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EFT is an Effective Tool for Anxiety

January 15, 2015

Story at-a-glance

  • Chronic anxiety, like stress, is very damaging to your mental and physical health, temporarily shutting down your immune system
  • Long-term anxiety raises your risk for depression, hypertension, hormone imbalance, cancer, and many other serious health problems
  • One of the most effective tools against anxiety is EFT, which helps correct the biochemical short-circuiting that occurs with chronic anxiety

By Dr. Mercola

The effects of stress on your mental and physical health are being studied more intensively these days. Anxiety can be considered a type of stress response, typically involving a sense of fear, dread, or apprehension.

A brief period of anxiety is a natural, adaptive response to a potential threat, which puts your body into a heightened state of arousal to keep you out of harm's way—your heart beats faster and your respirations increase as your muscles are prepared for action.

For instance, the anxiety you may feel while hiking near a steep drop-off will likely make you more alert and careful in your movements. The problem arises when anxiety becomes a permanent state, in the absence of any real threats.

When anxiety becomes chronic—as it is for an estimated 40 million Americans—it can increase your risk for a number of mental and physical health problems. If you find you spend a good deal of time feeling anxious, then it's important to take steps to reduce that anxiety before it has a chance to damage your health.

While you can't eliminate anxiety from your life entirely, energy psychology tools such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), demonstrated in the video above, can help you reduce your stress by correcting the bioelectrical short-circuiting that can happen when anxiety becomes chronic.1

Anxiety and Stress Have Similar Effects on Your Brain

Although stress and anxiety are not the same thing, they do significantly overlap in terms of their effects on your body. While stress often occurs in response to an external stimulus (like an argument with your spouse), anxiety tends to be more of an internal state.

Many experts believe that anxiety disorders result from a combination of nature (your genetics) and nurture (your environment).

In other words, individuals who are abused or neglected as children have a higher risk for developing an anxiety disorder, but whether or not it manifests depends in part on their innate ability to cope with stressful situations, "internal resources," personality traits, and social support system.

Anxiety evokes the same "fight or flight or freeze" response as stress, meaning that anxiety will trigger a flood of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol that help you respond in an emergency.

It's normal to feel anxiety with a stressful event, such as before public speaking or in anticipation of a job interview, but normally anxiety will fade once the event passes.

Is Your Brain Becoming Wired for Anxiety?

If you experience anxiety for long enough, your brain may become "wired" for it, such that any potentially undesirable situation sounds a biological alarm. Chronic anxiety might cause you to constantly look out for potential threats when none exist.

Worse yet, some people are so used to feeling anxious that they don't realize there's a problem and simply suffer in silence. Prolonged anxiety can lead to social isolation, physical symptoms, and related mental health problems, including depression.

Chronic anxiety and anxiety disorders may persist for months or even years, regardless of the coming and going of life events. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains how your brain processes anxiety:2

"Several parts of the brain are key actors in the production of fear and anxiety… scientists have discovered that the amygdala and the hippocampus play significant roles in most anxiety disorders.

The amygdala is an almond-shaped structure deep in the brain that is believed to be a communications hub between the parts of the brain that process incoming sensory signals and the parts that interpret these signals. It can alert the rest of the brain that a threat is present and trigger a fear or anxiety response.

The emotional memories stored in the central part of the amygdala may play a role in anxiety disorders involving very distinct fears, such as fears of dogs, spiders, or flying. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that encodes threatening events into memories."

Anxiety Can Lead to a Number of Physical Illnesses

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 85 percent of all disease has an emotional element (and this is probably a conservative estimate), and stress and anxiety may top the list.

When you're stressed, the stress hormones that prepare your body for the perceived emergency also temporarily suppress parts of your immune system, which reduces your response to pathogens and other foreign invaders.

So, if you're stressed all the time, as with chronic anxiety, you are setting yourself up for a crash, in terms of your overall health. The list of stress-related health problems is long and growing longer all the time. The following is just a sample:

Anti-Anxiety Drugs

It is estimated that only one-third of people with anxiety disorders receive treatment,5 and the majority of that "treatment" is limited to prescription drugs. Anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines, which include Ativan, Xanax, and Valium, are a poor solution and come with many potentially serious risks, including memory loss, hip fractures, and addiction.

