What is Tapping for Anxiety and How Does it Work?

Anxiety is a natural stress response that might be useful in some conditions. It can warn us of impending dangers and assist us in strategizing and drawing closer attention. (1)

Anxiety can manifest in various ways, including cognitive, psychological, and physical symptoms. One may feel dread, lack of focus, and hopelessness on a psychological level. Physical symptoms such as trembling, sweating, or difficulty breathing are frequently related to high-functioning anxiety. (2)

Anxiety is a natural and inevitable part of life. Many individuals employ coping skills for anxiety in their daily lives; nevertheless, some people have prolonged bouts of anxiety, which can be detrimental. Anxiety can escalate to a condition in extreme cases, necessitating professional assistance.

Professional help for anxiety may include medication, psychotherapy, a combination of the two, or some other approaches. The emotional freedom technique (EFT), often known as tapping or EFT tapping, is a type of therapy that combines cognitive and physical components. (3)

EFT tapping therapy has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of various mental health conditions, including anxiety. EFT tapping for anxiety is an efficient strategy to minimize anxiety symptoms such as impatience, irregular sleeping patterns, fear, and lack of focus. (4)

Let us get more into the notion of tapping, what it is, and how it helps for anxiety.

What is EFT Tapping?

The emotional freedom method (EFT) is a complementary treatment for physical and emotional discomfort. It is also known as tapping or psychological acupressure.

Gary Craig, a psychotherapist, invented EFT tapping in 1995. Since then, comprehensive guides have been created to ensure uniform instruction and clinical practice. EFT tapping treatment integrates cognitive-behavioral therapy (5), exposure therapy (6), and physical contact.

This technique’s practitioners think that tapping the body might help balance your energy system and relieve pain. As per Gary Craig, all unpleasant emotions and discomfort are caused by a disturbance in energy.

Tapping is a technique for dealing with stress and anxiety by putting them to the attention of your mind, acknowledging them, and then dismissing them. Tapping, also known as psychological acupressure, integrates Chinese medicine, neurology, and psychology to break the impulse of recurring ideas and beliefs. (7)

During an EFT session, the participant taps with their fingertips on certain areas of their body while focusing on a particular problem. These spots on the body are known as meridian points, and they are thought to be strong regions of the body’s energy. Participants are asked to utter brief sentences related to an emotional or physical experience while tapping.

EFT focuses on balancing energy and relieving anxiety, ultimately enhancing mental wellbeing. EFT is regarded as an evidence-based intervention for anxiety, depression, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder when evaluated according to the requirements of the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Empirically Validated Treatments.

The concept behind EFT Tapping

Yoga, massage, and acupuncture all focus on the link between body and mind, and research suggests that they can help with stress, despair, anxiety, and other psychiatric conditions.

Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese discipline, emphasizes that the body’s energy moves through certain channels. (8) Tapping is based on this theory. Certain spots along these channels are stimulated to increase the flow of energy.

Stimulation can be accomplished by inserting extremely tiny needles, known as acupuncture, or through acupressure, in which pressure is applied on certain points.

Acupuncture is useful for various conditions as per the research. According to some experts, it affects the central nervous system and enables the body to release beneficial chemicals. EFT tapping works similarly to acupressure in that it stimulates acupoints with touch rather than needles. (9)

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

History of EFT Tapping

The origins of EFT tapping can be traced back to Dr. Roger Callahan’s thought field therapy (TFT), which he developed in 1980. (10) Dr. Callahan used his experience in traditional Chinese medicine to develop a unique treatment strategy when treating a patient who had a significant water phobia.

The patient suffered frequent stomach problems due to their phobia of being near water. Dr. Callahan believed there was an acupuncture point for the stomach meridian on the cheekbone because of his past training. He made it possible to cure the patient’s stomach ache and minimize their fear of water by instructing them to tap their cheekbone.

Dr. Callahan’s tapping technique was later developed and used as the foundation for thought field therapy. During the 1990s, Gary Craig, a Dr. Callahan student, improved and simplified the TFT technique and developed EFT. Craig’s EFT approach can be studied and practiced by anyone instead of necessitating the guidance of a skilled TFT therapist.

