BOSTON (CBS) – Imagine being able to zap all your stress and anxiety away with just a simple touch of your fingers.
It sounds too good to be true, but a popular new form of psychotherapy called “tapping” promises to do just that — rid you of stress, phobias, food cravings, and even post-traumatic stress.
Christine Cramer used to suffer from such severe anxiety she was unable to perform simple tasks like doing her taxes or driving over bridges.
“I became paralyzed with fear,” she says.
Brittany Watkins suffered from emotional food cravings that were ruining her life.
“Every time I was stressed or emotional or upset I would always look for sweets to make me feel better,” says Watkins.
But now both women say they’re living free of their fears, thanks to an alternative psychotherapy treatment called EFT — Emotional Freedom Technique — also known as “tapping.”
The practice involves stimulating certain acupressure points on the body while you focus on what’s stressing you out.
“It tells your body that that stressful thought you’re having isn’t a real threat to your survival,” says Dawson Church , research director of the Foundation for Epi Genetic Medicine. “And once you break the association in your mind between the stressful thought and the fight or flight response one time, it stays broken.”
EFT was introduced in the 1990’s, but recently its popularity has surged. This year over a half million people signed up for the World Tapping Summit.
“I believe within a few years we’ll see it in many hospitals, many mental health clinics,” Church says.
But the question remains: Does it actually work?
Church and other tapping practitioners have published many small scale studies showing positive results. In one of them to be published in the October Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease researchers found stress hormone levels dropped 24 percent after tapping. No drop was found in the control group.
But not all researchers are convinced. Another study in Canada found that while tapping acupressure points did reduce anxiety, Tapping other parts of the body — even Tapping a doll — offered similar results.
“Has this Tapping therapy been proven effective? We don’t think so at this point.” says Rhea Farberman, executive director for public and member communications at the American Psychological Association.
But Cramer and Watkins say they’ve found their answers and are grateful that tapping has given them a new lease on life.
“Rather than popping a pill, we can tap a couple of acupressure points and immediately neutralize any negative symptom we have,” Watkins says. “That’s amazing.”
The American Psychological Association says people with serious stress and anxiety should seek out a mental health professional with proper training and well-established techniques.