Author Topic: esa "tasks"  (Read 281 times)

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Offline johnbltz

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esa "tasks"
« on: September 17, 2017, 12:39:34 PM »
tl;dr
Wondering if a dog can be trained to help mitigate two of my symptoms. Anxiety, by helping bring me back down to normal, or close to it. And manic irritability which can lead to self harm, not by stopping me from harming but rather by interrupting and de-escalating an emotional outburst before it gets to that point.


After talking with my therapist about it, I've decided to get as esa. I have some symptoms that I've seen other claim can be mitigated by "tasks" - now whether these are things that would count for a sd or not is up for debate I suppose, but I'm not looking to justify my esa as a psd anyways. I'm just thinking about whether there are things that I can train my esa to do that would help mitigate these symptom. So just to be super clear, I am not looking for "tasks" that I can use to justify my (future) dog as a psd, just wondering if those with experience with either esa or psd have found ways that their animal can help mitigate these symptoms.

The two symptoms that I'm really struggling with that I'm hoping could be mitigated are anxiety and what I call 'manic overload'. My anxiety has recently gotten worse, after waking up to find one of my two pet rabbits dead I had the first full blown panic attack I've had in a few years. Since then I've noticed my general anxiety getting worse. I'm sure some of this is just a result of being more mindful of my body and emotions. Talking with both my therapist and pdoc have helped me realize that a lot of stuff that I always brushed off as shyness and/or nerves are actually anxiety. For several days over the past week or so I've had at least one episode of anxiety so bad that I felt light headed and that tingling/numbness that I feel when having a full on panic attack. Breathing exercises help a little, but really only keep it from escalating rather than calm it down. To make matters worse, as someone with BP and a history of drug & alcohol misuse, benzodiazepines aren't really an option for me.

So the question - is there something that a dog can be trained to do to help bring me back down to baseline, or at least close to it? I've heard of DPT, but it seems like the jury is definitely still out on that as far it helping with anxiety. I've thought about getting one of those pressure shirts, but living in the heat and humidity of Houston TX, I just can't imagine wearing something like that and still being able to function. Has any one tried DPT for anxiety? Does it actually work well?

The other symptom I'd like some help with is the extreme irritability I get when (hypo)manic. My irritability tends to get exacerbated when I find some task difficult or frustrating. As a grad student who spends significant amounts of time dealing with dense, difficult reading, and trying to work with writers block, this can get really problematic for me. In fact, the worse spell of this I've had in a while occurred a few months back while I was trying to get through a particularly difficult text. It got so bad that I self harmed - head banging & hitting - for the first time in a while. When I feel myself getting irritability I often just avoid doing any work because I know it will lead to that overload of emotions that just makes matters worse.

I understand that a dog can't literally stop me from harming myself. That's not what I'm looking for. What I am wondering is if there is anything they could do to interrupt and de-escalate these emotions before they get to that point. Given my job, I can't exactly just take stop what I'm doing and take a break while I try to wait it out, which could take anywhere from a few hours to days or even weeks. Has anyone trained their animal to help mitigate similar symptoms? Have you had any luck?

Offline Azariah

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Re: esa "tasks"
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2017, 01:06:03 PM »
I haven't tried using a dog to calm me when I am in a very anxious state - which is the question your intro asks

Quote
What I am wondering is if there is anything they could do to interrupt and de-escalate these emotions before they get to that point.

I have had success in a human (my husband) and my dogs giving me a signal that I'm getting anxious at a point that is early enough I can still do something about it. I will say that when my human does it right and can stay calm himself (which is difficult around an anxious person) he does a better job than my dog(s). That being said, he can't always be with me when I'm in a situation that potentially has a trigger and it is very nice to be training my dog in this as well.

My daughter is 8. She gets fixated on worrying about particular things that really don't matter but at that moment matter the world to her. It escalates to extreme anxiety. I've also learned that if I can talk to her early on that it can often help her. I use the analogy that hubby and serenity do the same thing for me.

So I think those "interruptors" can work.

Here's the trick with a dog that I'm learning the hard way. You really have to respond to the signal if you want to be fair to the dog. I was at the doctor's the other day with my husband and SDiT. In hindsight I would have left my SDiT at home. We were talking about something that I knew would be emotional. When I got anxious my SDiT gave me the signal to calm down. I wasn't really in a position where it made sense to calm down as I needed to keep talking to the doctor about something so we could come to a decision and I had limited time with him. Poor girl signaled me like 5 times. At home I usually go isolate myself from people and start deep breathing when this occurs. That wasn't an option there and wasn't fair to her at all. So I'd keep that in mind as well - if you are going to train your dog to interrupt you probably need to make sure you can do something about that signal she gives you.

Kind of like a seizure alert. If a dog tells you a seizure is coming you probably should do something about it. I'm thinking the same would be true in this case with the anxiety alert.

Now...it will be interesting when I show with Serenity as I'm always anxious at a show....a few people have brought this up as a potential challenge when showing a  SDiT. Thank goodness out of sight stays are gone as that is where I panic the most.

Invisible physical and mental disabilities.
Advanced experience training obedience dogs. Very new to training service dogs.
Current Samoyeds: Rio (11), Cosmo (3), Serenity (SDiT)

Offline Suse

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Re: esa "tasks"
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2017, 01:52:13 AM »
I learned that when my SD gave me the signal to calm down, that it only worked if I did it! Right then! No matter what.

So for example one time I was supposed to be facilitating a group in a mental health group session. He pushed at me twice. I actually stopped mid-sentence, told the group I had to listen to my dog, and turned away from them and did my calming exercises, and deep breathing. He then lay down and I turned around to talk to the group.  Everyone was looking at me rather weirdly, but I explained that was one of the things he was for (though one of the rather minor things)..

If you ignore the help your dog is giving you they will stop doing it. So, in spite of being embarrassed I do it anyway.

Your dog cannot calm you down. You have to do that. That is why it is so critical to have worked with a therapist/psychologist for a long period of time to get those skills down pat.  I hope someday to be able to recognize when I need to do it myself, and I do occasionally, but no where near as often as my dog lets me know. I just don't seem to be able to stay alert enough.

Offline johnbltz

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Re: esa "tasks"
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2017, 10:17:05 AM »
Thanks for the great feedback guys! Wondering if anyone can point me to resources for training a dog to notice a signal?