You’re at a Super Bowl party, heading to refill your plate with nachos, when you’re stopped by the sounds of Zoe Kravitz softly whispering into microphones and gently tapping her nails against a bottle of Michelob Ultra. You’re captivated, oddly relaxed and even feeling a little tingly. You, my friend, have just experienced ASMR — or autonomous sensory meridian response.
Because ASMR is such an individualistic experience, different triggers affect some people more than others. Not everyone experiences ASMR to the same intensity and the effects can differ from person to person. However, ASMR is most commonly described as a pleasurable "tingling" sensation that begins in your scalp and creeps its way down your neck and your back, sometimes spreading out to the limbs. Others describe it as "goosebumps on the brain" and "warm chills," a shivering feeling you might get if someone was gently tracing their finger down your spine. Some say it's like the pins and needles sensation when your foot falls asleep, but pleasurable instead of painful. These tingles are always accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of peaceful relaxation and euphoria; many people report feeling their anxiety slip away, and they often fall asleep afterword.
A: I was just so enamored with the community because it was different than everything else on YouTube then. Everything was very look at me, loud, very grab your attention. I was like, I can’t watch this to relax. The fact that people were putting in the time and effort to make these videos for people to relax, I was like, “That is just so nice! So wholesome! I want to be a part of that community.”
I’ve expereienced ASMR since childhood. Listening to Bob Ross was one of the more memorable, but I would also tap my pencils and school supplies, and leaf through books to get the same sensations. When I found ASMR videos on Youtube I first learned it was called “ASMR”. I didn’t know it had a name. Since then, I’ve watched lots of ASMR videos, and I’ve reached “immunity” on some triggers – tapping doesn’t work for me as well as it used to, but it works better after taking long breaks away from it. Slient hand movements in some of the reiki/aura cleansing videos work well. The triggers that affect me most now seem to be more visual now than auditory. Massage ASMR, Free Spirit ASMR, LuneInnate and Rose Harmonics are the Youtubers I follow who do lots of hand movement triggers. I also really like Ephemeral Rift, ASMR Node, and RaphyTaphy (even if their styles tend more to tapping, which doesn’t work as well for me any more).
A minor detail, I know, but I’d really appreciate it if you wouldn’t call the head massager an “orgasmatron”. There are enough attempts by the media, both advertent and inadvertent, to sexualize ASMR, and we really don’t want newcommers to get the wrong idea. Those who experience ASMR may be able to easily look past the dis-analogy, but for those who don’t, it’s little things like this that make it that much harder.
Just as the reasons vary, so do the triggers. A 2015 study examined ASMR triggers and found that whispering was the most common, with 75% of participants saying it caused body tingles. 64% of participants cited "crisp sounds," like the crackling of foil or tapping of fingernails, as triggers, and 53% said "slow movements," like pouring water, were triggers. Although different people prefer or only react to certain triggers, they typically seek them for the same reason: the physical and emotional side effects.
In the first peer-reviewed article on ASMR, published in Perspectives in Biology in summer 2013, Nitin Ahuja, who was at the time of publication a medical resident at the University of Virginia, invited conjecture on whether the receipt of simulated medical attention might have some tangible therapeutic value for the recipient, comparing the purported positive outcome of clinical role play ASMR videos with the themes of the novel Love in the Ruins by author and physician Walker Percy, published in 1971.