How do Boas help reduce your anxiety?

Greetings :wave:, Boa :snake: peeps! I am doing some preliminary research to support my personal and medical application to certify our boas as Emotional Support Animals with my counseling team.

To that end, I thought this (MorphMarket :sunglasses:) would be a safe, appropriate and effective place to ask this question:

How do your boas help you with anxiety management or any other mental or behavioral health concerns?

Please feel free to DM any input or references that you would prefer not to post publicly, and thank you in advance for any feedback!

Our little VMB :snake: buddies have truly been lifesavers for me, and I am excited to help the cause of supporting others who benefit from their company as well.




(And of course many of these concepts will hold true for many reptiles and animals in general, but for the sake of time, I’m focusing on boas for this round :nerd_face:.)

Thanks again…. !

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My boas bring me a real sense of joy. Not only to they help my PTSD symptoms and anxiety.

I have a traumatic brain injury as so having my boas helps with focus.

Im a bit of a shut in due to my severe symptoms of PTSD anxiety and panic disorder i got from the service. Often times they help stave off isolation and loniness. Secondly holding my boas keeps me in the moment, not thinking about past traumas or future fears. This also helps with feeling that i matter and that i have purpose, i have reason to live because my animals depend on me. Ive had far less suicidal ideations while keeping my animals, my last attempt was 2016 so having this outlet has greatly improved my quality of life especially since the pandemic where im even more isolated than normal. I no longer have my sports and VA outings because of the pandemic. Without a doubt my animals help.

Holding my boas i get tactile imput, i can feel the scales, the sensation as they slide through my hands. Focusing on my boas ( as in having to make sure they don’t get into something ), the cool touch the beautiful coloration and just watching them help alleviate many symptoms. I definitely like the company of my animals over most people.

Hope this helps giving perspective. I mean how can this cute face not bring happiness?

Of course all of my animals are my emotional support system, but because you asked for boas instances im just talking on my boas. Its my belief that any animal can be an emotional support for someone, unfortunately people often only consider the fuzzy animals like cats and dogs as ESAs.

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@rmleone first, THANK YOU so much for sharing! And thank you for your service!

I totally relate to all of your above observations: I very much appreciate your awesome and thorough explanations. I feel the same: the tactile experience, future-specific-focus and sense of purpose are strong in my life as well.

You and I share the same mental diagnoses, so with your ok, I would like to add your above post to my info folder moving forward for the ESA application?

I’m just at the beginning with my counselors but both seem very interested (we are all new to each other), and I’m excited about the future possibilities.

I’m also a researcher by nature :nerd_face:, and there are some really interesting articles dating into the 1800s about the utilization and examination of snakes in experiments regarding fear assessment in youth to adults, and some current research is starting to do the same.

At the same time, families are starting to recognize the benefits of animals as we are:

https://annarborfamily.com/feature/8-reasons-to-consider-a-snake-for-your-child-with-autism/

A fear of snakes seems almost universal–many think humans are hardwired to fear them. But snakes can actually make incredible family pets for children, and can be especially good for children who are neurodivergent. Skeptical?

Here are eight reasons to consider a snake for your neurodivergent child:

Interesting stuff all around!

In any case, thanks again for your reply. And we totally agree: #reptilesmakegreatpets! :slight_smile:

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You are welcome! Feel free to use any insights from me you gained.

ESA subject seems to have the notion that only certain furry animals can be ESAs. I think i read once someone had a lizard ESA and they were told thats not an ESA, there also was a dispute not long ago about a rooster someone had and were forced to get rid of because they were told its not an ESA its livestock. So really there is a stigma about having an ESA that is not socially approved.

I feel that if the animal mitigates the effects of disorders such as anxiety or PTSD ( really just about any mental disability then it does exactly what an ESA is supposed to do and thats to center and calm a person especially in heightened emotions. Of course i likely would never travel with my animals, just too stressful for them and it would be really tough for me if someone decided to get mouthy and tell me your snake or scorpion is not an ESA.

I can honestly say my life has improved with animals, i have way less anxiety panic attacks and PTSD symptoms an way less suicidal ideations.

Feel free to use my input, hopefully more people will see ESA doesn’t always mean cute furry animal.

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I want to jump in, although I only have Ball pythons, I know that having them massaging pressure points in the wrist, ankles and elbows can greatly reduce anxiety and pre PTSD episode and stress. Also helps with depression as well… and let’s face it, shoulder massages from our family boop noodles is just downright magic for helping unwind after a day of stressful moments that just don’t feel like they will ever end.

