People are always seeking ways to better manage anxiety and depression. After all, medicines don’t always work, and they have side effects that often out-maneuver their efficacy. Also, psychotherapy may not be your cup of tea. That’s where the technique of tapping (also known as Emotional Freedom Techniques or EFT) for anxiety and depression comes in. 

Tapping can be used as a stand-alone or in conjunction with traditional therapy and/or medication. 

Mind-body methods to improve anxiety and depression are increasingly being used. Practices such as yoga, tai chi, massage – and EFT – are examples.

Tapping is similar to the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture, which teaches that the body’s energy travels along specific pathways. Certain points on the pathways are stimulated by inserting very thin needles (acupuncture) or applying pressure ( acupressure) to improve the flow of energy.

Some scientists believe acupuncture and acupressure work because they stimulate the central nervous system and cause the body to release helpful chemicals. 

Tapping stimulates acupoints by touch rather than by the use of needles. In this way it is similar to acupressure.

To help determine if tapping for anxiety and depression is for you, there are a few things to know. Starting with what it actually is.

What is tapping?

In Chinese medicine, meridian points are thought of as areas of the body through which energy flows. These pathways help balance energy flow to maintain health.

Negative emotions and thoughts can block the flow of energy, leading to physical and psychological symptoms. 

Tapping helps to release blocked energy and decrease negative emotions.

By accessing the body’s energy meridians, tapping helps to unblock the energy, reducing negative emotions and improving overall well-being.

What steps are involved in tapping for anxiety and depression?

  1. State what’s on your mind. Rate your distress on a scale of 0 to 10.
  2. Say aloud your “set-up statement.” This step is about identifying the issue and a statement of self-acceptance.
  3. Use your fingers to tap the specific areas in the tapping sequence.
  4. As you tap, use a reminder phrase to stay focused on your problem area.
  5. At the end of the sequence, rate your distress.
  6. Continue the process until your distress rating is very low.

Most tapping procedures use these locations:

  • the heel of the hand,
  • three locations around the eye,
  • the area below the nose,
  • the area below the lips,
  • the collarbone,
  • the underarm
  • the top of the head. 

Seven to nine taps are delivered on each spot.

How to Tap

  1. Choose a challenge in your life and write it down.
  2. Sit or lie down. Get comfortable. Breathe. Relax. Feel.
  3. Rate the intensity, on a scale of 1-10, of the challenge you plan to tap.
  4. Fill in this basic script with your present challenge: Even though [blank], I deeply and completely love myself.
  5. Do 2-3 rounds of tapping using this script. Repeat the statement, aloud or silently to yourself, as you tap on each of the 9 points from the side of the hand to the top of the head.

    For each point, tap lightly with one or two fingertips 5-7 times.

    For the side of the hand (point 1) and under the armpit (point 8), you can tap either side of the body because the meridian lines are in symmetrical locations on the left and right sides.

    For the points around the bone ridge of the eye socket (points 2–4), use both hands so you can tap the points on the left and right eye at the same time.

    Also, use two hands for point 7 under the collarbone. 
  1. Do 2-3 rounds of tapping while repeating the statement. As you tap, let emotions move and your breath flow.
  2. Add a “because” to your statement.

    Even though [blank] because [blank], I deeply and completely love and accept myself.

    For example:
    Even though I am anxious because I lost my job, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.
    Even though I feel fear because there are a lot of things out of my control, I love and accept myself.

  3. Do 3 more rounds of tapping, cycling through points 1–9.
  4. Choose an affirmation. Tap through the points another 3 times.
  5. Breathe. Relax.
  6. Rate the current intensity of how you feel on a scale of 1-10.

Tapping Statements

Here are some sample statements to use with tapping for anxiety and depression: 

  • Even though there is uncertainty in my life, I love and accept myself. 
  • Even though I don’t have all the answers I want right now, I love and accept myself.
  • Even though I feel overwhelmed, I love and accept myself.
  • Even though I feel worried, I love and accept myself.
  • Even though I feel sad, I love and accept myself.

And here are some positive affirmations to use when tapping:

  • I trust that I know enough right now to make good decisions.
  • In this moment, I let go of the outcome. 
  • I am learning more about who I am and what my needs are through this situation.
  • In this moment, I release control of the future.
  • I deeply and completely love and accept myself. 

When and how often to tap? 

You may tap as often as you want, at any time, and when you’re at any level of emotional intensity.

Tapping when the intensity is low helps prevent greater intensity later in the day.

Why wait until your fight-or-flight is activated? Tap anytime!

Now that you know how to use EFT, here’s a summary:

  1. Tapping is based on the principles of acupuncture and meridian therapy.
    Tapping is based in two areas of traditional Chinese medicine: acupuncture and meridian therapy.

    In these practices, the emphasis is on networks of energy pathways, or meridians, that run through the body.

    Tapping helps to balance and harmonize the energy, leading to better physical and emotional health.
  2. Tapping is a self-help technique.
    Tapping is a technique you can do anywhere, anytime, making it a convenient and accessible option, especially if you don’t have access to therapy or medication.
  3. Tapping can be used to treat a range of psychological issues.
    In addition to anxiety and depression, tapping can be effective in treating other problems, including stress, trauma, and chronic pain.
  4. Tapping is safe, painless, non-invasive, and takes a shorter amount of time than traditional therapy.
    Tapping is a technique that doesn’t require any special equipment or training. Just about anyone can learn how to do it.
  5. The evidence supporting tapping is limited.There’s research supporting tapping’s effectiveness. But we need more research to understand its place in the treatment world.

There are at least three reasons tapping can be effective for managing depression and anxiety.

  1. Tapping targets the physiology of symptoms.
    Tapping on specific points on the body and focusing on an emotion or thought is a way to access and release negative emotions. These are the same negative emotions that may be at the root of symptoms.

    Tapping in this manner may help to reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms.
  2. Tapping can reduce cortisol levels.
    Cortisol is a stress hormone released in response to stress and anxiety. High cortisol levels are associated with depression and anxiety.

    Tapping helps to reduce cortisol levels, thereby helping to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  3. Tapping activates the parasympathetic nervous system.
    The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” response.

    It is also associated with relaxation and calm.

    Tapping can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, leading to a reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression .

Tapping is another example of the pure brilliance of the human mind and body. The interconnectedness is nothing short of exquisite.

Tapping – for anxiety and depression, for trauma, for pain – harnesses interconnectedness so you can optimize your built-in resources and thrive.

You can learn more about depression and anxiety in Dr. Daniels’s blog here.

Dr. Elayne Daniels is a private-practice psychologist, international coach, and consultant. Over the last 25 years, she has helped people heal and deal with depression and anxiety. To learn more about how she might help you, contact her here