For some, it’s soft-spoken whispers about getting a physical exam. For others, it’s the sound of someone carving soap. For me, it’s this hair-brushing and scalp massage video. ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, is the term used to describe the sensation of overwhelming relaxation some people feel after hearing certain ‘trigger sounds’ – ranging from the clack of high heeled shoes on wooden floors to the soothing sounds of Bob Ross’ paintbrush. For those who experience it, ASMR feels like a rush of warm tingles spreading from the base of your neck into the rest of your body, sometimes all the way to your toes. For those who have never been triggered by hushed whispers or tapping fingernails, however, ASMR videos will probably seem like the most underwhelming entertainment on the internet – and may even have you wondering why some channels have over 800,000 subscribers.
How was ASMR discovered?
Though the phenomenon of ASMR started gaining significant internet popularity in 2012, those who experience it will likely tell you they’ve felt it their entire life. I can still recall the first time I ever felt ASMR – the sound of my soft-spoken 3rd grade teacher’s voice explaining the rules of punctuation would probably still trigger me today, and entrance me in an almost drug-induced state of calm. Back then, however, I had no way of conceptualizing the feeling of extreme tingly relaxation, as the term “ASMR” wasn’t even coined until it became an internet sensation. In fact, ASMR hasn’t yet been empirically explained by researchers; this 2015 journal article is still trying to define the sensation in scientific terms. The phenomenon is so new, the only evidence it actually exists comes from the stories of those who’ve felt it before – and the 17 million hits on ASMR videos like this one.
Does ASMR feel like sexual arousal?
There’s a community of ASMR followers on Reddit, who sometimes refer to the sensation as “head tingles” or having a “brain orgasm.” But the short answer is no, ASMR isn’t sexual. The longer answer: most ASMR aficionados will tell you they don’t feel turned on by the sounds or videos. However, if you’ve never felt warm tingles rushing down your spine after hearing the sound of someone speaking in a hushed European accent, and especially if that someone is an attractive blonde woman saying, “I would like to protect you, to comfort you, to help you relax and forget about your trouble, whatever it is,” – it’s easy to see how ASMR could get confused with sexual pleasure. Yet, the main purpose of ASMR videos has always been relaxation. Some claim they’ll help you fall asleep at night, while others promote the benefits of letting go of stress and leaving your worries at work.
Can I experience ASMR?
As the saying goes, you won’t know until you try. For some, finding the right trigger sound is easy – for others, it takes a bit of searching. If you haven’t yet felt ASMR and you want to, the good news is there are many ASMRtists (a.k.a. ASMR vloggers) to search through until you find the perfect relaxation-inducing video. Worst case scenario, you can check out these links for other relaxation options!