Just some observations that Might help.

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@ravens-fireballz agreeeeed on ALL of the above! I especially loved the description of the massages from the “family boop noodles”. Our sentiments exactly :heart:.

Thank you so much for your replies, all! It is awesome to be able to share positive reptile-based experiences with other herp :sunglasses: fans. I’ll be sure to post updates of our ESA :snake: journey!

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Hi :wave:, all!

As promised, here is the update from our Emotional Support Animal Journey…

TADA!

Per one of my counselors, I went to this website and submitted the documentation, and here we are! I love that they asked for a picture of Rem, too!

So although I don’t see myself ever traveling with her (as @rmleone mentioned above:

Blockquote
Of course i likely would never travel with my animals, just too stressful for them and it would be really tough for me if someone decided to get mouthy and tell me your snake or scorpion is not an ESA.)

But it is super great to know that she is recognized as providing me with the emotional support I need to complete activities of daily living here on our VMB Boa Farm! :nerd_face::snake::two_hearts:

Thanks again to @rmleone and @ravens-fireballz for your input: hearing your feedback gave me the confidence to pursue this license. And I’m so glad I did!

Anywhoo, thanks for celebrating :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: with us! Yay for boas! #reptilesmakegreatpets :two_hearts::snake:

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Congratulations!!! And if you rent and not own a home like myself your apartment cannot discriminate against you for your choice of ESA.

Hopefully one day all animals can be seen as ESA ( of course size and safety ) if taken in public and is safe for the animal as well. Obviously we couldn’t bring a cow on a plane or perhaps keep in an apartment. We may have some impairments but we aren’t stupid. Whether your ESA is a crawfish or a Macaw or even a chicken nobody should dictate what animals give you peace and calm.

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I think any and all animals can help with anxiety, stress etc.

Apart from my dogs who I swear know!
My Crested Geckos definitely help me, when I’m feeling low I go out and see them all and get them out and just chill with them and it helps a lot.

Same with all the other reptiles here, Fat tails, Royals, even the isopods, and even watching the amphibians help. :black_heart:

Just owning them all helps! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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Agreeeed!

It sounds like you have a whole team over there of animal chill-derps :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:. Super cool!

And yay for dogs too: there has been a lot of research conducted on the health benefits of pets, although historically this has primarily focused on the fuzzy kinds :dog::cat::hamster: – which is GREAT as I like dogs more than I like most people :laughing: – but sadly my immune system does not. And so our scaly friends are truly a lifeline for me - as they are for so many others, including many on this awesome forum! Yay!

It is also encouraging - as hobbyists and breeders - for us here at VMB to see the growth in the reptile industry and the acceptance of reptiles etc., by society even since Aaron and I first launched as breeders in 2008 and continuing through the pandemic.

So this ESA card is a major win for our household for many reasons… and hopefully it is a tiny win for the reptile universe as a whole :grin:. #reptimesmakegreatpets #boasarebeautiful #voodoomagicboas

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Agreed! And thank you so much!

Getting this ESA card is pretty cool for us over here for many reasons, but the main one is now I can bop around the house carrying Remedy saying in a super serious movie-trailer voice:

“Remedy Houts - Licensed to Snuggle :star_struck:

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Im just so happy that you had a good team to see that its not just cute furry animals that can be emotional support.

My snakes may not like being held, but i know that they recognize my voice and will come to see me ( even if its just to see if i got snacks):joy: all three have different personalities.

I really hope more research goes into the positive aspect that pets bring to our lives, especially for us isolated individuals that may have terrible anxiety about outside or illness that prevents too much human interaction.

I can say with a certainty that without my animals i would not me emotionally stable, thats a fact.

(Not to get too “religious” but i firmly believe that animals are a gift from our creator to help us through our struggles such as loniness and illness. They are angels in animal form, i believe that they have souls).

Im glad that any information learned from my input helped you and hopefully others ro come.

