Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Oliver was an extremely dashing, handsome, charming and largely unstable male that I completely lost my heart to. (Laughter) He was a Bernese mountain dog, and my ex-husband and I adopted him, and about six months in, we realized that he was a mess. He had such paralyzing separation anxiety that we couldn't leave him alone. Once, he jumped out of our third floor apartment. He ate fabric. He ate things, recyclables. He hunted flies that didn't exist. He suffered from hallucinations. He was diagnosed with a canine compulsive disorder and that's really just the tip of the iceberg. But like with humans, sometimes it's six months in before you realize that the person that you love has some issues. (Laughter) And most of us do not take the person we're dating back to the bar where we met them or give them back to the friend that introduced us, or sign them back up on Match.com. (Laughter) We love them anyway, and we stick to it, and that is what I did with my dog. And I was a — I'd studied biology. I have a Ph.D. in history of science from MIT, and had you asked me 10 years ago if a dog I loved, or just dogs generally, had emotions, I would have said yes, but I'm not sure that I would have told you that they can also wind up with an anxiety disorder, a Prozac prescription and a therapist. But then, I fell in love, and I realized that they can, and actually trying to help my own dog overcome his panic and his anxiety, it just changed my life. It cracked open my world. And I spent the last seven years, actually, looking into this topic of mental illness in other animals. Can they be mentally ill like people, and if so, what does it mean about us? And what I discovered is that I do believe they can suffer from mental illness, and actually looking and trying to identify mental illness in them often helps us be better friends to them and also can help us better understand ourselves. So let's talk about diagnosis for a minute. Many of us think that we can't know what another animal is thinking, and that is true, but any of you in relationships — at least this is my case — just because you ask someone that you're with or your parent or your child how they feel doesn't mean that they can tell you. They may not have words to explain what it is that they're feeling, and they may not know. It's actually a pretty recent phenomenon that we feel that we have to talk to someone to understand their emotional distress. Before the early 20th century, physicians often diagnosed emotional distress in their patients just by observation. It also turns out that thinking about mental illness in other animals isn't actually that much of a stretch. Most mental disorders in the United States are fear and anxiety disorders, and when you think about it, fear and anxiety are actually really extremely helpful animal emotions. Usually we feel fear and anxiety in situations that are dangerous, and once we feel them, we then are motivated to move away from whatever is dangerous. The problem is when we begin to feel fear and anxiety in situations that don't call for it. Mood disorders, too, may actually just be the unfortunate downside of being a feeling animal, and obsessive compulsive disorders also are often manifestations of a really healthy animal thing which is keeping yourself clean and groomed. This tips into the territory of mental illness when you do things like compulsively over-wash your hands or paws, or you develop a ritual that's so extreme that you can't sit down to a bowl of food unless you engage in that ritual. So for humans, we have the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual," which is basically an atlas of the currently agreed-upon mental disorders. In other animals, we have YouTube. (Laughter) This is just one search I did for "OCD dog" but I encourage all of you to look at "OCD cat." You will be shocked by what you see. I'm going to show you just a couple examples. This is an example of shadow-chasing. I know, and it's funny and in some ways it's cute. The issue, though, is that dogs can develop compulsions like this that they then engage in all day. So they won't go for a walk, they won't hang out with their friends, they won't eat. They'll develop fixations like chasing their tails compulsively. Here's an example of a cat named Gizmo. He looks like he's on a stakeout but he does this for many, many, many hours a day. He just sits there and he will paw and paw and paw at the screen. This is another example of what's considered a stereotypic behavior. This is a sun bear at the Oakland Zoo named Ting Ting. And if you just sort of happened upon this scene, you might think that Ting Ting is just playing with a stick, but Ting Ting does this all day, and if you pay close attention and if I showed you guys the full half-hour of this clip, you'd see that he does the exact same thing in the exact same order, and he spins the stick in the exact same way every time. Other super common behaviors that you may see, particularly in captive