We all need emotional support, and sometimes we rarely get it from family and friends because of the scarcity of time or the distance between us. Animals have become a prevalent source of emotional support today. Those that are professionally prescribed by healthcare providers to offer emotional support are known as Emotional Support Animals.
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Among those widely recommended are animals kept as pets such as cats and dogs, and they come in a variety of breeds. Other animals could be used as ESA, too, as long as they make you feel relaxed and help you live with or get over your mental health condition.
1. What is the purpose of Emotional Support Animals?
Emotional Support Animals exist to offer emotional support to people struggling with mental health conditions, ranging from chronic loneliness to severe post-traumatic stress.
ESAs generally have more rights than other animals because they have duties to their owners’ mental health recovery process. Yes, they are special, and the law covers them with an extra layer of foil, they on a mission for the good of man, even though they may not know it themselves.
Getting an Emotional Support Animal takes a few procedures. First, you will have to secure an ESA (Emotional Support Animal) Letter from your doctor, which is not as easy as buying candy across the street.
Many people get turned away while seeking it because they might have failed to convince the doctor they needed such support. Mental health is a serious issue, and it cannot be used in pretense to obtain exclusive animal rights and privileges.
2. What is an Emotional Support Animal Letter, and why do you need it?
An Emotional Support Animal Letter is a legal permit provided by a licensed mental healthcare provider (LMHP). Its purpose is to help the patient secure an Emotional Support Animal and safeguard the owner and the animal’s rights.
3. How do you qualify for an ESA Letter?
You will only get this permit if you are certified to be suffering from a mental health condition. Your mental health provider will apply the DSM-5 criteria to diagnose you. A checklist of mental illness symptoms is available in the manual to categorize your type of mental health condition and its severity.
4. Common mental health conditions needing ESAs
Among the commonly diagnosed mental health conditions that require Emotional Support Animals are:
- Bipolar disorder
- Certain eating disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorders
Policemen and women injured in shootouts and army personnel discharged from active duty are on the top of the list of people who seek animals for emotional support to deal with post-traumatic stress.
Are you jealous of your friend next door with a cuddly dog listed as an Emotional Support Animal? Do you feel that you need an Emotional Support Animal to get you through life? Maybe you do. These are tough times, with no judgment.
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Lets’ check out 11 simple tips that we have compiled to help you ask your doctor for an Emotional Support Animal Letter:
1. List Out all Symptoms
You cannot have a mental health condition without symptoms. Your doctor just won’t buy it. Therefore, you have to understand what you are suffering from in great detail; you can’t be flimsy or causal about it or come out as deceptive. List out all your symptoms to your doctor, and it would help if you can provide a document confirming a diagnosis of your specific ailment from a mental health practitioner.
For example, if you are chronically depressed and without much to do, you could talk about the times you felt suicidal and needed support. Therefore, you need something or someone to keep you occupied and out of your depressive mood, and an animal could come in handy.
If you suffer from anxiety, you could talk to your doctor about the nervousness and panic attacks that come with loneliness. In this case, loneliness triggers your anxiety, and getting a companion in the form of an animal would help mitigate it.
You should give a detailed description of your symptoms as possible and don’t hold anything back; it would make it easier for your doctor to understand your condition. Through your symptoms, your doctor would gauge if you need an ESA letter.
Not all mental health conditions can secure you an Emotional Support Animal; in fact, some mental health issues associated with violent episodes could put the very animal who was to assist you at risk.
Once you secure your letter, you can use it for a pet that you already own. It will inadvertently undergo an upgrade with special rights. You can have it on-premises where no pets are allowed. You can take it with you to the barbershop and have it watch as you have your hair cut. If you do not have a pet, you can use the letter to get an Emotional Support Animal of your choice from any animal shelter that offers such services.
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2. Tell your doctor how your pet ‘Pickles’ helps you
If you already own a pet that helps you relax and get rid of negative thoughts, you are a step closer to getting an Emotional Support Animal Letter. After talking about your symptoms, let your doctor know that you have a pet that helps alleviate your condition.
It’s your sidekick through bad times; you two are like batman and robin, the dynamic duo of mental wellness, and you need to take him or her everywhere with you.
For instance, if you are elderly or alone at home, depressed and anxious. You can discuss with your doctor how Pickles helps you by;
- Giving you unsolicited warm cuddles
- Keeping you occupied when you feed and groom it
- Plays with you so that you are not bored to death after watching all the TV and reading all the books
- It understands your moods, and you can feel empathetic towards it, too, as if it was human.
