Roughly 7-8% of the U.S. population will develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in their lives. A staggering amount of these people are veterans who are left to cope with life following combat.
Although this condition may seem hopeless to some, the relief may lie within our favorite support creatures, man’s best friend for ages: dogs.
A PTSD service dog can provide a number of benefits to veterans who are suffering from PTSD. Read on for our list of 5 miraculous benefits of a PTSD service dog.
What is PTSD?
PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a psychiatric disorder resulting from witnessing or participating in a traumatic event. Those who have this disorder find it difficult to cope with everyday life following the trauma, often leaving them unable to return to work and other normal activities. In severe cases, it can lead to suicidal thoughts or even actions.
PTSD Statistics Among Veterans
Those who have served in combat for the military are especially vulnerable to developing PTSD, as many find the terrors of the battlefield to be a seriously traumatic experience.
In terms of statistics, the actual amount of veterans with PTSD varies by the era in which they served. For example, as much as 20% of those who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) suffered from PTSD afterward.
Suicide is also common among veterans. From 2008-2016, veteran suicides were occurring at a rate of about 6,000 per year. These are truly troubling statistics and many veterans are still going without the support they need.
PTSD Service Dogs: A Necessary Support
Veterans who suffer from PTSD are often left with inadequate support to deal with their condition. However, many could benefit from taking in a PTSD service dog to help them cope with symptoms of depression and anxiety.
A PTSD service dog is specially trained to help deal with the life-altering effects of PTSD. Their benefits can be truly miraculous and, in some cases, life-saving.
Benefits of a PTSD Service Dog
1. Unconditional Love
Unconditional love is a well-known benefit for dog ownership in general, but this holds even greater benefits for veterans with PTSD.
Dealing with the emotional impact of PTSD is extremely difficult to do, especially alone. Although some veterans have the support of their family and friends, this might still not be enough to cope with their pain.
Dogs carry the amount of unconditional love that most humans can only aspire to have. They feel the pain of humans and offer unwavering, unselfish support, no matter what. It’s why they make wonderful pets and, more importantly, wonderful animals for emotional support.
With the unconditional love of a PTSD service dog, veterans suffering from PTSD can readily face the struggles of life following combat. In many cases, they are able to stay grounded and lean on their animals during their time of need. The benefits of this unconditional love are truly miraculous.
2. Reduced Costs for Medical and Psychiatric Care
Having a PTSD service dog means a veteran is more able to cope with their emotional trauma. Along with unconditional love and support, these dogs can also be trained to assist in a variety of tasks, including taking medication and overcoming emotional episodes.
Because of the first-responder support of a PTSD service dog, veterans can rely less on medical professionals in general. For instance, if a veteran is suffering from an anxiety attack or emotional breakdown, their trained animal is often able to provide the care that is needed. As a result, they can help dramatically reduce medical costs for veterans who suffer from PTSD.
3. Lowered Suicide Risks and Mental Breakdowns
Veterans who suffer from PTSD often face dark emotions and racing thoughts that can feel neverending. They can feel alone and worthless, with no true purpose in life.
These racing thoughts often lead to even darker places, such as contemplating suicide as a means of escaping it all. In other cases, the emotional trauma is so overwhelming that they can suffer from multiple mental breakdowns as a result.
Because these devastating conditions are so common among veterans, there are a few things to consider here. Most commonly is this: are these veterans receiving the support they need? There must be something that can reduce the hopelessness they are faced with every day.
Sadly, many veterans don’t have the support they need when they return to regular civilian life. Combat veterans have been shown to be much more likely to divorce or separate following deployment. Not to mention the harmful effects of their emotional trauma on their relationships with family and friends.
A PTSD service dog combats this loneliness, providing a loving companion to support the veteran and remove some of the burdens from their loved ones. In many cases, the unconditional love from the dog can provide them with the support they need to maintain healthy relationships and lead a normal life.
4. Reduced Substance Abuse
When attempting to cope with everyday life following the traumas of war, many veterans turn to drugs, alcohol, and other illicit substances. This can quickly turn into an addiction, which can have a devastating impact on their ability to lead a normal life.
In many cases, addictions happen when someone who is in pain, whether physically or emotionally, is not receiving adequate support. Left to their own devices, they turn to these substances as a means of relief.
With a PTSD service dog, veterans who are dealing with PTSD never have to feel alone. They have the company and support of a loving companion to help them stay clean and lead a relatively normal life, despite the emotional pain they may be going through.
5. Ability to Return to Normal Activities
With the support of a PTSD service dog, many veterans are able to return to everyday activities, such as jobs, taking care of their families, and going back to school. These dogs support their physical needs as well as their emotional needs, helping them to feel less isolated and alone. This renewed sense of independence can help restore a decent amount of normalcy in their lives.
The results of PTSD can be devastating, but they don’t have to take the life of another veteran. A PTSD service dog can provide the support and unconditional love they need to overcome their condition and lead fuller, happier lives.
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