The procedure of EFT Tapping

The way you carry out the EFT Tapping method has a lot of flexibility. You may perform it in a few minutes intervals or for greater periods. It is good to schedule a session with a facilitator if feasible. A facilitator can assist you in delving deeper into subconscious limiting thoughts and removing obstacles.

However, with the aid of certain web resources, you can do it yourself. EFT tapping can be segmented into the following five steps.  You can repeat this procedure if you have more than one concern or fear to tackle and minimize the severity of your negative emotions.

Recognize the concern

To use this strategy effectively, you must first recognize the issues or concerns you are dealing with. While tapping, this will be your main point.

It is claimed that concentrating on only one problem at a time can improve your results. It might be a physical ailment or struggle, an emotional burden, or a source of anxiety.

Make every effort to be as descriptive and specific about your issue as possible.

Allow yourself to accept all you are experiencing and embrace it without putting a positive tint over it.

Rate the level of intensity

The participant assesses their current degree of distress on a scale of 0 to 10, with zero representing foundation and ten representing the most severe level of distress. A Subjective Unit of Distress Scale (SUDS) (11) is the name given to this grading system. In most circumstances, you should give your focus a score of five or greater.

The scale measures how much mental or physical pain and suffering you are experiencing due to your primary concern. After performing the entire EFT procedure, you may use a benchmark to track your progress. If you started with a ten-point intensity and concluded with a five-point intensity, you would have made a 50% improvement.

Prepare a setup statement.

The participant expresses their concerns through a setup statement in this step, which aids them in focusing on their discomfort. There are two parts to the setup statement.

The first part involves recognizing the problem they want to solve, while the second section promotes self-acceptance. “Even if I have this (it could be any concern or difficulty), I genuinely embrace myself” is an example of a typical setup statement.

You can modify this statement to match your needs, but you must not use it to solve someone else’s issue. To alleviate the distress caused by the situation, you must concentrate on how it makes you feel.

Tapping Sequence

Begin by pressing the side of your hand, which links to the small intestine meridian, and uttering an affirmation addressing and acknowledging your focus while taking deep breaths. Tap your hand a couple of times while repeating the sentence. As you relax into the session, starting with an affirmation will help you concentrate and focus on your specific discomfort or anxiety.

Keep tapping on your body’s meridian points while reciting your reminder word for whatever you are working on. Depending on how comfortable it is for you, you can tap with one, two, or all of your fingers. The following are some examples of tapping sequences for anxiety:

  • Tap the karate chop point  (small intestine meridian) on the opposite hand using four fingers with one hand.
  • Repeat the setup phrase three times while touching the karate chop spot simultaneously.
  • On the next eight points, tap five to seven times individually.
  • Touch each point while saying a simple reminder phrase. The phrase could be my anxiety or any other concern again and over again.

Evaluate your progress

Evaluate to see whether your anxiousness has subsided. Make a new figure between one and ten. Compare your outcomes to your beginning level of intensity. If it has not changed after the initial session, it is normal. Return to the tapping sequence and repeat it once more. Through tapping, you are starting to have an open and honest discussion about your discomfort or anxiety.

You should assess the distress level again, and the tapping pattern should be repeated until the SUDS scale reads zero or one.

How does EFT Tapping work?

Like acupuncture and acupressure, Tapping uses the body’s energy meridian points.  They are thought to be energy-flowing places of the body.

Tapping makes use of connections between the body and the mind to resolve negative emotions and ideas. According to practitioners, taping is said to activate the energy system that passes along the body’s meridian channels, restoring equilibrium and reducing suffering. (12)

During a tapping session, the person concentrates on an unpleasant emotion, such as a stressful event, a specific phobia, or a terrible memory. Tapping on the meridian points while focusing on accepting the negative emotions assists in re-balancing the energy in the body.

Energy blockages or imbalances can cause a variety of mental health problems. As per EFT proponents, tapping on these meridian points with the fingers restores energy balance, resolving physical and emotional issues.

It can also function the same as mindfulness does by drawing a person’s attention to their body and breath. It may operate as a mental diversion from the worry or stress-inducing circumstances.

Our sympathetic nervous system is disturbed when we are anxious, and the amygdala, a part of our brain, goes into fight and flight mode. This reflex is intended to facilitate us in surviving and protecting us from serious injury. (13)

However, these moderate fight or flight responses build up tension in our bodies over time, especially during stressful times, and that troubling energy is maintained in the body.