The goal here is to help your doctor understand your friend’s value in your life and through your mental health condition and why it needs an upgrade to an ESA. You are in an interview for your pet, and you cannot afford to fail it.
3. Acknowledge your mental condition
Most people have a mental health condition that they are unwilling to accept, maybe because of its stigma or the commitment therapy demands. Do not live in denial; once diagnosed with a certain mental disorder, acknowledge that you are suffering from it, and that is the first step – acceptance – in the long road to recovery.
After acknowledging, you will be able to discuss frankly with your doctor the treatments and measures you could take to achieve mental health wellness or live a productive life with your condition.
Once your licensed mental health practitioner gets a good idea of your mental state and your awareness, they will be more likely to issue you an Emotional Support Animal Letter upon your request.
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4. Read all about the ESA letter
There’s nothing as off-putting as ignorance in the support, service, or product you seek. If you seek an ESA letter, it is imperative that you research it and its contents or know at length what Emotional Support Animals are and what they do to have an informed discussion with your doctor.
You can go further and explain why you think ESA will be suitable for your mental health condition. Reading about the ESA letter will also help you realize what Emotional Support Animal would be appropriate for you. Your doctor would be more likely to issue you an ESA letter if they find you knowledgeable about using the document and the benefits Emotional Support Animals provide.
5. Don’t be pushy
Your doctor knows best; you have to trust him or her. They will not take it kindly when you appear pushy or fixated on getting an Emotional Support Animal Letter from the information you acquired online or hearsay. You might have the conviction that an ESA would be the right treatment for your condition, and even though you might be right, emphasizing it without an open discussion may come off as aggressive.
Your goal is not to instruct your doctor to provide you with an ESA letter but rather to consult them and convince them why you need one. You can achieve this simply with the following reasonable approach;-
- Mention what you read on the benefits of having Emotional Support Animals.
- Ask your mental healthcare provider if this course of treatment would work well in your case or not. You are seeking their expert opinion, and this lets them know you respect them and their profession.
Share your condition and need for an ESA letter as candidly and respectfully as possible. The chances are very high that he or she just might consider writing you an ESA letter.
6. Visit your doctor before flying
Most pets are not allowed on flights unless they are essential. For example, terrified people are terrified of flying, and only their furry friends can soothe them during a bumpy takeoff, rough landing, or mid-air turbulence. You should talk to your doctor about issuing you with an ESA letter if you plan to take a flight.
To enhance your chances of getting the letter, discuss the trip’s details with your mental healthcare provider, such as how long it would take and why you need your pet with you. For instance, your pet dog ‘Simmba’ keeps you calm when you are anxious about new people or places; you feel a sense of emotional security when you are with him/her.
Talking about your trip schedule and even offering copies of tickets and boarding passes makes your case genuine. There would be no reason for your doctor to deny you an ESA letter.
7. Talking to your doctor about your accommodation
Certain rental accommodations prohibit the keeping or raring of a pet or other animals for whatever purposes. There are always exceptions to these rules that border on health and especially mental health conditions. Emotional Support Animals and service animals can be allowed in any residential area as long as they are certified to provide known benefits or are trained to offer a safe environment around people.
The first step in getting your pet to start living with you in animal restricted zones is to get an Emotional Support Animal Letter from your mental healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor about your mental health condition and inform them of your pet’s benefits to you. If your doctor understands your situation, your chances of getting the letter are greatly improved.
You will need to discuss the mental health condition you are suffering from with your landlord too. Once your doctor issues you with the ESA letter, your landlord will need to see and approve it before allowing your pet to live on their premises.
8. Discuss your feelings of loneliness
If you find yourself alone all the time, that could be a sign of a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, or antisocial personality disorder. Personal space and some alone time are healthy. However, prolonged loneliness leads to a skewed perspective of how we view the world, resulting in rumination and feelings of self-loathing, guilt, and regret.
You need to be out there with people socializing, but what if you can’t do that because of a disability or mental health condition? In that case, you may need a pet to help you combat loneliness until you can get out again.
Talk to your doctor about your feelings of loneliness. Ask them if it would be okay to obtain an ESA letter so that you can have your pet with you most of the time. The chances are that they would understand your feelings if they are genuine.
