Bipolar Disorder Treatment Psychiatric Service Dogs for Bipolar Disorder By Marcia Purse Marcia Purse Marcia Purse is a mental health writer and bipolar disorder advocate who brings strong research skills and personal experiences to her writing. Learn about our editorial process Updated on August 26, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Amy Morin, LCSW Medically reviewed by Amy Morin, LCSW Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk, "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print kali9 / Getty Images Service dogs have a long history of providing assistance to people with physical challenges and are increasingly used to aid those with psychiatric challenges. Psychiatric service dogs are extensively trained to perform specific tasks to meet the individualized needs of their handler and are permitted access to public places in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Psychiatric service dogs can be trained to assist people living with bipolar disorder as well as other mental health challenges, including autism, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and panic disorder. The tasks a service dog is trained to perform to aid someone living with bipolar disorder depend on the individual's circumstances and personal challenges and needs. The Role of Service Dogs for Bipolar Disorder The ultimate function of a psychiatric service dog is to alleviate or diminish the negative effects of bipolar disorder on the handler's life. Examples of tasks a dog might be trained to perform for its human partner include: Bring medication or remind their partner to take prescribed medicine at a specific time(s)Awaken their partner at a specific time each dayRemind their partner to go to bed at a specific time to keep sleep cycles regularBring a portable phone to their partner or call 9-1-1 if the handler exhibits behaviors that might indicate a manic episode or severe depressionInterrupt potentially dangerous behaviors in their partner by nudging, nagging, or distracting with playAlert the handler to the telephone, doorbell, or smoke alarm if their partner is asleep or possibly sedated due to medicationCalm or interrupt hypomanic or manic behaviors by leaning into their partner, or placing their head in the handler's lapProvide a link to reality if their partner experiences delusions during a manic episode While not considered a service dog function per se, the emotional support provided by a canine helper is often as valuable as the tasks the animal performs. The presence of the dog can also help ground an individual with bipolar disorder and introduce a sense of stability and routine. Laws Relating to Service Dogs It is important to note that to qualify for the protections and allowances of the ADA, both the individual and the canine must meet specific criteria. In short, an individual must have a disability and a service dog must be specifically trained to meet the needs imposed by that disability. An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.The ADA defines a service animal like a dog individually trained to do work or perform specific tasks to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If a dog meets this definition, it is considered a service animal under the ADA, regardless of whether it has been licensed or certified by a state or local government. Importantly, a psychiatric service dog differs from an emotional support dog, also called a comfort dog. While emotional support dogs certainly provide love, companionship, and comfort to their human partners, they are not trained to perform specific tasks that aid the handler in daily functioning. As such, emotional support dogs are not covered under the ADA. Other Considerations If you're living with bipolar disorder and considering getting a psychiatric service dog or an emotional support dog, talk with your doctor to determine what type of canine companion is best for you. A psychiatric service dog involves a considerable financial commitment because of the extensive training required, which may take up to two years to complete. Depending on your specific needs, however, you may consider this an invaluable investment. What to Do If Your Dog Ate an Antidepressant Pill 3 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. ADA National Network. Service animals and emotional support animals. International Association of Assistance Dog Partners. Service dog tasks for psychiatric disabilities. U.S. Department of Justice. Frequently asked questions about service animals and the ADA. Additional Reading Audrestch HM, Whelan CT, Grice D, Asher L, England GC, Freeman SL. Recognizing the value of assistance dogs in society. Disabil Health J. 2015;8(4):469-74. doi:10.1016/j.dhjo.2015.07.001 By Marcia Purse Marcia Purse is a mental health writer and bipolar disorder advocate who brings strong research skills and personal experiences to her writing. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.