It takes a lot of energy to keep a memory or an idea in place. We may break up the energy binding a thought or a memory in place by tapping on certain points along meridian lines.

Research about EFT Tapping for anxiety

Research has shown the effectiveness of EFT Tapping for anxiety and several other mental disorders.

Five thousand people with anxiety were studied in a large-scale study who were given either typical anxiety treatment in the form of cognitive-behavioral therapy both with and without medication or tapping with no medication. Compared to 63% of CBT participants, 90% who got tapping treatment saw an improvement in their anxiety symptoms. (14)

Moreover, a study of 14 randomized controlled studies using EFT for anxiety disorders showed that therapy with EFT was linked to a substantial reduction in anxiety levels. (15)

A 2019 research with 203 participants examined the physical responses and psychological symptoms of those who attended EFT seminars. Women above the age of 50 made up the majority of those who took part. According to the study, participants reported substantial decreases in anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms, as well as pain levels and cravings. They also stated that their well-being has improved. (16)

Another research on veterans revealed that individuals who underwent six hours of EFT tapping counseling had significantly lower psychological distress and PTSD symptoms. (17)

According to another research performed on students with anxiety, researchers found that EFT made them feel peaceful and more relaxed. (18)

Although more research into the science of EFT tapping and how it impacts the body’s stress response is needed, EEG (electroencephalogram) studies have indicated that EFT tapping decreases stress-related brainwave frequencies while amplifying those linked with relaxation. (19)

Benefits of EFT Tapping

While there is limited research on the health consequences of tapping, there is evidence that tapping can have many benefits. EFT tapping treatment has many health benefits, but here are a few of the most prevalent ones:

Relieve stress

One of the most important advantages of EFT tapping treatment is its potential to reduce stress. According to a 2012 research published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, individuals who were given EFT tapping treatment had substantial reductions in cortisol levels and major progress in anxiety and mood. (20)

Control anxiety

According to the studies cited above, EFT tapping treatment is quite efficient in decreasing anxiety.

After only one session, EFT can drastically reduce anxiety symptoms. Researchers discovered that EFT had a unique influence on stimuli that generate fear and anger, which can help to alleviate anxiety symptoms.

Reduce pain

People with chronic pain can benefit greatly from tapping. According to 2013 research, EFT tapping may help those who suffer from tension headaches. The study found that EFT tapping helped lower headache frequency and intensity in 35 people with persistent tension headaches. (21) These findings back up the notion that EFT might be a low-cost, at-home therapy option for people with chronic pain.

Cure depression

EFT was proven to be an incredibly successful treatment for depression in a 2016 meta-analysis of 20 studies, with an average decrease of 41% in symptoms. According to the researchers, EFT was also shown to be as helpful as or better than traditional depression therapies. (22)

Improve Sleep

One of the most common signs of anxiety is sleep disturbances. Since our emotional issues are thought to keep us awake at night, EFT can also help with insomnia and improve sleep.

Help in weight management

Another well-known advantage of EFT tapping treatment is its ability to help people lose weight. Researchers studied EFT’s impact on food cravings, dietary constraint, perceived power of food, weight fluctuations, and self-reported symptoms in a study published in 2020. (23) The research findings suggest that EFT should be explored as an adjunct weight-loss therapy.

Side effects of EFT Tapping

Treatments and medications conventionally used for anxiety have side effects; hence, it is reasonable to be concerned about EFT’s adverse effects.

EFT searches for underlying reasons that you may have overlooked. It causes a horrible feeling, but this feeling is thought to bring you closer to the root cause of whatever the symptom is, and once tapped, it may be released. As a result, the only adverse consequence is vulnerability, as there is no longer any hiding.


EFT tapping is a type of acupressure therapy that can help you rebalance your energy if interrupted. Since research has proved numerous advantages as a treatment for anxiety, depression, PTSD, physical pain, and sleeplessness, EFT is frequently advised to help someone with anxiety and other mental conditions.

Although EFT tapping can be employed to treat various mental disorders, it is most effective in assisting people with anxiety. Since anxiety is not only a state of mind, it affects our entire body; hence, having a strategy that harnesses the combined power of the mind and body is extremely effective.

When we let go of our anxiety, we can be more practical and inventive when faced with problems and better take care of people around us.

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