What is EFT Tapping, and Can It Calm the ADHD Brain?
EFT tapping is a technique that aims to decrease stress and negative emotions. Considered an alternative therapy, it is increasing in popularity and has been used to treat a variety of mental health issues. As a wellbeing coach with ADHD serving other women with ADHD, I use tapping extensively in my work and personal life to address the symptoms of ADHD. Here’s how.
What is EFT Tapping?
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT or tapping) is an intervention that draws on acupressure and psychotherapy principles to treat stress and emotional issues. It involves finger tapping across key points of the body with the aim of reducing emotional distress and increasing positive emotions.
Tapping can help calm fraught minds. I have found that, when used effectively, EFT can help clear traumas, PTSD, anxiety, stress, phobias, chronic pain, resentment, anger, and many types of physical and autoimmune conditions.
How Does EFT Tapping Work?
Tapping is done on specified meridian points – nine of the many identified, ancient acupressure points on the face, body, and hands – that help relax our sympathetic nervous system, or our fight or flight mode, and bring us to a calmer state. The tapping also can be done while talking through or focusing on a specific problem, worry, or emotion.
Does EFT Tapping Really Work?
EFT was first introduced in the 1990s, and is considered an alternative therapy. Research on this modality is limited. Still, many studies link EFT to positive outcomes. One 2020 study found that participants under an EFT intervention showed significant improvement in anxiety symptoms as well as decreased cortisol levels compared to controls.1 This study replicated a 2012 study that found that EFT can reduce biological markers of stress2. A 2016 meta-analysis, additionally, found that EFT treatment is associated with a significant decrease in anxiety, even when accounting for effect sizes.3
While the literature on this therapy is growing, the reality is that EFT has been effectively administered in counseling sessions for many populations, including war veterans, college students, health care workers, athletes, and survivors of natural disasters.4
As a wellbeing and emotional freedom coach to individuals with ADHD, I use EFT when working through ADHD-related issues and symptoms with them. As a woman with ADHD myself, I often use EFT to manage my own symptoms and stressors.
How I Use EFT Tapping for ADHD
Long before I was diagnosed with ADHD, I went to a therapist for help with anxiety after a traumatic miscarriage in what I thought would be a traditional therapy session. But the therapist asked me to keep an open mind and introduced me to tapping. At the end of that first, highly emotional session, I felt calmer, lighter and had a huge shift in perspective.
I believe I was unknowingly attracted to tapping all those years ago because it is perfect for ADHD brains. We thrive off working efficiently and seeing results quickly, which a few rounds of tapping can provide. I’ve come to recognize EFT’s effectiveness in addressing emotional dysregulation, overthinking, anxiety, focus, and other issues connected to ADHD. I’ve been tapping for several years now, and I practice it with all of my clients (along with breath work) for a host of issues including procrastination, imposter syndrome, setting boundaries, food cravings, anxiety, low self-belief or self-worth, limiting self-beliefs, motivation, and much more.
I also use and recommend EFT for active meditation, which is perfect for those of us who find it stressful to keep still, or who even find it soothing to fidget. I have my clients tap on cortisol-reducing meridian points while repeating statements, which works to reduce the intensity of the problem at hand, allowing for more clarity and a shift in perspective. This approach is also helpful in getting clients to acknowledge and accept difficult feelings rather than suppress them with misguided affirmations or reframing.
It’s common for random, distant thoughts or memories to pop in while we’re tapping. I believe this is our inner wisdom trying to find its way to the surface (something our overactive, ruminating can stifle) to empower us with advice we probably already know.
Very often, a side effect of tapping is feeling sleepy or a bit “zoned out.” Yawning and crying are also very common, which can signify the release of suppressed emotions. I find the release of emotions contributes to an energetic boost and inner calm.
Outside of my work with clients, I use tapping myself for many different issues. At the age of 40, I recognize that anxiety, worry, and fear have taken up huge parts of my life. Before I learned how to deal, stressful situations would leave me feeling mentally drained. Knowing that your nervous system can be thrown off by the slightest negative comment or action means you’re on high alert most days – an exhausting ordeal.
Now that I have tapping and breathwork in my toolkit, I find that my equilibrium is easier to manage, and I feel more balanced than any time in my life. If I’ve not used tapping for a few days, I notice that I’m more likely to overreact or begin to feel like my racing, restless thoughts are becoming prominent.
Most mornings (when family life doesn’t take over), I’ll do a few minutes of tapping and intentional breathing before I get out of bed. I consider it a preventative method to reset my emotional baseline and ensure I’m starting my day with a positive mindset, calm mind, and tension-free body. Not only does the tapping rebalance my inner restlessness, but it also helps me see where I’m holding stress and tension in my body.
On my more frantic days, when I’ve not had minute to stop, I tap when I’m in the shower, when I’m walking, or stuck in traffic. It’s safe to say it’s my most used wellbeing tool.
Tapping has also become a go-to parenting tool with my youngest daughter, who can be prone to anxiety, sensitivity, and extreme emotional reactivity. We’ve used tapping to help with nightmares or certain worries she’s developed. We also use it as a nighttime calming ritual to help her relax. She really enjoys when we tap together, and we often have a giggle while doing it. I see the change in her behavior within minutes. She’s even admitted to me that she now uses it by herself to self-regulate her emotions or to fall asleep. At her young age, she too recognizes how powerful tapping can be.
EFT Tapping: Next Steps
- Free Download: How to Rein In Intense ADHD Emotions
- Read: How to Banish Negative Thoughts & Feelings
- Read: Restart Your Brain: ADHD-Friendly Tools for Handling Emotional Stress
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