5 Things You Should Know About ASMR

Photo: Courtesy of ASMR Requests.
Last week PeerJ published one of the first academic research papers on ASMR, revealing fascinating details on the phenomenon. Even if you're not familiar with Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, you may have experienced it. ASMR is the relaxing, tingly sensation some people feel in response to specific auditory or visual triggers. YouTube has over 1.5 million videos devoted to ASMR stimulation, and the "ASMRtists" have devoted fan followings. While apparently thousands (if not millions) of people experience ASMR, and have created a large Internet community, this is the first major study conducted on the topic.  As reported by Fusion, psychologists from Swansea University enlisted 475 volunteers and ran them through a series of questionnaires regarding their specific triggers, physical responses, and mood changes.  It's a legitimate anxiety-reduction tool.
It's no surprise that 98% percent of respondents said that watching ASMR videos helped them relax, but 70% sought out the videos specifically to deal with stress. In fact, many participants added that ASMR eased their anxiety "where other interventions, medical or otherwise, had been unable to assist." It's not sexual.
ASMR is often conflated with sexual stimulation, but while the feeling is extremely pleasant, it's almost never felt below the waist. Only 5% of those surveyed claimed to feel any sexual response to watching ASMR videos.  Whispering is the #1 trigger.
Among the respondents, 75% listed whispering as a primary trigger, followed by personal attention, and "crisp sounds" (tinfoil, nail-tapping, etc.). Some surprising triggers included smiling or the sound of airplanes overhead. 

Medication may impact it.

A small subset of those studied took daily medication, and three of them noted a change in their response to ASMR when medicated, claiming that antidepressants and sleep aids seemed to dull their response to the videos. However, most in this group said they were "unsure" if their medication had an impact.

It can boost your mood.
There's more than a physical component to the pleasant feeling of ASMR. Among the volunteers, 80% reported that their moods changed while watching the videos, with most reporting significant mood improvements during and for several hours after. The study further suggests that people with clinical depression might get the most mood-altering benefit from ASMR.  Hopefully, this will lead to many more studies on this strange but cool phenomenon (neurologists, we're looking at you). But, for everyone who's felt like a weirdo for melting at the sound of a gentle voice or a turned page, this paper is a little victory. You're not a weirdo — you're just lucky.

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