powerful part of weaving consistent delight into your day-to-day life: the kind of delight that allays insecurities, calms worry, and lifts your spirits when hope seems elusive. Not only do dogs provide the positive feels you need when you’re experiencing the effects of anxiety and depression, but they validate the presence of emotion — whatever it is — without judgement, and without the unfortunate stigmas that exist in some corners when it comes to mental illness..