It is estimated that 6-14% of all Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) veterans returning from deployments are affected by PTSD; of these individuals, many also suffer from depression & substance abuse. While traditional treatment for PTSD can be effective for some individuals, nonresponse & dropout rates can be up to 50%. For this reason, it is important to create & evaluate complementary treatment options that will help increase retention and treatment engagement. Enter DOGS!
Service dogs can be trained to perform a variety of commands specific to the needs of the individual. These can include things like recognizing & responding to a veteran’s emotional distress or panic, waking them from nightmares, or helping watch their back in public – some dogs can even remind their human that it’s time to take medications! These things, among many others, have been shown to help alleviate feelings of isolation & detachment, & decrease anxious arousal. While there have been reports of improvements when veterans add service dogs to their wellness plan, there was a need for a more quantitative, “sciencey” understanding of how service dogs benefit veterans with PTSD.
In order to gain a more data-driven understanding, researchers from Purdue University used The PTSD Checklist among other surveys to better understand how the addition of service dogs can help veterans. Two groups were provided with traditional treatment for PTSD, while one of those groups also worked with service dogs. For veterans with service dogs, there was a clinically significant reduction in PTSD symptoms; however, the group without service dogs did not experience this symptom reduction. Participants with service dogs also experienced lower symptoms of depression & an improved quality of life.
Service dogs are doing wonders for veterans with PTSD, and organizations like @americasvetdogs and @herodogs are working hard to train and provide service dogs to those who need them. Visit their pages on Instagram to learn more about what they do!
Source: O’Haire, M. E., & Rodriguez, K. E. (2018). Preliminary Efficacy of Service Dogs as Complementary Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Military Members and Veterans. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 86:2, 179-188. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000267
Thank you to @americasvetdogs and @servicedogprince for the wonderful photos of awesome service dogs!