It’s well-known that one of the main issues facing veterans is PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a severe anxiety disorder that stems from horrific events that person has witnessed such as terrorism, fires, friends dying, and abuse. PTSD can show itself in a plethora of ways from depression to panic attacks to night terrors and can lead to horrible fates like homelessness and even suicide.
There are countless ways to try and ease the pain of dealing with PTSD and tools like psychotherapy, yoga, meditation, support groups, and now, service dogs are being employed to help.
Service Dog PTSD Tasks – How They Help You
Service dogs can be trained to help veterans suffering from PTSD with impressive tasks that have been proven to create positive results. Because PTSD produces such powerful anxiety, dogs seem to neutralize the patterns of behavior that anxiety seems to intensify in order to re-route neural pathways and create healthier associations with triggers.
Service dogs alleviate the symptoms of PTSD by providing a sense of safety and security, encouraging physical exercise, and harboring a sense of responsibility within their handlers. Plus, service dogs initiate tasks that can become impossible when in the midst of an anxious episode. The simple act of starting the task makes it much more probable that the person suffering from PTSD can follow through.
Service Dog Tasks for PTSD – How They’re Different from Other Service Dogs
Dogs are amazing and can be used as service animals for many people who want to remain independent but need a bit of help. Common reasons someone might have a service dog are due to blindness, physical disabilities, and old age.
Even diabetics can now use the help of service dogs who can sense their insulin levels and alert their handlers when their sugars are too high or too low.
Similarly, service dogs for PTSD are used to help those suffering from PTSD which can take many forms and is often a silent suffering. PTSD service dogs are different to other service dogs because they’re dealing with very subtle changes in a person’s biochemistry versus learning more tactical skills like turning things on and off, helping disabled people cross the road, or assisting with every day interactions.
What Tasks Does a PTSD Service Dog Perform?
So, what are some of the main tasks of service dogs who help people with PTSD? The following are some ways that dogs create healing results for those with this debilitating disorder.
Alert tasks are what they sound like. These tasks involve alerting the handler about anything they might need to know such as reminders to take medication or making the handler aware of high chemical levels in the body.
A service dog for PTSD can sense increases in blood pressure and cortisol which are key elements of a panic attack. Since the dog can let the handler know that they’re experiencing or about to experience a panic attack, the dog can alert family members and get help or the handler can use other tools they have to prevent an impending panic attack.
Interruption tasks are incredibly beneficial for those suffering from PTSD or other anxiety-related issues that are sometimes unconscious or detrimental.
Often, those with PTSD experience painful flashbacks and have intense memories that can increase their anxiety.
Also, since anxiety usually takes over the mind and creates less-than-ideal behavioral patterns, interruption tasks literally interrupt those actions giving the logical part of the handler’s brain a moment to catch up and can usually stop those harmful behaviors before things go too far.
For example, a PTSD service dog will be trained to interrupt a flashback, nightmare, panic attack, self-harm, violent behavior, isolation, and other repetitive behaviors.
Instead of movement tasks like picking up the newspaper or turning on a light, PTSD service dogs use movement tasks to help in crowded areas as well as making sure the “coast is clear”. These are meant to add to the overall feeling of safety the handler gets from the dog.
Many with PTSD will feel triggered in crowded areas from people coming up behind them unexpectedly or from loud noises. Really, anything unexpected can set off a person suffering from PTSD. Therefore, service dogs can act as a protective barrier in public areas and ensure there’s nothing unsafe about anywhere new the pair might be going.
Guide tasks are the follow-up to the movement tasks we just discussed. As opposed to a seeing-eye dog, service dogs for PTSD use guide tasks to lead their handler away from stressful situations, crowded and triggering spaces, and away from sources of potential panic attack triggers like sirens or fireworks.
If a handler is experiencing an episode from their PTSD, these service dogs are also equipped with the knowledge of how to call emergency services if the dog is unable to truly help.
Call tasks might include calling 911, a therapist, or a suicide hotline in order to best serve the handler in crisis.
As you can see, with these absolutely incredible PTSD service dogs, veterans can rely on tasks like the ones described to help create huge differences in their lives. Dealing with PTSD might never fully go away, but with the right tools to deal with these painful anxieties by breaking the patterns as they start, service dogs can hopefully help PTSD sufferers find security and companionship in a way that allows them to move forward into a happier and healthier future.