You may have seen recent claims about how taps to the skin may aid anxiety. Clickbait headlines are floating around, and we have spent hours examining the science behind them.
According to articles, tapping the index and middle finger on eight points on the body for 10 minutes, combined with mental exercise, can lower anxiety. They call it Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT).
The articles report on a study that used 22 participants with phobias. After using EFT, their distress over their phobias was so low they wouldn’t have qualified to be included in the study to begin with — meaning they were essentially cured. They were divided into two groups — one did deep breathing, and the other did EFT.
On a 12-point anxiety scale, people who did deep breathing exercises dropped to a 5.7 after treatment. People who did EFT dropped to a 2.9.
Oddly, we cannot trace this study to a university or organization. And, while they state the results for the groups, no individual records were presented.
EFT isn’t brand new, so this study isn’t the first to support it, but it is the first to make huge headlines. It was first developed by Gary Craig. He’s an engineer from Stanford. He’s not a doctor. He is a “Certified Master Practitioner of Neuro-linguistic Programming.” That’s a pseudoscientific practice that’s often used by hypnotherapists.
Great ideas often come from people who aren’t doctors. We aren’t dismissing it simply because Mr. Craig isn’t a doctor. But the fact that this presents itself as a medical breakthrough without clearly citing all of its sources gives us pause.
People who believe EFT works say it taps the body’s energy and sends signals to the parts of the brain that control stress. The tapping is done on acupuncture points. Traditionally, it’s done at 12 spots on the body, not eight. As acupuncture is a proven alternative medicine, it could be that EFT is working off the same underlying principles.
In a 2013 study of veterans with PTSD, those receiving EFT no longer fit the criteria for PTSD within a month. In a 2022 study, EFT reduced anxiety and stress in healthcare professionals. Both of these studies back up the claims being made by the treatment.
EFT may be an incredible tool against stress and anxiety. It’s not proven, but some significant studies back it up. This current study is odd in that its origins cannot be traced. But its findings do seem to line up with earlier work. You should never replace medical advice with tips you find on the internet. But, if you do research and think it might help you, discuss it with your doctor and see if EFT could be a helpful tool for you.