Two faces are looking into the opposite directions.

Service Dog or the Emotional Support Animal: Which One Do You Need to Treat a Bipolar Disorder?

6 min read

Do you feel like you’re desperate and have no motivation to move on? Or perhaps you have lost interest in daily activities? We all have such periods in life. But what if the periods of a bad mood and low spirits go hand in hand with the feelings of intense happiness and agitation? If your mood changes a hundred times per day with no good reason, the chances are that you have a bipolar disorder.

And although we all feel out of order from time to time, some of us need medical help to deal with the symptoms of mental problems. There are many ways to handle the bipolar disorder and getting yourself an assistance animal is one of them. In fact, animal companionship can be exactly what we need to improve our mental health.

But what type of companion animal to choose for this purpose? If you’re in two minds as for whether a service dog or an ESA fits this role better, check out our guide below to make the right choice.

The roles of a service dog and an ESA: What’s the difference?

A human's hand is holding the dog's paw.
Pets can support and help people overcome difficulties.

All pets play a critical role in our lives by helping us overcome stress and emotional troubles more quickly and effectively than anything else. And although traditional means of treatment cannot be completely replaced by pet ownership, the psychological help and emotional support that we get from our pets also have a vital role to play.

But what about such special types of pets as service dogs and ESAs? In fact, these types of assistance animals are not the same. The major task of a service dog is to assist a disabled individual with their daily tasks. This type of companion animal is usually adopted by people suffering from:

  • Visual impairments
  • Mobility disorders
  • Any other physical disabilities.

But although service dogs are specifically trained to perform life-critical duties for disabled individuals, ESAs play a bit different role. Emotional support animals help individuals to recover from mental problems and bipolar disorder is only one of them. The ESA can also help you deal with:

  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Stressful life situations
  • Anxiety
  • Traumas and much more.

The effects of ESA ownership on patients with bipolar disorder are often very impressive which is largely explained by the variety of psychological benefits offered by emotional support animals to their handlers. What are these benefits? Let’s find out.

Psychological benefits of ESA ownership: How to treat bipolar disorder with an ESA?

A woman is hugging a dog lying on the sofa.
Emotional support animals are a great source of comfort for their owners.

  • ESAs can help you regain a feeling of confidence and self-respect. In addition, you’ll have an extra purpose in life that will prevent you from getting depressed and you’ll eventually stop thinking that your life has lost its meaning.

  • If you have a bipolar disorder, periods of loneliness and social isolation are a common phenomena. But owning the ESA can help you deal with the low spirits and depression more effectively. Pets attract the attention of people so their companionship will never let you feel isolated.

  • All emotional support animals are a great source of comfort to their owners. It can be hard to talk to your friends or family about how bipolar disorder influences your life. But the ESA is always willing to listen to you in times of distress and it will never express any judgment or accusation, let alone you won’t hear any unwanted questions.

  • Some dog breeds can give you an extra feeling of security which is also critical for people suffering from bipolar disorder. Any mental problem makes you vulnerable and sensitive so that you may feel insecure or anxious. And this is where the ESA can help you. More specifically, it’ll make you feel safe and will gradually help you to gain control over the symptoms of your disorder.

  • ESAs give their owners an understanding that they are loved and the unconditional love provided by support animals is exactly what can distract you from negative thoughts and restore your emotional wellbeing.

Handling bipolar disorder with a service dog: How it can help you?

A service dog is standing next to the owner.
A service dog can help with a wide range of tasks.

The major function of service dogs is to diminish the effects of a particular disorder on their caretaker’s life. And even if it’s a mental disorder that you’re struggling to overcome, a service dog can also help you out by performing the next tasks:

  • Bringing medications or reminding you to take the medicines that were prescribed to you according to your treatment plan.
  • Helping you to overcome hazardous behaviors by distracting you from negative thoughts.
  • Alerting you when someone calls you by phone in case you’ve fallen asleep or are under the effect of medications especially because drowsiness is a common side effect of bipolar disorder medicines.
  • Waking you up at a specific time or reminding you to go to bed to make your sleep regimen more or less regular.
  • Bringing a phone to you if it’s necessary to call an ambulance or contact someone you need to talk to.
  • Helping you to walk and guiding you somewhere you need because dizziness and disorientation often happen to those who have bipolar disorder.
  • Helping you to calm down during manic episodes.

In this way, service dogs can be trained to help not just physically disabled people but also those who suffer from mental health disorders. And apart from everything mentioned above, you’ll also enjoy constant companionship and support during your life with the service animal.

So, which assistance animal should you get?

Now you can see that both service animals and emotional support pets can be of much help to those who suffer from bipolar disorder. If you’re in two minds as for which type of assistance animal to pick for this purpose, it’s worth taking a look at the benefits and drawbacks of each option for your specific circumstances.

In addition, although many people think that service dogs can only help people with physical disabilities, it is not entirely so. In fact, they can also provide much support to those struggling with mental disorders.

As a result, both service dogs and ESAs can be helpful when you suffer from bipolar disorder. However, if this condition doesn’t prevent you from doing some critical daily tasks on your own, an emotional support animal might be a better solution.

After all, the ESA can give you the needed psychological help so that you’ll get at least a temporary relief from the worrisome signs of disorder. Over some time, your emotional state will come back to normal while the symptoms of your mental problem will not bother you as much as previously.


When you’re struggling with such a serious mental problem as bipolar disorder, your quality of life may be greatly diminished. If that’s your case and you feel like your life has become unbearable, be sure that getting the ESA can be the right option for you.

It’s never a bad idea to give it a try and find out how it really works. In any case, ESA ownership is always a good addition to the standard medical treatment so it can be just what you need in your situation. As a final tip, make sure you discuss the pros and cons with a doctor to guarantee that this way of treatment is suitable for you in particular.

Ready to give it a try? Reach out a mental health specialist online and get started!

by GetESA

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