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9. Talk to your doctor about the adverse effects of antidepressants
Depression is usually treated with antidepressants. They are most effective but are, however, not suited for everyone. Long term use of the drugs can have adverse effects on your organs and especially those with the following health issues; –
- Diabetes type I & II
- Bipolar Disorder
- Kidney disease
- Bleeding issues
Prolonged use of antidepressants can also result in addiction, insomnia, neurotic fits, amnesia, and confusion. If you can find alternatives to antidepressants, you should jump at the opportunity. Lucky for you, one such option is to secure an Emotional Support Animal, which works very well with animal lovers.
Whether you are already on antidepressants or wouldn’t want to suffer the effects of antidepressants, you can still get an ESA. Talk to your doctor about how much you feel having a pet companion with you will help alleviate your depression. If they are convinced that the treatment is right for you, they will have no choice but to offer you an ESA letter. However, do not stop your current medicines without the doctor’s recommendation.
10. Talk about your ADHD
ADHD makes it hard to focus, and therefore students and people with ADHD doing work that requires a lot of attention suffer the most. The condition referred to in full as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder also makes it hard to memorize things. People who suffer from it could be jittery, unruly, and even restless when left alone or in the company of their less-informed peers.
Having an Emotional Support Animal by your side could help you keep calm and focus more on your work or study. Talk to your therapist about the instances you have been able to concentrate on specific tasks with the presence of a family member’s pet or in the company of animals. Let them know the benefits you anticipate through taking your pet with you to work or play. They will be in a better position to grant you an ESA letter.
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11. You can share some knowledge about the ESA letter
Believe it or not, some mental health providers do not know about the ESA letter. It could be for the simple reason that they have not encountered anyone who has asked for it in the course of their practice. (Emotional Support Animals are unheard of in certain places).
Despite this lack of knowledge, they are still authorized to pen one down for you. In this case, it is your responsibility to inform them of the ESA letter’s necessity and what it entails. Share information about the letter from trusted sources and maybe a few examples of how the document has helped people secure Emotional Support Animals and deal with mental health conditions.
While doing this, you have to be respectful and patient because you don’t want to come off as a condescending know-it-all; you share in good faith to help them help you.
Once your therapist grasps the essential benefits of Emotional Support Animals as described by you, they will be grateful for the information you gave them, and they will be more than delighted to issue you with an ESA letter.
5. Benefits of Emotional Support Animals
They supply you with motivation.
Mental health conditions, such as depression, can suck all the energy out of you. You find anything interesting or compelling tasks enough to engage fully. You run out of motivation for work or play. You do not want to go out and try new things or meet new people. It is during such times that you may need an Emotional Support Animal. Family and friends may not understand what you are going through, and they are prone to judge you.
Animals, however, have a level of empathy that is refreshing. They can sense your mood and either mirror it back to you or try to alter it. For instance, dogs can sense your emotional distress and try to shower you with love through licking and to rub their bodies next to yours.
A daily dose of attention from your furry friend is sure to lift you out of your depression and keep you motivated. Your brain will be accustomed to its affection triggering the occasional release of endorphins hormones that make you happy.
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They help boost your self-esteem
People suffer from self-esteem issues in varying degrees; for some, it could be severe, bordering anxiety. With very low self-esteem, even mingling with friends and family becomes a nightmare. You constantly wonder how they perceive you, and your insecurities get the better part of you.
Anxiety arising from low self-esteem could trigger waves of panic attacks when in public. Attending large gatherings or speaking in front of an audience can leave you in a cold sweat, wondering what to say or how to act. You are mostly afraid of looking stupid.
Having an Emotional Support Animal always works to ease the tension when you feel exposed to anxious situations. Over time, the confidence you gather while with your pet friend will help boost your self-esteem.
They offer a sense of security; you are not alone; you have a friend by your side. You have obviously seen people at their work desks with their pets quietly taking a nap beside them or people in public initiating chats with strangers as they carry or hold their dogs by the leash.
They will keep you engaged through physical activity
Animals have the playful energy of a child that never diminishes. Cats can run around the house the whole morning, and the dog can play fetch all afternoon every day of the week. People with certain mental health conditions such as depression have little energy to devote to anything worthwhile. Keeping animals is fun precisely because they get you engaged in physical activity that is good for your mental wellbeing.
Exercise in the course of play with your pets stimulates the release of feel-good hormones throughout your body. The regular release of endorphins keeps depression away.
It does not take much to be physically engaged while with your pet friend. Simply taking your dog for a walk or getting up once in a while to look for your cat in its hiding place and feed it is enough physical and mental stimulation.
