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Pets: Helping or Hindering?

Amber Kingsley

Ever since our twenty-something daughter was diagnosed as suffering with bipolar depression accompanied by manic episodes and anxiety, I’ve learned volumes about this disease. Some of this knowledge comes from personal experiences, talking with parents, or information from research on the internet.

But as most medical professionals tend to agree, there’s still so much to be discovered about this puzzling disorder. Is it genetic? Does it always come along with the progression of age? Is it connected with other medical conditions? … and many other important queries that research is working on revealing.


Personal Experiences

For example, my aunt recently passed away from complications from bipolar disorder, as did her mother (my maternal grandmother). Yet my much older mother and I don’t seem to be experiencing any kind of symptoms. So it would seem that genetics and advancing age aren’t an issue.

Canine Comparisons

It might seem odd that I’m bringing the family dog into this equation, but there are still some strange associations that should be shared. For example, we have a Norwich Terrier, a breed that’s well renowned for its hunting skills and feistiness on one hand, while having a happy-go-lucky nature on the other. Sound familiar?

As our dog continues to age (ten-years-old now), she’s getting slower, a little hard of hearing and sight-challenged, but overall is still in pretty good health. But those inherent terrier tendencies are also becoming stronger, and more prevalent. Like a “dog with a bone”, sometimes she just won’t “let stuff go.” There are many times in which it seems she’s setting a bad example for our daughter with persistent, unrelenting behaviors; mostly scratching, licking and retaining an attitude problem.

Medical Experts Weigh In

The little dog has been to see the veterinarian on multiple occasions and the doctor insists that our canine doesn’t have a skin condition or other reasons for these unrelenting behaviors, but it still makes me wonder … is she being neurotic or actually suffering from some type of undiagnosed medical condition … could it be that she’s bipolar or is she exhibiting emotional behaviors from being attached to one of her best friends … our daughter?

After more research and some personal experiences, when it comes to the argument of whether or not our cute little doggie is helping or harming our child, the answers are actually quite simple once they’re explored and accounted for individually.

For example:

  • Before our daughter was diagnosed, she would sometimes cry uncontrollably because her homework was challenging. The little dog was quick to console her sensing her depression, anxiety, and frustration.
  • Post-diagnosis, when the dog is concentrating too much on something over simplistic, our daughter is the one who is there to recognize her abnormal behavior and lend a soothing hand and calming voice to assist with the canine’s dilemma.

These are just two examples of why I believe that our dog is actually helping, and not hindering our daughter’s (and our dog’s) progress through life. The first time the dog comforted our daughter (when I was at work), the kid called me very worried and said, “Why is the dog shaking … I don’t understand what’s happening … is she okay?”

I could tell that my child was upset about something and asked if she was alright. She replied that she had been crying due to an adolescent problem with a boyfriend at school. I almost laughed when I heard this type of teenage news and reassured my daughter, “Animals are much attuned to our emotions and she knows you’re upset, and because she loves you, she’s upset too. She’s just trying to help you.”


Service and Giving Goes Both Ways

Even if pets aren’t trained to be service and social support animals, they still understand basic human nature and are always there to lend a helpful “paw” when it comes to problems. They can sense when we’re upset, stressed, happy, sad and a myriad of other emotions.

So the answer to our opening question, whether or not our beloved pet is helping or hindering our child’s bipolar condition, the solution to this query for us is a resounding YES on both sides. How about you? Do you have a pet that’s playing a special role in the emotional, medical, and mental condition and development of you or a loved one?

Please share in the comments below.



I completely disagree that pets help. I have two dogs and all they do is frustrate and irritate me.

I have a pack of rescue dogs. 5 to be exact, some with behavioral issues due to mistreatment. Concentrating on correcting their behaviors takes my mind off of my own. We adhere to a strict schedule which is helpful to all of us. When I am depressed, their needs are what get me out of bed. Sometimes they ARE on my last nerve and that is the excellent thing about crate training. In they go with something good to chew on and we all get a rest from each other.

I Totally Agree With The Article. I am Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder When I Was Young. I Buy A Chocolate Labrador At 45. Right Now Iam 54. It Was A Gift For My Husband But She Make A Bond With Me. I Don't Have Kids And Lunazul Take This Place. She Understand My Signs. She Sleep In Our Bedroom. See TV With Us And Also It Was My Company When My Husband Travel Beacause His Job. I Have To Gave Her Because I Have To Move With My Mom.First Because My.Husband Lost His Job And Because My Mother Have Diagnosed With Alzheimer. I Missed Lunazul A Lot. But When She Was With Me I Fell Alive. Maybe Its Time To Move On And Buy Another Dog. Thanks For Sharing Your Experience. Its Comfort Me. My English Itsnot Very Well. I Didn't Practice So Much. I Speak Spanish.

I was diagnosed with BP when I was about 30. I purchased my first lab about 3 years later & for me it was one of the most helpful things that I have ever done. I was living alone trying to learn & understand more about myself & BP without wanting to get into a relationship with anyone because I was trying to start a relationship with someone when I was hit with my first full blown episode & ran away from that person thinking that they were somehow the cause of my distortive & paranoid thought process. I felt terrible about some of the accusations that I’d made regarding
this woman & a promise that I’d made to her but in my condition there wasn’t any way that I could fulfill such & in my screwed up head I mentioned counseling which I realized later that the best thing for her to do was get away because I’m sure that I probably scared the crap out of her! I’ll get back on track here.
I didn’t want to get involved with anyone else until I felt like I’d be able to do so without the chance of non physically hurting them.
My dog could sense when I was having difficulties & was always there to help & comfort me & in turn I’d do the same. We had many pets when I was young & I always shared a special bond with them not realizing @ that time what the reasoning was, but came to realize many years later that I had difficulties then with depression but had never gone into a full blown manic stage.
I’m sorry about the excess babbling but that’s how my brain functions now.
This first dog was a large reason for me to do my best @ trying to continue on with the most normal life that I could because of the need to provide & also keep up on my responsibilities to/for her. I had to put her down when she was 10 because of cancer & found out that I actually HAD to replace her w/ another & now she has a stepsister so they will have company while I’m away.
My dogs have kept me going in life for more reasons than I could ever list & I know that if possible I will have one or two preferably until my last day.
They help with love & affection, create responsibilities which make you active even when you don’t feel like being so & enable you to show love & affection & get the same in return! Dogs are very intuitive & need provisions that make you needed, learn/have the ability to show love & affection, make you responsible, take your mind off of your problems/situations & multitudes of reasons that help clear your mind.
Sorry about this short story, dogs have helped me survive & are always there for you especially when people aren’t able to be.

I’m a cat person. Dogs actually ANNOY me with all the licking and barking and shitting following you everywhere. I know I sound meant but I can’t stand the smell and under foot all the time. Their actually upsetting to me. So it doesn’t work both ways for some.

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