Psychiatric disabilities

There are numerous psychiatric disabilities that would greatly benefit from a psychiatric service dog. It is important to know what the different psychiatric disabilities are and what the ownership of a psychiatric service dog could do to improve the condition.

Bipolar Disorder

Definition

Also referred to as bipolar affective disorder or manic depression, is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a category of mood disorders defined by the presence of one or more episodes of abnormally elevated energy levels, cognition, and mood with or without one or more depressive episodes. The elevated moods are clinically referred to as mania or, if milder, hypomania. Individuals who experience manic episodes also commonly experience depressive episodes, or symptoms, or mixed episodes in which features of both mania and depression are present at the same time. These episodes are usually separated by periods of "normal" mood; but, in some individuals, depression and mania may rapidly alternate, which is known as rapid cycling. Extreme manic episodes can sometimes lead to such psychotic symptoms as delusions and hallucinations.

Symptoms

The following are some of the symptoms for this disorder:
  • Often bipolar is inconsistent among patients because some people feel depressed more often than not and experience little mania whereas others experience predominantly manic symptoms. Additionally, the younger the age of onset—bipolar disorder starts in childhood or early adulthood in most patients—the more likely the first few episodes are to be depression.
  • Because a bipolar diagnosis requires a manic or hypomanic episode, many patients are initially diagnosed and treated as having major depression.

Service dog tasks

The following are some of the many tasks that a service dog can perform for this disorder:
  • Tactile stimulation during phases of distractibility and irritibility
  • Alerting to manic and depressive episodes
  • Licking tears
  • Assisting with memory and daily tasks such as medication reminder and organization
  • Redirection and refocusing during manic and depressive episodes

Autism

Definition

Autism is defined by the Autism Society Of America (ASA) as: "Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities."

Symptoms

The following are some of the symptoms for this disorder:
  • No fear of danger
  • Over or under sensitivity to pain
  • May prefer to be by himself or herself
  • Has difficulty expressing what they want or need - may then try to use gestures
  • May have innappropriate attachments to objects
  • May spin himself or herself, or objects
  • Prolonged repetitive play
  • May insist on things/routines always being the same
  • May display tantrums for no apparent reason
  • An overall difficulty interacting with others

Service dog tasks

The following are some of the many tasks that a service dog can perform for this disorder:
  • Warning the individual of potential danger
  • Calming during tantrums or outbursts
  • Providing a positive attachment to a living animal rather than to an object
  • Interrupting potentially self-destructive behaviors
  • Finding lost objects
  • Providing a structured routine
  • Waking a certain times

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Definition

PTSD is a complex disorder in which an individual's memory, emotional responses, intellectual processes, and nervous system have all been disrupted by one or more traumatic experiences. Some of the causes of PTSD are rape, combat, child abuse, physical abuse, natural or workplace disasters, tragedy, and witnessing a violent crime.

Symptoms

The following are some of the symptoms for this disorder:
  • Night terrors
  • Daydreams
  • Flashbacks
  • Severe startle responses
  • Panic attacks
  • Fear
  • Anxiety

Service dog tasks

The following are some of the many tasks that a service dog can perform for this disorder:
  • Waking from night terrors
  • Calming and redirecting the owner
  • Providing a buffer area between owner and a crowd
  • Turning on a light in a dark room
  • Checking a room or house for intruders before entry
  • Providing comfort for the owner in public situations
  • Balance assistance
  • Medication reminder
  • Locating lost objects and vehicles

Anxiety Disorder

Definition

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common chronic disorder characterized by long-lasting anxiety that is not focused on any one object or situation. Those suffering from generalized anxiety experience non-specific persistent fear and worry and become overly concerned with everyday matters. Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common anxiety disorder to affect older adults. Anxiety can be a symptom of a medical or substance abuse problem, and medical professionals must be aware of this.

Symptoms

The following are some of the symptoms for this disorder:
  • Excessive worrying about an everyday problem for six months or more
  • Problems making daily decisions and remembering commitments as a result of lack of concentration and/or preoccupation with worry
  • Appearance looks strained, skin is pale with increased sweating from the hands, feet and axillae
  • May be tearful which can suggest depression.
  • Before a diagnosis of anxiety disorder is made, nurses and physicians must rule out drug-induced anxiety and medical causes

Service dog tasks

The following are some of the many tasks that a service dog can perform for this disorder:
  • Awaking from sleep disturbance, redirecting handler
  • Leading handler to safe place
  • Refocusing handler from source of panic
  • Calming handler
  • Assistance with memory