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Tapping Away Anxiety and Stress

MIAMI (CBS4) - Christine Cramer used to suffer from such severe anxiety that she was unable to perform simple tasks such as doing her taxes or driving over bridges.

"I became paralyzed with fear," said Christine.

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," Watkins said.

But now both women say they're living free of their fears, thanks to an alternative psychotherapy treatment called EFT, which stands for "emotional freedom technique... also known as "tapping."

The practice involves stimulating certain accupressure points on the body while you focus on what's stressing you out. It can be done with the aid of a therapist or alone during a moment of anxiety.

"It tells your body that the stressful thought you're having isn't a real threat to your survival. And once you break the association in your mind between the stressful thought and the fight or flight response one time, it stays broken," explained Dawson Church, PhD Research Director of the Foundation for Epi Genetic Medicine.

EFT was introduced in the 1990s, but recently its popularity has surged. This year, more than half-a-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," declared Church.

But the question remains: does it work? Church and fellow tapping practitioners have published many small-scale studies showing positive results. Like this one, to be published in the October Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, that found stress hormone levels dropped 24% after tapping. No drop was found in the control group.

"So their internal stress biochemistry changed as their emotional state changed as well," explained Church.

But not all researchers are convinced. a study out of Canada found that while tapping accupressure points did show a significant decrease in anxiety and fear, tapping other parts of the body, or even a doll, offered similar results.

The American Psychological Association says many more large-scale, peer-reviewed studies must be performed.

"Has this tapping therapy been proven effective?" we asked.

"We don't think so at this point," said Rhea Farberman Executive Director for Public and Member Communications American Psychological Association.

But Brittany and Christine 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 accupressure points and immediately neutralize any negative, negative symptom we have," said Brittany. "That's amazing!"

The APA suggests sufferers look into proven forms of psychotherapy, such as contacting a mental health professional with proper training. They do not consider EFT a good alternative.

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