How do animals help treat depression?
The problem of depression is spreading around the world at an alarming rate. In the United States alone, the number of patients with this diagnosis has increased by 33% since 2013. It is scary that severe depression is quite difficult to cure. That is why, in search of alternative ways to help such patients, doctors came to the conclusion that animals can become a supplement to traditional psychotherapy.
In an article posted in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, scientists said pets helped cope with the symptoms of severe depression.
The study involved 80 people, 33 of whom agreed to take the animals home. 19 patients got a dog, 7 - two dogs and 7 more - one cat each. All the people participating in the experiment showed no progress in the fight against depression for 9-15 months of regular sessions with a psychotherapist and taking antidepressants.
Of the 47 people who refused to have a pet, 33 formed a control group. During the 12-week experiment, all patients, as before, took medication and attended therapeutic sessions.
During the experiment, all participants underwent psychological testing to assess their condition. It took 12 weeks to notice a big difference between the experimental and control groups.
All people who followed the recommendation to get an animal showed an obvious improvement and a decrease in symptoms. More than one third of all got rid of depression.
However, none of the patients who refused a four-legged friend showed significant improvements.
“The explanation for this result may be that the animal in the house helps to cope with anhedonia, the constant companion of depression,” said one of the authors of the experiment.
Anhedonia manifests itself in the fact that the patient does not get pleasure from what he liked before, for example, from playing sports, hobbies or communicating with people. A pet, on the other hand, forces a person to interact with the outside world, engage in something new and go out into the street.
Of course, hoping for a cure only with the help of animals is not worth it. During this experiment, patients continued a course of psychotherapy.
Of course, research cannot be called impeccable. One of the drawbacks of the experiment is that the sample was not random. Therefore, the effect here can be observed only on people who love animals and themselves agreed to have them, and also had temporary and financial resources to do this.