This is Maria, a 28-year-old Russian expat in suburban Maryland, starring in a YouTube video that has been viewed more than 7 million times. Hundreds of thousands of Maria’s devotees return again and again to listen to her hushed whispers as she assumes simulated roles — librarian, hairstylist, masseuse — and performs simple motions: folding towels, blowing smoke from an incense burner, flipping through the pages of a magazine.
"Anecdotally, people are also using ASMR videos to help with stress, depression, loneliness, and social anxiety," says Giulia Poerio, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Sheffield in the UK. Poerio recently published a study in PLoS One that found ASMR does, in fact, help people feel calmer, less stressed, and less sad. It even tangibly lowers their heart rates—all suggesting ASMR may have very real, therapeutic value. Meanwhile, previous research in PeerJ reports the sounds can help temporarily alleviate symptoms of depression and chronic pain for those who are tuned into the tingles.
I don’t know if I have the asmr described here, but I find myself getting something like ‘warm chills’ along my back and head. They often happen when I relax myself or feel apprehensive. Examples are; during wreck it Ralph when Ralph was falling towards the mentos on coke bottle mountain. I was getting Butt tons of these. Or maybe when I am sort of tense and its a cold day, I move around a little and feel some tingles. I get these tingles whenever I expect something sort of intense to happen; explosions, a crushing impact, the defeat of a character I love. But only when I expect it, never during.
“For me, something about when kids whisper, it’s, oh my god, it’s so relaxing,” says Desireé Hunnicutt, Aoki’s mother, who started watching ASMR videos in 2011. Hunnicutt says she was motivated to create the AMSR Toddler channel in order to help people. “I see comments where people are like, ‘Oh my goodness, I watch every night and it helps me fall asleep,’” she says. “To me that’s perfect, that’s what we’re trying to do.”
From the tongue-clicks of Janelle Monae’s ‘Make Me To Feel’ to the crunchy bite of an apple that punctuates Superorganism’s ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D’ (surely the quintessential ASMR song?), via actual Macca munching carrots on The Beach Boys’ ‘Vegetables’ and the general click-fest that is the Soulwax remix of Metronomy’s ‘Love Letters’, step this way to ASMR nirvana.
While many colloquial and formal terms used and proposed between 2007 and 2010 included reference to orgasm, there was during that time a significant majority objection to its use among those active in online discussions, many of whom have continued to persist in differentiating the euphoric and relaxing nature of ASMR from sexual arousal. However, by 2015, a division had occurred within the ASMR community over the subject of sexual arousal, with some creating videos categorized as ASMRotica (ASMR erotica), which are deliberately designed to be sexually stimulating.