Veterans deserve our thanks and appreciation for all they do for our freedom. Not only do veterans dedicate years away from their family and loved ones and put themselves in physical danger, but they often suffer mental and emotional trauma as well. A common impact that war has on veterans who serve in combat is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Veterans and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 11-20% of veterans that served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom suffer from PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that can develop when an individual is exposed to a traumatic experience, such as the tragedy of war. Someone with PTSD will keep reliving the experiences, will have nightmares about them, and will have difficulty dealing with their emotions or feel a numbness of emotions.
This disorder is becoming more recognized, and experts are working to find better ways to treat PTSD. One non-traditional method is canine therapy. Service and therapy dogs are used in many instances to help humans through some physical or emotional challenge. Recently the philosophy of dogs helping people has been applied to cases of PTSD and other mental health issues that veterans are faced with. Dogs help patients relax and open up about their feelings, and dogs provide unconditional love and trust that individuals suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder often need.
The Benefit of a Canine Companion
Not every person is a dog person, but for many veterans who have suffered with mental health disorders, canine therapy is very beneficial. Dogs do not judge, something that is very important to an individual who feels beaten down by their emotions. Dogs are protective and vigilant, which helps to calm those who have flashbacks and nightmares of traumatic events. Most importantly, dogs are trusting and they love unconditionally, which helps individuals with anxiety disorders learn to build a greater trust and bond with their loved ones again.
While the use of canine companions as therapy for PTSD is a relatively new practice, people have been experiencing the benefits of a canine companion for their mental health issues for centuries. As more and more therapists and treatment programs begin to use these dogs for therapy, they are seeing the many ways dogs can help humans.