Last updated July 25, 2022.
Edited and medically reviewed by Patrick Alban, DC. Written by Deane Alban.
Tapping, based on acupuncture concepts, is very effective for anxiety relief. Learn how tapping works and get all the instructions needed to start tapping.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), usually referred to as tapping, is a relaxation technique based on the principles of acupuncture.
But unlike acupuncture, there are no needles involved.
Instead, you use your fingertips to tap on a specific sequence of acupuncture points.
Tapping is a remarkably effective drug-free way to alleviate anxiety.
Let’s take a closer look at how tapping works and the many benefits tapping offers when compared to other anti-anxiety treatments.
How Tapping Works to Reduce Anxiety
Hundreds of clinical studies have found acupuncture to be an effective treatment for dozens of conditions, including anxiety.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture works by balancing the flow of the body’s vital energy, known as chi or qi.
Fine needles are inserted at very specific points along energy channels called meridians, altering the body’s energy flow and bringing it back into homeostasis, a healthy state of balance.
Acupressure works on the same concept as acupuncture, but uses fingertip pressure instead of needles.
Tapping is a form of acupressure that uses fingertip taps in a particular sequence.
The theory behind tapping is that all negative emotions are caused by a disruption in the body’s energy system and that tapping can restore balance to this system.
Tapping purportedly neutralizes any judgment you have about your anxiety and removes limiting beliefs you have developed that contribute to your anxiety.
For these reasons, proponents of tapping sometimes call it psychological acupressure.
Now, all this talk about chi, energy, and balance may sound a little far out, but there are some scientific explanations for how acupuncture, acupressure, and tapping work.
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There’s evidence that these treatments may work by addressing imbalances of neurotransmitters and hormones, increasing blood flow, reducing muscle tension, and decreasing inflammation.
" One study found tapping to work as well for anxiety as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a standard psychotherapy treatment.
It’s well accepted that acupuncture stimulates the release of painkilling endorphins, which is why it’s so popular for pain relief.
And all these healing techniques excel at stress relief.
A single session of tapping can turn off the stress response and significantly reduce the level of cortisol, a stress hormone that wreaks havoc on health and mental well-being.
Lastly, tapping may work by altering brainwave activity.
One study hooked participants up to an EEG device and measured brainwave activity before and after a tapping session.
After just one brief session, there was a significant increase in theta brainwave activity.
Theta waves are responsible for the mental quiet similar to that achieved during deep meditation.
Benefits of Tapping for Anxiety
Tapping offers many unique benefits compared to the standard medical treatments for anxiety — cognitive therapy and medications — and even other relaxation techniques.
11 Good Reasons to Try Tapping for Anxiety
- There are no pills to take, no doctors to visit. While there are certified EFT professionals you can call on, most people do not need this level of help.
- It’s so simple that you can learn to do tapping in a few minutes.
- You don’t need to lie down or close your eyes, and once you’ve got the hang of it, there is no need to listen to a script.
- Tapping can be done anywhere or anytime you feel stressed or anxious — at your desk, in your car, or even during a quick bathroom break.
- It’s an extremely flexible technique that is easily customized for your unique situation. You can even use tapping to address more than one issue at a time.
- Tapping can be helpful regardless of the underlying cause of your anxiety or the kind of anxiety disorder you have.
- Improvement is often rapid. Even persistent issues can sometimes be cleared in just a few tapping sessions. Treatment time frames range from one session for phobias to six sessions for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Success rates are high. According to EFT founder Gary Craig, tapping can bring complete or partial relief in about 80% of cases and relief is often permanent. Working with a certified EFT practitioner increases the success rate to 95%.
- Tapping has no known negative side effects. The same cannot be said for anti-anxiety medications.
- Tapping puts you in control of your mental health. This is especially important if you are concerned about the social stigma attached to getting psychiatric help.
- Unlike therapy, medications, and even natural anti-anxiety supplements, tapping doesn’t cost a thing.
Evidence That Tapping Is Effective for Anxiety
Any healing technique that is not fully understood by Western standards has plenty of skeptics, especially when that technique sounds too good to be true.
But surprisingly, no one knows exactly how some of the most commonly used drugs work either, including antidepressants and general anesthesia!
So, let’s take a look at some of the scientific evidence that supports the use of tapping as a worthwhile anti-anxiety technique.
Researchers from prestigious institutions such as Harvard Medical School, University of California, Walter Reed Military Medical Center, and Texas A&M University have published hundreds of studies on EFT in peer-reviewed medical and psychology journals.
Conditions studied include stress, anxiety, depression, phobias, PTSD, pain, weight loss, cravings, and addictions.
Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Rick Leskowitz, MD, director of the Integrative Medicine Project, claims tapping to be “the most impressive intervention I’ve encountered in 25 years of work.”
Clinical EFT treatment administered by trained practitioners has met the American Psychological Association’s standards as an “efficacious” or “probably efficacious” treatment for a number of conditions, including anxiety, depression, phobias, and PTSD.
EFT training can qualify for continuing medical education credits for physicians, nurses, psychologists, counselors, and social workers.
An analysis of 14 studies involving a total of 658 subjects found that tapping significantly reduced anxiety in study participants.
One study found tapping to work as well for anxiety as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a standard psychotherapy treatment.
Another found that tapping was even more effective than CBT over time.
