April is Autism Awareness Month.
“Anxiety is one of the biggest challenges facing individuals on the autism spectrum.”
Pet Dog May Help Reduce Risk of Childhood Anxiety: Study
By Timothy Weesner
Anxiety in children is a normal reaction to stress and can actually be beneficial in some situations, but if it interferes with their day-to-day living, it is time to seek an expert’s help. Anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and phobias, to name a few, are among the most common mental disorders experienced by kids and adults.
Interestingly, having a pet might greatly reduce kids' chances of developing any of the above symptoms. "There is a very strong bond between children and their pets," Dr. Anne Gadomski, a practicing pediatrician and researcher at Bassett Medical Center, Cooperstown, NY, told NBC News, on the basis of a study conducted by her and her colleagues. The study was published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease. "Animal-assisted therapy with dogs affects children's mental health and developmental disorders by reducing anxiety and arousal or enhancing attachment," says Dr. Gadomski.
The study, done in a real-world setting, enrolled 643 children aged four to 10 over the period of July 2012 to December 2013. Prior to the study, a parental survey was done to assess a child's physical and mental health, nutrition, physical activity, apart from difficulties with emotions or social interaction. Among the participants, 57.5 percent had a pet dog, while 42.5 percent did not have any. The study concluded that 21 percent of children without pet dogs scored above 3, indicating a further assessment to diagnose anxiety, while only 12 percent of children with dogs had a score of 3 or higher.
The findings revealed that the presence of pet dogs at home was associated with reduced incidences of childhood anxiety. This companion animal improves a child's emotional and mental well-being and may prevent the evolution of behavioral and mental problems into full-blown mental diseases during later life. According to the researchers, "Because this was a cross-sectional study of associations, a correlational study, no cause or effect can be inferred." "It may be that less anxious children have pet dogs or pet dogs make children less anxious," they added.
What makes dogs so special for kids?
Previous studies suggested that children aged 7 or 8 consider pets as providers of comfort and self-assurance. Pet ownership brings a multitude of positive effects on humans and fosters a calm and happy atmosphere at home.
According to a group of researchers from the Basset Medical Center, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and the Dartmouth Medical School, "If exposure to pet dogs during childhood is inversely related to mental health problems, positive child-dog interactions could prevent the evolution of these problems into full-fledged disorders during adolescence or later life."
A canine companion drives up levels of oxytocin (a neuropeptide that influences social behavior and emotion) and reduces levels of cortisol (a hormone which controls metabolism), which ultimately reduce childhood mental illness, behavioral problems and obesity.
"Social interaction of humans and dogs may also lead to increased oxytocin levels in both the human and the dog. Interacting with a friendly dog also reduces cortisol levels most likely through oxytocin release, which attenuates physiologic responses to stress," the researchers opined in the study.
Path to Recovery
Although anxiety is a normal part of childhood, it can become a serious problem when children experience fear, nervousness and shyness, and start to avoid places and activities. They may also start enduring these problems with anxious feelings, which can manifest as crying, tantrums, avoidance, headaches and stomachaches as they do not usually recognize that their fear is irrational. For more information or if you suspect that your child is suffering from anxiety, it's time to act immediately. Please seek help for your child.
Editors Note: Many children who suffer from overwhelming anxiety, especially in social situations, may have undiagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder, also known as Asperger’s. They may not know how to cope with their anxiety or fears, such as in overwhelming social situations, and may present as having a “tantrum” when they are actually having a uncontrollable meltdown. If this sounds like your child, please seek a diagnosis from a professional. Autism awareness is essential.
This was originally posted in April 2016.
Timothy Weesner is associated with anxiety disorder treatment in Arizona for many years. Anxiety disorder treatment in Arizona provides assistance in finding anxiety disorder treatment recovery centers and anxiety disorder treatment centers in Arizona. For more information or if you suspect that your child is suffering from anxiety, it's time to act immediately. There are some good anxiety disorder treatment centers in Arizona that offer specialized program depending on individual needs. For more information on anxiety disorder treatment in Arizona, call our 24/7 helpline number at 866-425-9317. The experts at Anxiety Disorder Treatment Arizona helpline will be happy to assist you in your child's struggle with an anxiety disorder.
This story was originally published in our April-May-June editions of Paradise Pets Magazine
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