Thursday, May 28, 2015

A dog can help a person with PTSD

PTSD is an acronym for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While PTSD might be most associated with military veterans, it can affect anyone who faces a situation larger than themselves. A few examples are car accidents, death of a loved one, robbery, home invasion, working in any type of emergency or medical field, natural disaster... These situation don't have to lead to PTSD, but they can.

They symptoms of PTSD are as varied as the situations that trigger it, but some of the most common include recurring memories, nightmares, sleeplessness, feeling numb, anger, irritability, fear of crowds, a sense of never being safe... Needless to say, this affects both the person afflicted with PTSD, and people around him or her.

Around 7.8% of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. When it comes to military veterans, around 29% of veterans treated at VA medical centers have a diagnosis of PTSD.

To many of these people, dogs have proven invaluable. Dogs pick up on cues humans wouldn't notice, and they're good at sensing when they're needed.

Image from veteranstoday.co
The dogs can be trained to provide assistance, for example fetching things for persons with physical disabilities. They can also be trained to provide personal space for a person who feels uncomfortable in a crowd. The dogs are taught to "cover and block," that is, to stand between their human and approaching people.

Veteranstoday.com points out that some people who don't feel comfortable in crowds might be able to trust their dog; dogs are great observers of their environment and normally perceive tangible danger before people. If the dog with its keen senses is relaxed, the danger might not be there.

People come in all shapes and sizes, and the service dogs do too. A tall person uncomfortable in crowds might need a taller service dog than a shorter person. Some dogs might be trained differently than others. It's important to match the right dog with the right human!

PTSD might not be visible, but it is real. It's not about what's wrong with a person; it's about what happened to a person. If you want to learn more, I recommend A Spouse's Story on Facebook. This is a great community with information, opportunities to discuss, and practical advice. Bec who runs the page is a dog trainer, and writes many useful posts and notes about service dogs and PTSD.

Here are some more good pages:


~ Maria Sadowski ~

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