Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood on July 23, 2012

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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Brooke Alexander and thanks for joining us on Spotlight on Bipolar. On this episode, we are talking about pets and bipolar disorder.

We've all heard that dogs are man's best friends. Well, doctors are now finding that dogs and other animals help therapy, too.

Across the country, trained volunteers are finding success with Animal Assisted Activities known as AAA for short.

This program involves bringing docile animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits and even pigs in the hospitals and nursing homes.

Volunteers say interaction with other living creatures helps decrease aggressive behaviors in patients while also improving their social interactions in the outside world.

Animals are also being used at the Mayo Clinic and other institutions as part of more formal therapy sessions known as Animal Assisted Therapy or AAT.

These programs have shown that the presence of an animal can make the therapists and the therapy process seem less threatening to a patient.

Sometimes a person that's extremely depressed doesn't want to talk. A great way to help them through this is to bring an animal into the room

and if you can get this person to discuss how the animal feels, they can start to open up about their feelings and this is a great door opener up for the therapist.

The Delta Society, founded in 1977, is one of the largest organizations facilitating both Animal Assisted Therapy and Activities.

Their pet partners program now offers over 10,000 human animal teams in the US and 13 other countries.

For information on their programs, check out their website at www.deltasociety.org.

Not only are pets helpful in treatment but pet ownership can also bring everyday social and emotional benefits to people with bipolar disorder.

Based on a study of farm life, one prominent mental health journal reported that routinely caring for animals can boost self-esteem and promote confidence.

But occasionally, it gets you to a certain point. It doesn't give you a reason to live. It doesn't get you out of bed in the morning but having a dog does.

By taking a dog out helps take you out of yourself and no other treatment can do that.

In a 2002 survey conducted by the American Animal Hospital Association, 76% of pet owners claimed their pets significantly lowered their stress levels.

And according to experts, low stress are a big plus for managing BP. Pet ownership additionally teaches you to love and care for another creature.

When I first got Ozzy or my furry anti-depressant as I'd like to say, he needed to be walked, he needed to be fed. The only side effect that came was unconditional slobbery love.

And to ensure that everyone can benefit from animal companionship, highly trained therapy dogs are available for special needs pet owners from the ASPCA among other animal organizations.

These therapy dogs can assist people with mental health disorders by reminding you when to take your meds or alerting you to door bells, phones or smoke detectors when you are sedated.

And even recognizing signs of an oncoming panic attack and preventing others from crowding you so that you can calm down.

In many cases, therapy dogs are covered for people with bipolar disorder under the American with Disabilities Act.

To find out if you qualify, visit the ADA website at www.ADA.gov. And that is it for this episode of Spotlight on Bipolar. We'll see you next time.