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How Animals With Mental Illness Can Help Humans Heal

Author Laurel Braitman points her camera at a baby elephant.


Above: Author Laurel Braitman points her camera at a baby elephant.

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Laurel Braitman, is author of "Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves."

You might have seen the story last week, the rescuers of an elephant chained and abused for 50 years in India said tears flooded down the animal's face when he was taken to safety.

Not everyone believes stories like that but a growing consensus on animal behavior is leaning toward the theory that animals have complex emotional lives — not that much different from our own.

Among the kinds of emotions displayed by animals can be depression, anxiety and self-harm — some of the very traits that might be diagnosed in humans as mental illness.

A new book takes its cue from the problems of one disturbed dog, and examines what the emotional problems of animals can teach us about ourselves.


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