A woman sits at a table, her face obscured by an ad booklet. She speaks softly into the camera’s microphone as she meticulously examines every product mentioned on the glossy page, pausing only to tap on her phone or turn a page slowly and thoughtfully. It’s hardly a revolutionary attempt at product promotion but rather a reasonably typical scenario seen in a slew of auditory-focused videos that have made their way to the online masses in recent years.
The internet phenomena use autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR, a pleasurable physiological sensation generated by specific noises. Among scholars and mental health professionals, the experience is primarily unstudied. However, with over 13 million ASMR videos on YouTube from creators worldwide, ASMR has undoubtedly garnered a following among the general population. (Even lifestyle publications like W magazine have gotten in on the act, utilizing ASMR to conduct celebrity interviews.)
ASMR isn’t a new notion for those who have experienced it. It is frequently used to alleviate tension, anxiety, and insomnia. ASMR causes “tingling sensations in the crown of the head, in response to a range of audio-visual triggers such as whispering, tapping, and hand gestures,” according to one ASMR study from the department of psychology at the University of Sheffield in England.
Many people report that the effects of ASMR improve their general mental health, and they want more specialists to investigate and support it.
The Great Potential of a Quiet Video
ASMR videos rarely have high production standards; they rarely require special effects or extensive editing. In fact, some of the most effective ASMR content appears more like intimate confessionals, in which the video maker, known as an ASMRtist in the community, sits in front of the camera and participates in relaxing behaviour that elicits viewers’ responses.
Soft sounds like whispering, blowing into a microphone, and tapping on things like a glass bottle are the most typical triggers, as is imagining your head being caressed. Role-playing is also common, in which the video creator pretends to be a doctor’s office receptionist or a librarian aiding with book checkout. And videos of painter Bob Ross have been known to cause “brain tingles” in certain viewers.
Kayleigh Hughes, 27, of Austin, Texas, finds that ASMR videos help her cope with her migraines and anxiety.
“I started listening because I suffered headaches all the time, and it helped me manage them while I waited for medication or sleep,” she explained. “I quickly began using it to calm down when I was scared, and I soon began using it as a sleep aid because my anxiety makes it difficult for me to clear my mind and go asleep at night.”
Hughes employs additional treatments to boost her mental health in addition to watching ASMR clips, notably role-play videos set in fake salons and spas. She stated she goes to counselling and takes medicine, but she credits the mindfulness she practises with ASMR with allowing her to relax even more.