Furthermore, an active lifestyle inspired by your Emotional Support Animal would lower your body cholesterol keeping lifestyle diseases at bay.
They help reduce social anxiety
It could be daunting walking alone in pavements and parks and trying to strike a conversation with a total stranger that you find interesting. Socially anxious people have a hard time doing this mundane social activity and prefer to stay indoors instead. Do not bore yourself to death hidden in your room; they’re a lot to live for outside. Consider an Emotional Support Animal to accompany you to your daily walks, runs, or even parties you are invited to quell your social anxiety.
Stepping out with your dog Rex will help shift all the attention away from you and towards your adorable little friend. People would associate the pet’s warmth with you and would likely find you interesting and easy to chat with. Interactions become more effortless and seamless this way. Pets have been proven to reduce social anxiety in their owners. Get one today.
They are great companions
Mental health conditions are associated with a lot of stigmas. When you begin to suffer illnesses such as depression or anxiety and are keen on pills, chats, and recovery, you may push many people away. Nobody wants to associate with a ‘crazy’ person; they simply don’t understand what you are feeling or going through.
Animals, on the other hand, will never judge you; they don’t have the capacity to form negative opinions about you; they simply accept you as you are. Don’t get depressed as you see people distance themselves from you; it is just human nature; get a pet friend instead.
They are not only a friend but a companion to help you get through your worst of times and the best of all; they are low maintenance, only needing food and grooming once in a while. You never know; your pet friend may become your best friend.
After you have had a discussion with your doctor about your mental health condition, they will put you through a few steps before for documentation and procedural purposes.
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These are the three steps of getting an Emotional Support Animal Letter:
Step no. 1: Fill Out the Form.
The first step is to fill out an online form detailing basic information about yourself and your pet. It is okay if you do not have any pets; in this case, the form will focus a lot on your medical history and the nature of your mental health condition.
Step no. 2: Get an Appointment
This step requires you to set up an appointment with a mental healthcare practitioner. You will be granted two choices for an appointment;-
- A walk-in appointment
- Online appointment
You will be at liberty to select any time of the day that fits with your schedule.
Step no. 3: Consultation
This is the final step based on your appointment type: an online engagement or an in-person visit to the clinic. This would be the opportune moment to discuss your mental health conditions with your doctor and explain to them all the signs and symptoms accompanying it.
Your mental healthcare provider will then assess your condition and ask you follow-up questions. They may even conduct some tests to get an accurate diagnosis. Depending on the results and the urgency of treatment needed, they will issue you an ESA Letter.
Questions you may want to know related to Emotional Support Animals include the following;-
Q. What animals can be taken as an ESA?
There are no specific animals that can be considered ESA. It all depends on the patient. Any animal that offers emotional support becomes an ESA by virtue. Although most people may prefer cats and dogs, you could select from a variety; you are not limited. These could include; birds, rabbits, ponies, hamsters, and any other non-threatening animals licensed for ownership.
Q: What laws are put in place to protect the rights of Emotional Support Animals?
There are two of these laws;
- The FHA- Fair Housing Act
- ACCA- Air Carrier Access Act
These laws function to protect people with disabilities and debilitating mental health conditions. They also cover the animals these people seek for emotional support.
Q: Do Emotional Support Animals require training?
The simple answer is no. Unlike service dogs, Emotional Support Animals require no training at all. Their presence and normal routine participation in the patient’s life is enough.
Q: Can I take my Emotional Support Animal to a restaurant?
Restaurants are a no-go zone for animals, period. The security and comfort of those frequenting restaurants are a priority over any mental health condition. However, your pet friend will be allowed in certain stores, residential areas, and college dorms as long as you have the documents certifying that they are ESA.
Q: Can my landlord deny entry and/or accommodation to my Emotional Support Animal?
This is the sole purpose of the ESA Letter. Your landlord is obligated to let your Emotional Support Animal stay with you even if there are rules restricting pets’ ownership on the premises. Simply provide the ESA Letter, and your landlord cannot deny entry to your ESA as specified under the Disabilities Act of 1990.
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You are now equipped with the necessary knowledge to help you obtain the Emotional Support Animal Letter you so badly need. Remember, discuss your mental health condition with your doctor and acquaint yourself with your questions.
Above all, be genuine and respectful in your quest, and you will have your ESA Letter in no time. Have a great time with your Emotional Support Friend and be kind to it.