How Do You Know If You Need an Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional Support Animal

If you have a pet, you know that they provide you with unconditional love, support, and loyalty. While the differences between an emotional support animal (ESA) and an animal that gives you support are slim, you’ll need to legally qualify for an ESA to take them to public places.

You’ll also need an ESA letter if you want your pet to live in apartments, condos, or co-ops that don’t normally allow pets and to transport small ESA’s in a carrier on some airlines. 

How to Know You Need an Emotional Support Animal

To get a legitimate ESA letter, you’ll have to speak to a medical professional to determine if you need an emotional support animal as a part of your therapy. At CertaPet, there is a useful guide and online application form you can use for application.

Need an Emotional Support Animal

Do you Experience Mental Health Issues?

Mental health disorders that cause significant chronic pain or cognitive distress may qualify you for an emotional support animal. You have to speak to a psychologist and receive an official diagnosis before you can ask for an ESA letter, which is then used to apply for an ESA.

Psychologists won’t typically ask if you want to proceed with animal-based therapies, so you’ll have to ask them yourself. It’s rare that a mental health professional will deny you an ESA letter, but it can happen even for severe conditions. We recommend getting a second opinion.

Do You Have Severe ADHD, OCD, or Autism?

ADHD, OCD, and Autism are characterized as complex neurodevelopmental disorders with several similarities. All of these disorders result in executive dysfunction, poor working memory, rejection sensitivity, intense emotions, sleep problems, hyperfixation, and stimming.

Adults who experience any of these disorders will typically qualify for an emotional support animal, even if they’re medicated. An ESA can help adults reduce obsessive related behaviors, calm them when they’re experiencing difficult emotions, and make them feel less alone.

Do you Have PTSD or Depression?

Chronic depression and posttraumatic stress disorder have similar symptoms, such as irregulated moods, irritability, detachment, restlessness, and suicidal ideation. Depression primarily takes hold without warning, but PTSD often results from a traumatic incident.

Remember: a traumatic incident doesn’t have to include near-death experiences or abuse. Just about anyone can have a trauma response that causes them to have flashbacks or avoidance behaviors. Either way, ESAs can help both patients manage triggers and/or negative emotions.

Are you Experiencing Cognitive Decline?

Non-Alzheimer-related cognitive decline can happen to anyone, but it’s more common with the elderly or those with mental disabilities. Cognitive decline that makes remembering or finishing daily tasks difficult may benefit from an ESA because they require you to be ever-present.

Caregiving can increase your mental faculties, but people who forget to complete daily tasks, like eating or bathing, may need to undergo further testing or be monitored by a therapist. With the right plan, an emotional support dog can help patients exercise and improve memory. 

Are you Experiencing Extreme Loneliness?

ESAs are known to reduce feelings of loneliness, even in patients that have an incredible support system. Oftentimes, patients will feel uncomfortable reaching out to their friends or family members when they’re experiencing mental health issues, trauma, or loneliness.

Reaching out is an important step to recovery, but if you don’t have anyone to speak to or you’re uncomfortable speaking up, for the time being, an ESA can offer you loyalty. ESAs can also provide you with unconditional love, a warm heart, and a non-judgemental sounding board.


Anyone who has a learning disability, ADHD, Autism, OCD, depression, anxiety disorder, or intellectual disability may qualify for an emotional support dog. To know for sure, speak to a registered mental health professional, so they can provide you with an ESA letter.


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