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The Best Therapy for Treatment-Resistant Depression? Adopt a Pet


Depression is a mental illness that afflicts seven percent of Americans. And for those who suffer from it, traditional therapy or medication cannot always alleviate its wide range of symptoms.

The unfortunate fact is that with any mental illness, there aren’t simple or clear-cut solutions that work for everyone.

However, thanks to the work of a Portuguese study conducted by two psychiatrists, there might be one solution that you won’t find in any pharmacy: A furry friend.

In a recent study published in the journalScientific Research,researchers found that individuals who had adopted a pet found relief from their depression in just four weeks after adoption. Impressive!

One of the reasons that could explain our results is that pets compel to counteract one of the main symptoms of depression anhedonia. Anhedonia is the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable, for example, exercise, hobbies or social interactions, the researchers wrote.

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Pets Appeared to Completely Heal Depression in One-Third of Participants

The study was conducted at the Medical-Psychiatric Clinic in Porto and evaluated 33 depression patients who hadnt responded to treatment.

Participants had previously undergone 9 to 15 months of interventions that included regular therapy sessions, as well as at least two courses of antidepressants and prior to the study, none of the individuals had owned pets.

At the suggestion of their doctor, participants adopted the following pets:

  • 18 took in a dog
  • 7 took in two dogs
  • 8 took in a cat

During this 12-week experiment, the participants still continued with therapy and medications. Their depression symptoms were monitored throughout the study by asking the individuals about their mood, sleep patterns, sex drive and suicidal thoughts. Any changes in symptoms were compared to 33 depression patients who didnt own a pet and the results that researchers discovered were promising.

Participants had experienced significant improvements in social functioning and depression symptoms. Moreover, one-third of them got so much better that they no longer met the criteria for a depression diagnosis. Conversely, none of the 33 patients who were not pet owners had a meaningful reduction of their symptoms.

Also to note, both males and females responded similarly.

The researchers even added that dogs are especially helpful for depression because they increase physical activity and promote the socialization of their owners.

Further studies are needed to confirm the findings and determine why pet ownership reduces depression, said the researchers.

Pet Presence over Antidepressants

Antidepressants can have some serious physical side effects and in the worst cases, cause more harm than good.

While in contrast, pet ownership is less complicated, carries no health risks and comes with side benefits.

Although the study doesnt prove that having a pet can decrease depression, it adds to other research that shows caring for pets offers an array of health advantages.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that pets can increase happiness, lower stress and decrease loneliness, as well as reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors of blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol.

In other words…pet ownership is good for physical, mental and emotional health!


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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