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There are several ways that boas or any snake can help reduce my anxiety. I have PTSD, OCD, anxiety and a whole host of other mental problems. They’re not debilitating and I can function fine as long as I keep up with my medicine, but functioning is certainly different from thriving. My snakes help me thrive because I know there is a living creature in my care. If I’m not taking care of myself, there’s no way I can care for this other life that I chose to take on. Constricor species also help with my headaches and migraines by compressing on my pressure points. And just look at that face! How could that not make your day better? :relaxed:

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For me, maybe not reducing anxiety (I dont know really) but more for reducing stress (which also leads to anxiety so maybe so). My wife however has high anxiety issues, and we both feel like the energy we are projecting snakes can pick up on, so its a matter of minding our selfs to be calm and confident which lowers both our stress and anxiety. Plus watching our boas glide around us, our hands, heads ect is a cathartic experience and never gets old. Its peaceful and calming both mind and body to just sit there and bond with said boa. And now I feel like a crunchy hippy. :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

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@rmleone @garciademueller and @fastfiveoh agreed to all of the above, especially to this:

I really hope more research goes into the positive aspect that pets bring to our lives, especially for us isolated individuals that may have terrible anxiety about outside or illness that prevents too much human interaction.

and this

but functioning is certainly different from thriving. My snakes help me thrive because I know there is a living creature in my care. If I’m not taking care of myself, there’s no way I can care for this other life that I chose to take on

and this

we both feel like the energy we are projecting snakes can pick up on, so its a matter of minding our selfs to be calm and confident which lowers both our stress and anxiety.

We here at VMB have also found all of the above to totally be true. They certainly keep us focused on getting up and moving every day (no full days of binge watching when there are faces to feed!) and they also ensure we stay calm and focused in their presence: in fact the few times I have gotten tagged by our red tails were by our bigger girls when I’ve gone in to their homes get them when I’ve been anxious, distracted or angry at something else. They DEFINITELY tell me when I’m running too hot.

And better they tell me to calm down then Aaron having to say anything :rofl: and they are always right!

And ps: @fastfiveoh being a crunch hippy myself :grin::rofl:, ditto to the calming on the mind and body.

In fact, to @rmleone’s point, I’m super excited about the research that is starting on the benefits of people beyond these levels of stress and those like me into the higher levels of neuro-divergence: there is a good blog out there: why I bought a boa for my autistic son. and some other good articles (8 Reasons to Consider a Snake for your Child with Autism - Ann Arbor Family) that support all of our collective experiences. :nerd_face:

(Have I mentioned I’m a nerd?)

Anywhoo, thanks for sharing, all!!! :grin:

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PS: I especially like this quote from the last article…

Research shows, kids [ love snakes ]
Over the course of three years, several scientists studying animal-assisted therapy brought in a friendly dog, a rabbit, and a snake to group activities with children with disabilities and behavioral problems.
Children could touch, pet, or hold all of the animals. When children were offered the choice of which animal to interact with, most chose the snake (39% mean) over the dog (27%) or rabbit (25%).

The results indicate that the desire of children to interact with snakes was so strong, it even outweighed the pressure of cultural stereotypes and fears that they had already been exposed to. This beautifully complements snake parent Robin’s observation that children who have difficulty communicating, regardless of the “why”, can find camaraderie or understanding with snakes.

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Not questioning this, but is it possible that the chance for something unique has a bearing? What i mean is we see dogs and cats way more frequently than say a snake. Im definitely not saying snakes aren’t wonderful or better or worse than other animals.

*edit: id be curious to know if being unique played a decision in animal choice to hold/play with. I know for me i would likely pick the rarer animal, and that dog would have to be damn cute like a pomeranian :joy:.

I would say to be scientific one should be trying to determine if the choice was because they really like it or whether just being unique and something they don’t see all the time vs a dog.

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GREAT question! And definitely one I would feel would be worth further study! I think that makes a lot of sense.

In any case, it is always great to see pro-snake articles, especially in regards to helping kids who have difficulties. Here is another one…

https://daddysdigest.com/are-snakes-good-pets-for-children-who-have-an-autism-spectrum-disorder/

I also came across these two articles in my research that focused on the broader concept of snakes and fear in childhood through adulthood that kind of addresses the idea of snakes and fear as attached to primal survival and the fear of newness but doesn’t drill down into this specific example of the children selecting the snake over the dog.

Again, I think your observation of uniqueness is a good one, and it goes along with the responses we usually get when our friends come check out our snakes: NO kids are ever afraid whereas with the parents/adults, about 50/50 are afraid. It really shows what socialization will do to us as people and what that means to how we react to the lager world!