animals, are pacing stereotypies or swaying stereotypies, and actually, humans do this too, and in us, we'll sway, we'll move from side to side. Many of us do this, and sometimes it's an effort to soothe ourselves, and I think in other animals that is often the case too. But it's not just stereotypic behaviors that other animals engage in. This is Gigi. She's a gorilla that lives at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. She actually has a Harvard psychiatrist, and she's been treated for a mood disorder among other things. Many animals develop mood disorders. Lots of creatures — this horse is just one example — develop self-destructive behaviors. They'll gnaw on things or do other things that may also soothe them, even if they're self-destructive, which could be considered similar to the ways that some humans cut themselves. Plucking. Turns out, if you have fur or feathers or skin, you can pluck yourself compulsively, and some parrots actually have been studied to better understand trichotillomania, or compulsive plucking in humans, something that affects 20 million Americans right now. Lab rats pluck themselves too. In them, it's called barbering. Canine veterans of conflicts of Iraq and Afghanistan are coming back with what's considered canine PTSD, and they're having a hard time reentering civilian life when they come back from deployments. They can be too scared to approach men with beards or to hop into cars. I want to be careful and be clear, though. I do not think that canine PTSD is the same as human PTSD. But I also do not think that my PTSD is like your PTSD, or that my anxiety or that my sadness is like yours. We are all different. We also all have very different susceptibilities. So two dogs, raised in the same household, exposed to the very same things, one may develop, say, a debilitating fear of motorcycles, or a phobia of the beep of the microwave, and another one is going to be just fine. So one thing that people ask me pretty frequently: Is this just an instance of humans driving other animals crazy? Or, is animal mental illness just a result of mistreatment or abuse? And it turns out we're actually so much more complicated than that. So one great thing that has happened to me is recently I published a book on this, and every day now that I open my email or when I go to a reading or even when I go to a cocktail party, people tell me their stories of the animals that they have met. And recently, I did a reading in California, and a woman raised her hand after the talk and she said, "Dr. Braitman, I think my cat has PTSD." And I said, "Well, why? Tell me a little bit about it." So, Ping is her cat. She was a rescue, and she used to live with an elderly man, and one day the man was vacuuming and he suffered a heart attack, and he died. A week later, Ping was discovered in the apartment alongside the body of her owner, and the vacuum had been running the entire time. For many months, up to I think two years after that incident, she was so scared she couldn't be in the house when anyone was cleaning. She was quite literally a scaredy cat. She would hide in the closet. She was un-self-confident and shaky, but with the loving support of her family, a lot of a time, and their patience, now, three years later, she's actually a happy, confident cat. Another story of trauma and recovery that I came across was actually a few years ago. I was in Thailand to do some research. I met a monkey named Boonlua, and when Boonlua was a baby, he was attacked by a pack of dogs, and they ripped off both of his legs and one arm, and Boonlua dragged himself to a monastery, where the monks took him in. They called in a veterinarian, who treated his wounds. Eventually, Boonlua wound up at an elephant facility, and the keepers really decided to take him under their wing, and they figured out what he liked, which, it turned out, was mint Mentos and Rhinoceros beetles and eggs. But they worried, because he was social, that he was lonely, and they didn't want to put him in with another monkey, because they thought with just one arm, he wouldn't be able to defend himself or even play. And so they gave him a rabbit, and Boonlua was immediately a different monkey. He was extremely happy to be with this rabbit. They groomed each other, they become close friends, and then the rabbit had bunnies, and Boonlua was even happier than he was before, and it had in a way given him a reason to wake up in the morning, and in fact it gave him such a reason to wake up that he decided not to sleep. He became extremely protective of these bunnies, and he stopped sleeping, and he would sort of nod off while trying to take care of them. In fact, he was so protective and so affectionate with these babies that the sanctuary eventually had to take them away from him because he was so protective, he was worried that their mother might hurt them. So after they were taken away, the sanctuary staff worried that he would fall into a depression, and so to avoid that, they gave him another rabbit friend.