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Stuffed Animals Help with Anxiety

September 26, 2018 TJ DeSalvo

Sleeping with stuffed animals helps with my anxiety. Learn how stuffed animals help with anxiety, and why we should discard our anti-stuffed animal bias.

I’ve found that stuffed animals help with my anxiety. However, for most people, sleeping with stuffed animals is something considered appropriate only for young children. Instinctively, it does feel a bit strange to imagine an adult with an army of stuffed animals thrown about on their bed. But perhaps it’s time to condemn that instinctual judgment as inaccurate and overly bigoted – perhaps the benefits of sleeping with stuffed animals to help with anxiety into adulthood are something we should all take seriously.

How Stuffed Animals Help Me with Anxiety

It should be no surprise, then, to hear that I sleep with stuffed animals to help with anxiety. My stuffed animal of choice is Totoro from the movie My Neighbor Totoro, but I have a collection of probably 15 others. My collection didn’t happen necessarily because I wanted something to cuddle with at night – as best as I can recall, I would occasionally buy stuffed animals when I would go to conventions, as a means of supporting shows or movies I was a fan of.

I only started sleeping with my stuffed animals on a regular basis after I left graduate school. At the time, I needed more comfort, and my stuffed animals were there to provide that comfort ("Using Comfort Objects to Reduce Anxiety"). Since that time, my stuffed animals have become constant companions – whenever I travel, I always take one or two with me.

Again I reiterate: this is more common than you may realize. A survey by Best Mattress Brand of over 2,000 adults found that 7% of respondents still sleep with their stuffed animal – the only other thing that even came close, at 18%, was a pet.1 That number may continue to grow – Millennials are twice as likely to sleep with stuffed animals as their Generation X counterparts. Habit and comfort are the most important reasons cited for stuffed animal companionship.2

Indeed, science demonstrates that the comfort stuffed animals provide is legitimate. A recent study from UV University Amsterdam suggests that touching a stuffed animal, especially among those who have low self-esteem, helps to relieve existential angst. The study also suggested touch is a means of increasing social connectedness among people during periods of anxiety.3

The results of this study mirror my sentiments exactly. When I am feeling anxious, a gentle touch is beyond soothing, in a way more profound than words can express. Besides my stuffed animals (which are constant companions), I also often like to wrap myself up in blankets, to feel that touch around my whole body.

Stuffed Animals Will Help You with Anxiety

In a weird way, these inanimate objects are often more helpful than living things. My cat is a huge help when I’m feeling anxious, but, cats being what they are, sometimes he’ll want to do his own thing as opposed to spending hours with me. I get that. If I can use stuffed animals in conjunction with real animals, and if stuffed animals can produce similar positive effects to their living counterparts, should that not be embraced?

Alas, I know a negative stigma remains - 10% of Americans would break up with a romantic partner if they discovered they slept with a stuffed animal. I hope that, someday, we can reduce that number to zero. Stuffed animals are wonderful companions, and no one should be shamed for keeping them into adulthood. Besides, if the weirdest thing about your partner is the fact that they have a stuffed animal collection, consider yourself lucky.

How many of you use stuffed animals to help with your anxiety?

Sources

1. BMB Staff. "Bedtime Companions". Best Mattress Brand. March 22, 2017.

2. Goldfarb, Anna. "Is Sleeping with Your Stuffed Animals into Adulthood a Problem?". Vice. May 25, 2017.

3. Winter, Katy. "Could a teddy bear ease your fear of death? Cuddling soft toys can relieve existential angst, says new study". The Daily Mail. November 18, 2013.

APA Reference
DeSalvo, T. (2018, September 26). Stuffed Animals Help with Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2018/9/stuffed-animals-help-with-anxiety



