Anxiety orGeneralised Anxiety Disorder affects 1 in 20 adults in Britain (National Health Service, 2013), most commonly found in 20 year olds, with a slight increase in prevalence in the female population. There are many psychological treatments for anxiety which help the individual to identify and manage the things in their life which contribute to their anxiety. The most common form of treatment is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which is popularised due to its high success rate, however this favouritism has led to a knock on effect of long waiting lists at medical centres. It is for this reason why this blog post aims to discuss the effectiveness of an alternative psychological treatment.
Emotion freedom techniques (EFT) was developing in 1995 by Gary Craig and have been used as a way of treating anxiety along with many other ailments and disorders. It is based on acupuncture however the realignment points used in acupuncture have been simplified to ones which just include tapping gently on key meridian points on the head, torso and hands (figure 1.) When the individual is feeling anxious they are asked to rate their anxiety on a Likert type scale with 0 being no anxiety and 10 being highly anxious and then while repeating “even though I am nervous because……., I fully and completely accept myself.” They gently tap the locations shown on figure one roughly 7 times each. After this they then reassess their feelings on the Likert scale and can repeat the tapping cycle if necessary.
EFT has been used as an effective way to treat specific phobias as well as general anxiety (Wells, Polglase, Andrews, Carrington and Baker 2003). As when randomly allocated to a treatment group and under laboratory conditions EFT can significantly decrease specific phobias of small animals. An ANOVA showed that compared to diaphragmatic breathing EFT produced significantly greater improvements on three self-report scales. This shows good support for EFT but there were fears of demand characteristics from the participants. As when asked to rate their fear level after the initial tapping, they may have expected or hoped it would decrease, so they might have assumed it had. There are few ways of avoiding this flaw as it is essential that the individual learns to gage their own anxiety level therefore researchers should inform the participant to record everything as truthfully as possible. This paper also only focuses on specific phobias therefore it is hard to generalise the results to other areas of anxiety which are not so precise.
One of the most common forms of anxiety experienced is exam anxiety and EFT has been shown to help individuals cope with moderate to severe levels of test anxiety (Benor, Ledger, Toussaint, Hett, and Zaccaro 2009). This study also reported that two sessions of EFT can produce the same benefits as five sessions dedicated to CBT and that the individuals learning EFT are more likely to transfer information to other areas of their life to help reduce stress. However this was a pilot study meaning that there are areas for improvement such as participants were not randomly allocated to each of the treatment groups and overall there was a small number of participants (N=15) which in turn will affect the power of the statistical tests.
EFT has been shown to have lasting effects with longitudinal studies showing how the behaviour is maintained after 90 days of the treatment (Church, Geronilla, Dinter 2009). This study addressed the effectiveness of EFT as a treatment for 7 war veterans and found that symptoms severity decreased by 40% and levels of anxiety decreased by 46%. Even though the sample size was small the effect produced by EFT was large enough to have statistical significance. However it would be useful for a replica study to run with a larger sample size to see if the results would be maintained.
It is for these reasons why EFT should be promoted as a treatment for anxiety. As in a world with so many pharmaceuticals being used for treatments, something as simple as EFT which has been shown to have positive outcomes similar to CBT and lasting effects should be utilised.
For more information on EFT: http://clayhuthealing.com/docs/eft-presskit.pdf
Benor, D. J., Ledger, K., Toussaint, L., Hett. G., & Zaccaro, D. (2009). PilPilot Study of Emotional Freedom Techniques, Wholistic Hybrid Derived From Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and Emotional Freedom Technique, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Treatment of Test Anxiety in University Students. The Journal of Science and Healing. Vol 5, Issue 6, 338-340. doi.org/10.1016/j.explore.2009.08.001
Church, D., Geronilla, L., & Dinter, I. (2009). Psychological Symptom Change in Veterans After Six Sessions of Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT): An Observational Study. Wholistic Healing Publications. Vol 9, no 1.
National Health Service. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Anxiety/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Wells, S., Polglase, K., Andrews, H. B., Carrington, P., & Baker, A. H. (2003). Evaluation of Meridian-Based Intervention, Emotion Freedom Techniques (EFT), for Reducing Specific Phobias of Small Animals. Journal of Clinical Psychology. Vol 59, issue 9