These articles will tell you everything you need to know about mental health from the different types of mental health disabilities, to how ESAs and PSDs can assist with a mental health disability. Written by Pettable experts.
September 27, 2023
September 18, 2023
September 27, 2023
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Mental health refers to a person's emotional, psychological, and social well-being, encompassing their ability to manage stress, maintain healthy relationships, and cope with life's challenges. Mental health disabilities are conditions that can affect a person's cognitive, emotional, or behavioral functioning, often requiring specialized support and accommodations to promote well-being.
Mental health encompasses our psychological, emotional, and social well-being, and it impacts the way we feel and act both internally and externally. It includes how we handle stress and trauma, our interpersonal relationships, and our reactions to crises. Mental health disorders and struggles can affect us during any stage of life, from childhood to adolescence, and from adulthood to senior years.
Why is Mental Health Important?
Just as our physical health determines our quality of life and lifespan, mental health challenges can negatively impact all aspects of our overall health. Chronic depression can increase the risk of physical afflictions such as diabetes, stroke, and heart disease, while disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect behavior and lead to self-harm. Simply put, physical and mental well-being are both essential for living a happy and fulfilled life.
Are Mental Disabilities Common?
Mental disabilities are more common, both in the United States and globally, than many people might expect. In fact, mental disabilities are among the biggest health concerns in the US, with approximately 20% of individuals living with mental health struggles. This number is roughly equal for teenagers from 13-18 years old, while about one in 25 Americans lives with major mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and PTSD.
What Causes Mental Disabilities?
Mental health disabilities are caused by many factors, including genetics, trauma, substance abuse, and situational considerations like poverty. Childhood trauma such as physical, psychological, and sexual abuse can significantly contribute to mental health struggles in adulthood. Loneliness, isolation, and abandonment can instigate and exacerbate mental challenges, as can chronic health conditions like physical disabilities or cancer.
How Can Mental Disabilities Be Treated?
Thankfully for those living with mental health problems, there is an array of treatment options that can help. Many find psychotherapy invaluable, providing them with a safe space to process their challenges with a trained and licensed mental health professional. Related treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy are often effective, especially when paired with medication. Psychiatric medication doesn’t cure mental health disorders, but it can help correct chemical imbalances and is most effective when used alongside psychotherapy.
Consulting with Licensed Mental Health Professionals (LMHPs)
Licensed mental health professionals (LMHPs) such as psychologists, therapists, counselors, and psychiatrists all provide unique and useful services to those struggling with mental health disorders. One of the best ways an LMHP can help is by determining the most effective treatment for any given individual. These treatments can cater to the individual’s specific disorder, situational experiences, family history, physical or mental limitations, and much more. Working with an LMHP is always more effective than trying to go it alone.
What are the Different Types of Mental Health Disabilities?
There is a wide range of mental health disabilities that individuals live with; some often suffer from more than one at a time. These struggles can be brief, situational, episodic, or chronic, and in some cases, individuals experience different disabilities in different stages of their lives. Whether the disorder is centered around mood, behavior, capability, or thought, each one causes its own symptoms, challenges, and outcomes — and thus, each one is best diagnosed and treated by a mental health professional. These disabilities include:
Anxiety disorders can encompass a variety of struggles, including generalized anxiety, panic disorder, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and social anxiety disorder. They are often symptomized by extreme nervousness, restlessness, and stress.
Depression is more than merely situational sadness — it’s often a chronic condition with a range of symptoms and outcomes. Clinical depression encompasses feelings of sadness, low self-esteem, and a loss of interest in hobbies, activities, or life, in general. Bipolar disorder includes periods of depression and mania, which includes abnormally elevated or extreme changes in your mood or emotions, energy level, or activity level.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, mostly affects people who have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event or series of events, abuse, serious accidents, terrorist attacks, sexual assault, and more. It is often characterized by extreme feelings of anxiety or psychosis, intrusive thoughts, self-harm ideation, and aggression or threatening behavior toward others.
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Often associated with children and adolescents, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental health disorders affecting young people, and is increasingly being experienced by adults who never properly treated their affliction. ADHD is characterized by inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, and can often obstruct everyday activities.
Similar to anxiety disorder, panic disorder is characterized by frequent and unexpected panic attacks that can be caused by an array of trauma. Panic disorder is often associated with agoraphobia — fear or panic brought on by being in situations one believes they can’t escape.
How Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) & Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs) Can Improve Mental Health
How Can an Assistance Animal Help Improve Your Mental Health?
For many people struggling with their mental health, an assistance animal makes everyday life easier and more bearable. Both ESAs and PSDs can have a significant positive effect on individuals living with the entire spectrum of mental health disorders. These animals can help with everything from performing everyday tasks to relieving the symptoms of depression — they can even intervene in the case of an emergency.
What Do Emotional Support Animals Do?
Emotional support animals, or ESAs, include any domesticated animal that provides love, attention, or affection that helps relieve their mental health symptoms. Although they are not considered working animals and are not permitted in public places, their presence at home can still have great benefits that other treatments can’t provide.
Provide Support and Companionship
Primarily, ESAs provide their owners with the kind of companionship and support that only a pet can offer. Just by way of their presence and attention, their owners can experience relief from many of their mental health symptoms. Sometimes, an animal makes a perfect roommate.
Give You a Healthy Routine
When you have a support animal to take care of, it can provide you with more motivation to take better care of yourself. By encouraging a healthy routine, whether walking your dog, playing with your cat, or feeding your snake, your ESA helps take your mind off of stressors and inspires you to get more physical activity.
No Training Required
Since an ESA isn’t required to perform assistive tasks, it doesn’t require specialized training. Of course, if your ESA is a canine companion, you should consider getting dog behavioral training to ensure that they are easy to control in public.
What Do Psychiatric Service Dogs Do?
Psychiatric service dogs, or PSDs, provide a more specialized kind of service to their owners, rather than general emotional support. They are considered “working dogs,” so they are trained for a purpose and protected by federal laws, so they can accompany their owner in public accommodations such as restaurants, stores, and parks. But they also require specialized PSD training.
Provide Support and Companionship
Like ESAs, PSDs provide affection and companionship that supports their owners and relieves some symptoms of their mental health disorders. The connection between a PSD and its owner is typically even stronger than the bond with a pet, thanks to a mutual need for care. Even better, because of their status as a service dog, they can provide that support and companionship in public spaces, including shopping malls, medical facilities, and public transportation
Perform Tasks to Assist You With Your Disability
The factor that sets PSDs apart from pets and ESAs is that they are trained to perform specific tasks related to your disability. These can include fetching medication, performing deep-pressure therapy (DPT), or intervening in destructive behaviors. Some PSDs can even contact emergency services if needed.
Have to Meet a Minimum Standard of Training
While an ESA doesn’t require any training, PSDs must adhere to a minimum standard of training. Not only does your PSD need to learn specific tasks to aid your mental health symptoms, but it should also have behavioral training to ensure they act appropriately in public spaces.