Author: TJ DeSalvo

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Susan
says:
July, 20 2019 at 8:14 pm
I have been having a really hard time sleeping since my husband and I moved to a new home. I sleep in the day due to night shift and the noises and stress of the new environment have kept me to anxious. Well, today he put my stuffed froggie which I have had since I was a very little girl in the bed and he said “I thought you might need someone to snuggle with since you can’t snuggle me.” I have not slept with froggie in years and today I slept for a full 8 hours without interruption. I felt so comforted snuggling froggie and it brought back memories of comfort and safety from my childhood. Stuffed animals are no joke in the anxiety department. I’m so glad you wrote this article. People need many options for handling anxiety.
July, 20 2019 at 8:38 pm
This is a really sweet story. One of the primary reasons for me to sleep with my stuffed animals is to help me sleep - I've never been one to sleep that easily, and having stuffed animals helps me a little.
Tara
says:
July, 11 2019 at 11:25 am
Hi! Thank you so much for this article. I’m 43 years old and sleep with my stuffed cocker spaniel. She was given to me when I was approximately 20. She looks exactly like my cocker spaniel that died after 17 years of companionship. I suffer from anxiety and depression. My “Chelsea” always provides a sense of comfort and safety. I’m grateful my husband does not object. The first year of marriage, he felt it was strange, but now he understands how it helps me and makes no objection.
July, 11 2019 at 2:20 pm
I'm glad your husband was able to grow, and learned to appreciate how much your stuffed animal makes you feel better. You found a keeper.
Fiona
says:
May, 8 2019 at 11:28 pm
I’m so glad I found this article. I’m 21 and worried that I’m going insane. I speak to my stuffed bear occasionally and whenever i’m feeling anxious I think about him or talk to him in my head. I feel like I have two sides of myself and one side is super professional, but the other is VERY childish. If you met me you would never know but I often feel like I am doing something wrong. I struggled very badly with depression for 4 years, but am A LOT better now that I am on medication. However, what worries me is that I don’t feel comfortable telling people about my stuffy because I know how they will see me. My one friend I have told thought it was weird. My parents refer to it as ‘at least you’re not turning to drugs or alcohol’. I want to know if this is something that will go away or if I will always be drawn toward stuffed animals rather than people. Now that I am typing this out, I just made the connection that my ex boyfriend gave me this bear and he reminded me so much of the bear because of how cute he was that I called them the same pet name. He was the first boy I loved and I miss him so much. I really think I am just extremely lonely but really don’t like anyone I meet. Again, I am extremely bubbly and ‘popular’, so you would never guess this. I just feel so much pressure from everyone around me and whenever I am with people I feel like they are boring and wasting my time. Does anyone else feel like this? I realize this is not really what the post is about so feel free to disregard this comment, I just needed to tell someone.
JULIA BEYER
says:
March, 31 2019 at 2:49 pm
My dears, I am 59 years old and have never slept a night in my life without a stuffed toy. Some mean more to me than others. Some I have gotten rid of over the years but , the ones that remain are my connection to my childhood and too a safer time. About 4 years ago my beloved dog Prinny died, I lost my mind and a friend in England made me a black dog of old fur coats to remember Prinny with. She travels with me always, She is very very connection the Prinny and when I can take no more she is there. I have several black dogs to remember Prin, but, this one is special and in some vein Prinny lives on there. Right or wrong............this works for me..........thank you Julia
Cheryl
says:
March, 28 2019 at 4:27 pm
I'm a 60 year old woman that went through a traumatic childhood that I am working with myself on recovering. I've always wondered why as an adult, why do I sleep with a stuffed animal and now I am figuring that out. Thank you for your article. I have lots of stuffed animals but the one I usually sleep with is a stuffed chimpanzee about 2 feet tall. Maybe we all need some kind of 'club' with people that sleep with stuffed animals. I'm happy to know I'm not the only one.
March, 28 2019 at 5:11 pm
Of all the articles I've written, this one has received the most comments by a mile. I hope this is because it's caused many people (like you!) who have felt ashamed about it in the past to finally be able to speak up and accept it. At least, I want to believe that's the case.
Gregg
says:
March, 5 2019 at 12:16 pm
I sleep with the stuffed animals that I gave to my mother to sleep with when she was alive with Alzheimer's. After she passed I kept them near and sleep with some nightly. They help me with my moms passing and with my own anxiety and bouts with depression. However, I have always kept a stuffed pet near all my life since I was given two teddy bears as a child. Thanks for the article. It gives me some confirmation that I'm not completely insane (lol).
Parja
says:
March, 5 2019 at 9:37 am
Sleeping w Lovies.... I'm 44 almost 45. I have not slept w/o my movies for decades. Teddy and Twertle fight w my significant other for more room on the bed. They win. I have a webkins kitty that helps me when I go out. She has several textures. I am also soothed by smells. She has a bath and body works holder w my fav antibacterial. And lastly she has my daughter's first id the one that said she was underage. The day she turned 21 she got her new card. I took it and it is soothing, too.

Okay rambling but yes sleep w your lovies!!!!
Chalie
says:
March, 1 2019 at 5:49 am
Thank you for sharing this with us! I am nearly 30 and when I first started working and had to travel, I was a bit ashamed to bring my stuffed animal with me, which led me to spending sleepless nights for a few months. Eventually I realized that it is my way of getting comfort, so now I never leave it at all. I might buy something smaller, like a keychain, to help me through the day! :D
March, 1 2019 at 5:04 pm
You're very welcome! I'm glad you've become more comfortable bringing it with you. There are lots of keychain stuffed animals that would be perfect for what you want - I've looked into getting one myself.
Em
says:
February, 11 2019 at 3:36 am
I have a fluffy flamingo that stays in the car, A quick hug before I get out helps the day go better, a hug when I get in at the end of the day helps a bad day disappear, or just feels good anyway ?. Ps. I'm nearly forty!!
Carrie
says:
February, 3 2019 at 6:26 am
Thank you for this article. I'm in my forties, and I started using stuffed animals for sleeping or just lounging on the couch for comfort. I thought I was being childish and felt a little ashamed for it, but your article has helped a lot. It's nice to know I'm not the only one.
February, 4 2019 at 2:33 pm
I'm glad the article was able to help. You aren't being childish at all. The only thing that's childish is the fact that some people feel the need to judge people for something like this. Someday I hope that stigma will be no more.
Tammy
says:
October, 5 2018 at 12:36 pm
This is the first time I have read about this subject and I'm so glad you wrote this article I am in my 50s and have a sizeable collection of stuffed animals which give me a lot of comfort. Yes, there is a stigma about this, but it is unfounded.
October, 5 2018 at 3:06 pm
I've received several comments saying this is the first article a reader has encountered on the subject. That really makes me sad. What I'm saying shouldn't be heralded as breaking new ground - it should be seen as common sense. Yet here we are. In any case, I appreciate the kind words you have about the article. Frustrating as cultural attitudes may be, it gives me happiness to know others are finding comfort in what I said.
Kelly
says:
October, 4 2018 at 11:49 am
Thanks so much for the article and for sharing your story. As a 56 year old person working in the mental health field as a PRSS, I haven't shared this with anyone. Yes, I too, have real animals but still sleep with a stuffed animal at home and I have another one for when I travel for overnight trainings or workshops . There is such comfort and I can definitely state that it helps with my anxiety and depression.
October, 4 2018 at 1:32 pm
Kelly,
I really appreciate your comment. I'm glad to hear your stuffed animals give you comfort. I found it hard to share this with most people for a very long time - I only just started to get better about it very recently. The stigma surrounding the issue really does make me angry - as if we didn't have enough to be genuinely upset about, we have to shame people for a behavior that is not only harmless, but can do serious good for those who need it.

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