Up to 43 percent of older adults use benzodiazepines for anxiety and insomnia, often chronically, even though their long-term effectiveness and safety remain unproven. People who take these drugs are nearly four times more likely to die prematurely than people who don't, and also have a 35 percent greater risk of cancer. There is also evidence that benzodiazepine use by older adults results in a 50 percent higher risk for dementia.

Benzodiazepines exert a calming effect by boosting the action of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), in the same way as opioids (heroin) and cannabinoids (cannabis). This in turn activates the gratification hormone, dopamine, in your brain.

Taking anti-anxiety medications over time can result in addiction or physical dependence, and getting off of them can be a major challenge—and very unpleasant, as "benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome" is characterized by panic, insomnia, sweating, vomiting, seizures, muscular pain and a plethora of other symptoms that can persist for up to two weeks.6 I believe there are better ways to manage anxiety.

Tapping Your Troubles Away

Energy psychology techniques, such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), can be very effective for reducing anxiety by correcting the bioelectrical short-circuiting that causes your body's reactions—without adverse effects. You can think of EFT as a tool for "reprogramming" your circuitry, and it works on both realand imagined stressors.

EFT is a form of psychological acupressure, based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture for more than 5,000 years to treat physical and emotional ailments, but without the invasiveness of needles. Following a 2012 review in the American Psychological Association's journal Review of General Psychology, EFT is moving closer to meeting the criteria for an "evidence-based treatment."

Recent research has shown that EFT significantly increases positive emotions, such as hope and enjoyment, and decreases negative emotional states, including anxiety. EFT is particularly powerful for treating stress and anxiety because it specifically targets your amygdala and hippocampus, which are the parts of your brain that help you decide whether or not something is a threat.7,8 If you recall NIMH's explanation about how your amygdala and hippocampus are involved in anxiety disorders, you can see why tapping is such a powerful tool. EFT has also been shown to lower cortisol levels.9

Although you can learn the basics of EFT on your own, if you or your child has a serious anxiety disorder, I highly recommend that you consult a qualified EFT practitioner. For serious or complex issue you need a qualified health care professional that is trained in EFT to help guide you through the process, as it typically takes years of training to develop the skill to tap on and relieve deep-seated, significant issues.

Teach Yourself How to Tap—And Then Teach Your Entire Family

EFT is simple to learn and can be done effectively by both adults and children. We have a number of free articles, videos, and tutorials on our website that will help you learn how to do it, and then the more you tap, the more skilled you'll become. EFT is a great tool to teach to your children to help them diffuse their everyday stresses, thus preventing them from festering or evolving into chronic anxiety.

Children with mood problems such as anxiety are being drugged at an alarming rate, which certainly doesn't help them learn how to regulate their emotions. If your child's anxiety is out of control, then there's a good chance it will persist into adulthood, setting him up for all of the problems already discussed. Many mood and behavior problems can be addressed safely and effectively without drugs. Suitable approaches include nutrition, appropriate exercise, avoidance of environmental toxins, and tools such as EFT. Learning to regulate emotions helps children to better manage their own moods and behaviors, improves self-esteem, and empowers them to feel more "normal" and less stigmatized.

You can learn the basics of tapping on your own and then teach the process to your child, or you can recruit the help of a professional EFT practitioner. I invite you to use the following resources to learn the mechanics of EFT, as well to help you gain an appreciation for its wide-ranging application.

The Major Contributors to Anxiety That Many Fail to Consider

If you suffer from anxiety, make sure you are addressing basic factors that are often overlooked with mental health issues. Specifically, make sure to address the following:

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Sources and References

  • 1 Huffington Post October 27, 2014
  • 2 NIMH Anxiety Disorders
  • 3 Medical News Today March 16, 2013
  • 4 Science Daily September 21, 2010
  • 5 ADAA
  • 6 Addiction November 1994
  • 7 Tapping the Matrix
  • 8 Lissa Rankin April 15, 2013
  • 9 J Nerv Ment Dis October 2012
  • 10 Int Breastfeed J. March 2007
  • 11 Brain Behav Immun November 2011
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