Science of Tapping
EFT Tapping was developed in 1990 by Gary Craig to treat stress, anxiety and depression. In 1995, a uniform method was manualised and since then, over 200 studies have been conducted to ascertain the effectiveness of clinical EFT.
EFT and Cortisol 2012
According to a study published in 2012 in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, EFT has been shown to lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone) by 24% after 50 minutes of tapping. This was significantly higher than the supportive listening group which recorded a reduction of cortisol by only 14%. Ref: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22986277/
EFT and Cortisol 2020
This study was replicated in 2020 with a randomised controlled trial conducted by Dr Peta Stapleton of Bond University, Australia. It found that one hour of EFT tapping reduced cortisol levels by up to 43% https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Ftra0000563
Reduction in Anxiety
A large study of 5000 patients seeking treatment for anxiety was conducted over the course of 5.5 years. One group received Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and medication if required. The other group received EFT Tapping and no medication. The results concluded that 90% of those who received EFT Tapping reported a reduction in anxiety symptoms, taking an average of three sessions to achieve this result. Only 63% of those in the CBT group experienced a reduction in anxiety. When followed up one year later, 78% of the EFT group has sustained their improvements compared with 69% of the CBT group.
Dr Peta Stapleton is Australia’s leading researcher in the effectiveness of clinical EFT on mental health. In her book, The Science Behind Tapping: A Proven Stress Management Technique for the Mind and Body, she has collated various findings from around the world:
“A decade-long research program at Harvard Medical School looking at what happens in the body when various acupoints are stimulated found that certain points almost instantly decrease the activation of the stress response in the brain.” (p.34)
It changes your response to triggers
“ … the brain’s capacity to reprogram itself [is] through a process called “memory reconsolidation”. The outcome is that unhealthy responses to triggers, such as to the tone of your boss’s voice, can be rapidly and permanently eliminated.” (p.34)
It changes your biology
“Tapping initiates a cascading series of events in the brain and body that … impact hormone production, brain waves, blood flow within the brain, and gene expression in ways that enhance emotional health. And tapping has this impact not just for treating trauma but also in addressing everyday anxieties, upsets, and goals.” (p.33)
A few examples
Those participants who took part in a study using EFT to reduce public speaking anxiety “experienced a significant reduction in self-reported anxiety.” (p.150) Before using EFT Tapping, anxiety scores were 10.22 (above clinical cut off point for anxiety). After EFT Tapping, these dropped to 7.83 (non-clinical anxiety) (p.152).
A 2016 study found that “physiological markers of insomnia and pain declined significantly” after tapping (p.60).
“An observational  study of seven veterans (three males and four females) … investigated psychological symptoms change in veterans after six one-hour sessions of EFT delivered over one week. [At a three month follow up] anxiety severity decreased significantly by 46%, depression by 49%, and PTSD by 50%.”
Another study: after six hours of EFT, 90% no longer met the criteria for PTSD. Six months later, 80% were still in remission. (p.59)
Harvard Medical School researched the effects of acupuncture on the brain using MRIs and PET scans. “Their experiments have consistently found that needling acupoints results in decreases of activation in the amygdala, hippocampus, and other brains areas associated with fear and pain.” (p.38)
A study involving 15 obese adults (10 EFT, 5 control group) found that after four weeks of EFT Tapping intervention, MRI scans showed that the part of brain associated with reward and loss had either reduced activation or no activation at all.
Why does it work?
Fight / Flight Response
Every human being has a fight / flight / freeze response. This is a survival mechanism that switches on our Sympathetic Nervous System when we’re in immediate danger. Our adrenal glands are stimulated which causes our heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate go up, and this gives us the energy to either stay and fight or to flee. Once we are safe, the response switches off and we can relax and turn our attention to other things. (Gordan R, Gwathmey JK, Xie LH. Autonomic and endocrine control of cardiovascular function. World J Cardiol. 2015;7(4):204-14.doi:10.4330/wjc.v7.14.204 as reported in www.verywellmind.com)
This winding down process can take anywhere between 20 minutes and 60 minutes before the Sympathetic Nervous System switches off and our Parasympathetic Nervous System takes over. Unfortunately, sometimes, the alert switch remains in the ‘on’ position and we remain in a hyper-alert state. Since the body isn’t designed to remain in this state for long periods of time, the longer we stay in it, the more energy the body expends leading to exhaustion, anxiety and depression.
EFT Tapping enables the body to switch off the flight / flight / freeze response so that it only activates in the face of genuine danger. This shift is achieved by tapping on certain acupressure points on the body which causes the release of calming chemicals. Once we feel safe, we cannot feel anxious as the two states are mutually exclusive. In the calm state, we can now process negative thoughts and emotions and let them go which leads to the feeling more calm, confident, capable and joyful.