Even before the coronavirus hit, society was no stranger to stress. Juggling work, family, friends, and financial pressures in addition to personal goals is a plateful. For many, this plateful has contributed to anxiety. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience any anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.1 Anxiety can come in many shapes and sizes, and while occasional anxiety before or in response to a major event is normal, constantly feeling an overwhelming sense of worry and dread isn’t healthy. Today, we’re looking into the popular technique of tapping for anxiety and whether it actually alleviates symptoms.
What Is Tapping for Anxiety?
Also referred to as psychological acupressure or tapping technique for anxiety, the emotional freedom technique (EFT) is an alternative treatment for physical pain and emotional distress. People who use this technique believe tapping the body in certain places can balance their energy system and address pain.
According to the developer of anxiety tapping, Gary Craig, an energy disruption is the cause of all negative emotions and pain. EFT tapping for anxiety has become increasingly popular for treating individuals with anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it’s still being researched for pros and cons.
Similar to acupuncture, EFT focuses on the meridian points – also known as pressure points or energy hot spots – to restore balance to the body’s energy. It’s believed that restoring this energy balance can alleviate symptoms caused by a negative experience or emotion.
Meridian points are derived from Chinese medicine and are believed to be areas of the body through which energy flows. These pathways help balance energy flow to maintain your physical and mental health. Thus, any imbalance is believed to contribute to disease or sickness.
Acupuncture is a popular therapy technique that uses needles to apply pressure to these points. EFT instead uses fingertip tapping to apply pressure.
Also referred to as meridian points, there are nine main tapping points for anxiety:
- Beginning of the collarbone (CB): kidney meridian
- Chin (CH): central vessel
- Eyebrow (EB): bladder meridian
- Karate chop (KC): small intestine meridian
- Side of the eye (SE): gallbladder meridian
- Top of the head (TH): governing vessel
- Under the arm (UA): spleen meridian
- Under the eye (UE): stomach meridian
- Under the nose (UN): governing vessel
Does Tapping for Anxiety Work?
Some research suggests that tapping for anxiety does work. One study found that using the EFT tapping technique for anxiety helped subjects manage stress, reduced their cortisol levels (which spike because of anxiety), improved symptoms of anxiety, and even treated PTSD in veterans.2,3
Another analysis of 20 studies showed that while there was no significant treatment effect difference between EFT and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), EFT was superior to treatment as usual (TAU) and was effective when performed in 1 to 10 sessions.4 Ultimately, symptoms of depression were reduced by 41% across all 20 studies.4
One analysis of seven randomized controlled trials found that 4 to 10 EFT sessions were an effective treatment for PTSD. The studies examined in the analysis reported no adverse effects from using tapping exercises for anxiety and showed that EFT can be used both on a self-help basis and as a primary evidence-based PTSD and trauma treatment.5
Moreover, proponents say that using tap therapy for anxiety helps you access your body’s energy and send signals to the part of the brain that manages stress. They claim that stimulating the meridian points of the body through EFT tapping can reduce the stress or negative emotion experienced from that issue, ultimately restoring balance to your disrupted energy.
Based on these findings, possible benefits of tapping for anxiety include:
- It may lower stress and anxiety
- It may alleviate physical pain
- It may diminish food cravings and aid (healthy) weight loss
- It may boost focus and concentration
- Helps treat PTSD and trauma in a clinical setting
- Helps alleviate insomnia to promote better sleep
How to Do Tapping for Anxiety
You can easily do EFT tapping at home, although it’s recommended that you book a session with a facilitator. We’ve outlined the steps for EFT tapping below:
- Identify a problem: Pick a struggle you want to focus your tapping on. It could be physical pain or bodily struggle (such as a back injury or an unhealthy eating habit), an emotional burden (a recent breakup), or an anxiety trigger (fear of losing your job.) Try to be as specific as possible and allow yourself to fully feel the emotional weight of it.
- Give the problem a number: Depending on how much it means to you, give this problem or point of focus a number from a scale of 0 to 10 (0 means it does not bother you at all, and 10 represents that the problem greatly affects you.) In most cases, the focus of EFT tapping should warrant a score of 5 or higher. Establishing this benchmark will help you monitor your progress after performing an EFT sequence. For instance, if your initial intensity score was 10 before tapping and ended at 5, you’d have improved by 50%.
- Choose a phrase to recite while tapping: Before you begin tapping, you have to set up a phrase that explains the problem you’re trying to address. This phrase should focus on acknowledging the issue and accepting yourself despite it. A common phrase setup is, “Even though I have this [fear or problem], I deeply and completely accept myself.” An example of a phrase is, “Even though I’m sad my father is sick, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
- Start the tapping sequence: The EFT tapping sequence is the methodic tapping that starts on the ends of the meridian points. You can begin the sequence by tapping the karate chop point while simultaneously reciting your phrase three times. Then tap each of the following seven points, moving down the body: eyebrow, side of the eye, under the eye, under the nose, chin, beginning of the collarbone, and under the arm. Then, finish the sequence at the top of your head. Recite your phrase two to three times at each tapping point.
- Test the final intensity score: At the end of your sequence, rate your intensity level again from 0 to 10. If you haven’t reached 0, then repeat the sequence until you do.
Seeking Out Professional Care
Although using tapping techniques for anxiety is beneficial for some, it’s considered a supportive form of therapy rather than a main form of treatment. If you or someone you care about is battling a severe anxiety disorder, tapping may not be enough to get you or them through it.
Instead, our Palm Beach county rehab recommends seeking out professional care, such as the mental health programs we offer. In addition to treatment for PTSD, depression, and trauma, we also offer anxiety treatment that utilizes evidence-based therapies that have been proven to support long-term recovery from mental illness.
- NIH – Any Anxiety Disorder
- The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease – The Effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques on Stress Biochemistry
- The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease – Psychological Trauma Symptom Improvement in Veterans Using Emotional Freedom Techniques
- NIH – A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized and Nonrandomized Trials of Clinical Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) for the Treatment of Depression
- NIH – The Effectiveness of Emotional Freedom Techniques in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Meta-Analysis