Researchers found tapping to be more helpful for reducing symptoms of depression than diaphragmatic breathing, a common relaxation technique.
Tapping can help with a wide array of very specific anxieties and phobias, including fear of public speaking, needles, flying, and insects.
Other studies support tapping’s effectiveness for a wide range of stress-related and mental disorders besides anxiety, including:
- performance anxiety
Tapping for Anxiety: Getting Started
The practice of tapping is quite simple.
It has three main components: the setup statement, the reminder phrase, and the tapping sequence.
The Tapping Setup Statement
First, focus on your feelings of anxiety.
A template for a typical setup statement looks like this:
“Even though I have (condition/problem), I love and accept myself.”
Then, customize your setup statement by entering a description of your condition in the highlighted area.
For general anxiety, the setup statement could be:
“Even though I have anxiety, I love and accept myself.”
You can also get more specific — in fact, the more specific your setup statement is, the better.
So if you have a specific type of anxiety, you could use a phrase like “social anxiety” or “panic attacks.” For example:
“Even though I have social anxiety, I love and accept myself.”
OR “Even though I have panic attacks, I love and accept myself.”
And if you have anxiety about a particular area of your life, you could fill in the blank with a phrase like “anxiety about my health” or “anxiety about money.”
The purpose of the setup statement is to acknowledge your problem and validate your acceptance of yourself in spite of it.
You will use the setup statement at the start of the tapping sequence.
The Tapping Reminder Phrase
The reminder phrase is a very short version of the setup statement.
If your setup statement was “Even though I have anxiety …,” your reminder phrase would simply be “This anxiety.”
You will use the reminder phrase as you go through the tapping sequence.
The Tapping Sequence
Now on to the foundation of EFT — the tapping sequence.
Unlike acupuncture which involves knowing hundreds of acupuncture points, there are only 9 points used in the tapping sequence.
Don’t worry about memorizing them now.
You’ll easily learn them when you tap along with the videos provided below.
Putting It All Together: A Beginner’s Tapping Sequence for Anxiety
A Beginner’s Tapping Sequence
Clearly identify your anxiety-related issue. Assess how much your anxiety is bothering you right now and rank it on a scale from 1 to 10.
Start with your setup statement which will look something like this: “Even though I have anxiety, I love and accept myself.”
Say this three times while tapping on point #1 on the outside of your hand, the karate chop point.
Go through the rest of the tapping sequence while saying your reminder phrase: “This anxiety.”
Re-examine how you feel after the first round of tapping. Assign your anxiety level a new number.
Repeat the entire sequence three times.
By the end of the third round of tapping, you should notice that your anxiety is less pronounced.
Watch the Video
Here’s a quick YouTube video to guide you through a typical tapping session.
I urge you to tap along. Doing it is the best way to learn!
Your guide is Jessica Ortner, author of The Tapping Solution for Weight Loss & Body Confidence: A Woman’s Guide to Stressing Less, Weighing Less, and Loving More.
Tapping Sequence for Anxiety Relief
Now that you’ve seen a “general purpose” tapping session, here’s one specifically for anxiety relief.
Watch the Video
This time, your instructor is Brad Yates, a certified hypnotherapist and veteran EFT coach.
His tapping YouTube videos have been watched by millions of viewers.
I suggest watching the entire video at least once now, then bookmarking it for later.
Then, in the future, you can easily tap along with Brad anytime you want to stop the stress response before it escalates.
Watch this YouTube video specifically for anxiety relief.
If you browse online or read books on tapping, you’ll find the process can vary slightly.
For example, the founder of tapping, Gary Craig, starts with tapping the top of the head, while most EFT practitioners now end with that point.
Sometimes the setup statement will use slightly different phrasing.
Don’t get hung up on these details; all variations are equally effective.
Tapping is very forgiving.
It would be hard to do it wrong!
Here are some tapping tips that should answer additional questions you might have:
- You can tap with one or both hands. Using one hand is great for those times when you want to tap inconspicuously, such as when you’re at work or sitting in the car.
- Another way to be less obvious about tapping is to tap the inside of your wrist (where your wristwatch buckle would be) instead of the point under your arm. Accessing this point can be awkward, especially for women.
- There is no harm in tapping frequently, so tap as often as you find helpful.
Where to Learn More About Tapping
If you are looking for the best book to learn more about tapping, I recommend the New York Times bestseller The Tapping Solution: A Revolutionary System for Stress-Free Living by Nick Ortner.
Nick and Jessica Ortner are a brother and sister team who are the current superstars of the tapping movement.
Getting Professional Tapping Help for Your Anxiety
If your anxiety is well entrenched or significantly impacting your life, you might benefit from working with a certified EFT practitioner.
You can probably find one in your area using one of these international databases:
If you can’t find a local practitioner or prefer to work with one remotely, note that all these directories have numerous practitioners who offer consultations via Skype, Zoom, Whatsapp, or phone.
Tapping for Anxiety: Take the Next Step
Tapping is an anxiety relief technique based on the same concepts as acupuncture, but without the use of needles.
There’s a substantial body of scientific research supporting its effectiveness.
In just about every way, tapping is the ideal anxiety relief technique.
Tapping is self-administered, easy to do, inherently relaxing, costs nothing, works fast, has a high rate of success, and has no unpleasant side effects.
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