Anhwoo… here are screen shots of those other articles… :nerd_face::books:


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A healthy respect for snakes is necessary for survival. In the wild they say never pick up snake unless you are 100% sure on species, but ive seen this go wrong too. Imo its just not a good idea to go hands on with any animal you are not familiar with.

I understand the fear when i tell people i keep snakes and scorpions especially my rosys, im like when you see them you will feel kinda silly being afraid of them, they are small.

Im thinking curiosity plays some role in handling decisions for children, they often don’t learn without experience. Much like they always put stuff in their mouths or don’t know a stove burns until they get burned. Children typically are not too fearful bc they dont know, typically its modeling adult behavior that can determine willingness to try or not try something. If mom screams at the sight of a tiny spider its likely that child will take on that same feeling.

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Im seeing all of these articles about snakes and autustic spectrum people and i can’t help but smile. :slightly_smiling_face:
I am a self diagnosed autistic pursuing a formal diagnosis. I score really highly neurodivergent on any test i take. (There are some really great peer reviewed ones online) and thanks to how the mental health industry has improved in just a decade, my little brother and sister have been lucky enough to be diagnosed at a young age.

When i was really little i obsessed over drawing horses. I got so good at it that i could draw beginner’s hyper realism of galloping Appaloosas the age of 8. I never got to do what i actually wanted to do, which was have a horse of my own. And thanks to young life as an undiagnosed neurodivergent kicking me in the butt, i eventually dropped the obsession at the age of 12. But that was my very first ‘special interest.’

The common mixture of normative expectations not being met and autistic meltdowns/strange behaviors being commonly reduced to and mislabeled as ‘behavioral issues’ causes a lot of family tension and childhood trauma for undiagnosed children and their parents. This can often lead to autistic individuals developing other serious mental health issues at young ages like Major Depression, Anxiety Disorders, and C-PTSD. In fact, in many adult evaluations, presence of these types of ‘cluster diagnosis’ in patients is a requirement to diagnosis.
For me, all of the above are present.

Now, snakes are my special interest. And so much more. It’s hard for me to keep a job, and that can be really difficult because i want to accomplish so many things! I want to be able to give my snakes the best lives i can give them. But i can’t give them up because of how important they are to me and my mental health.

I struggle heavily with the consequences of my disorders… but my boys, in the absolute hardest times, they are the first thing that comes into my mind. Every time. They play a significant role in keeping me safe, giving me purpose, and bringing enrichment and a sense of accomplishment into my life. There’s always more to learn and that’s exciting!! Reptiles themselves are 24hr all you can eat buffets of consumable knowledge. My neuro heart soars at the fact that i can metaphorically free fall into the rabbit hole of herpetoculture as long as i want and still find no bottom. Although, these days i feel like i could really benefit from some support in learning some of this stuff because it’s hard ngl… :sweat_smile: I don’t know how y’all do it with the genetics but I’m jealous and tell me your secrets, lol.

On another note, i don’t think I specifically, could do what i do now with any other animal. Snakes just work. Cats and dogs demand too much care. It’s not about the complexity, it’s about the frequency. And i really REALLY enjoy the fact that i can take them out one day and then put them back :relieved: :joy:
I call it getting to ‘pick and choose when i want to be a pet parent’ lol. Unlike with dogs and cats that are always just THERE. And in your face, and making noises, and making demands… :confounded:
Don’t get me wrong, i love dogs and cats, and i want to one day be able to manage them because i want to have a cat as an adult, and my partner seems pretty hellbent on a dog. (Dogs are the worst for me. I canNOT handle the barking.)
Snakes do give me a bit of anxiety though, because as i am how i am, i do struggle with theory of mind. I understand the basics, but learning to fully read the snakes is an ongoing process. And i feel like mine are just used to their human standing rod stiff around them at this point. (:sweat_smile::woman_shrugging: i gotta work on it. It’s about not knowing how i make them feel, not about being scared.) But they’re supposed to be really good at exercising your theory of mind skills, so that’s definitely needed!

I don’t really notice all of the sensory input, but i do really like big ol big fatty fat boys (large snakes) because the weight is really nice. In fact their lack of input is a huge plus for me.

Overall, snakes are (at least in my experience) more than just good possible esa’s. You could not use another animal as a substitute for the benefits they provide. They are one of a kind, totally unique. Bottom line is that snakes save lives that no other animal could save. And that’s why they should absolutely be recognized legally as emotional support animals for those who need them and keep them for that purpose. Like myself.

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