By now, we’re no stranger to even the oddest of internet fads. But if the videos circulating of a person softly talking into a microphone, tapping their fingernails, or slicing soap shavings have left you scratching your head, you’re not alone. These videos, while odd, are actually incredibly relaxing for some people and a trigger for something called ASMR. So if you’ve been wondering: what is ASMR? You’re in the right place.

As someone on the CS team who experiences it, I’m here to tackle the topic and clear up a few things. It’s more common than you think, and there’s even a chance that you have experienced it and didn’t even realize. Once I had the language to articulate what I was feeling, I noticed that I was not alone.

Read on for the breakdown of everything you need to know (and maybe were too scared to ask) about ASMR.

What Is ASMR?

What does ASMR stand for? First things first—ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response. Research is in its infancy, the term ASMR just being coined in 2010, but it’s a phenomenon that’s spreading throughout the internet. It’s been defined as “a feeling of well-being combined with a tingling sensation in the scalp and down the back of the neck, as experienced by some people in response to a specific gentle stimulus, often a particular sound.” The Guardian describes it as “a feeling of otherworldly relaxation… like your brain is melting in a good way.”

Some of the most common triggers include whispers, white noise, lip-smacking (I know, stay with me), having a person’s complete attention, watching someone perform a meticulous task, as well as chewing, tapping, scratching, and rustling paper.

How does ASMR ease stress?

A 2015 study published in PeerJ looked into ASMR and suggested it can improve mood (including symptoms of depression or stress) and even chronic pain symptoms through the various common triggers. And while someone intimately whispering into a microphone may sound sexual in nature, it’s been shown to be primarily therapeutic. In a recent study, less than 2% of those triggered by ASMR said it had sensual implications for them.

There are even findings that propose that ASMR can slow down one’s heart rate and induce a state of relaxation and calm. It’s also been noted that people who experience ASMR have reported an increased feeling of connection with other people, which obviously has a very beneficial influence on one’s general health and happiness. How wild is that?

Research shows that other positive side effects of ASMR include:

  • Feeling relaxed.
  • Falling asleep easily.
  • Feeling comforted or cared for.
  • Experiencing less anxiety or pain, since watching videos can serve as a distraction.
  • Feeling better when sick or upset.

How do you know if you have it?

One way is to see if the above descriptions and triggers sound familiar! I had never heard of ASMR until a friend sent me an article about it a few years ago, but as I read it, it perfectly explained a sensation I would try to describe growing up as a heart burst.

It would happen if a teacher was kindly explaining something to me or when my grandma would chat about this and that as she did a craft with me. Other triggers for me included someone playing with my hair and soft tapping sounds. Those actions send shivers down my scalp and shoulders and leave me feeling uber relaxed.

If you’re still not sure if you experience this phenomenon, peruse the videos below!

ASMR Video Examples

ASMR has grown to a point where people have entire YouTube channels devoted specifically to ASMR. W Magazine even has a full segment on celebrities doing ASMR-inspired interviews. Click through below for a few video examples of different triggers and get ready to go down the rabbit hole.

Still not sure if you experience ASMR? Try searching “ASMR test” on YouTube and watch a video like the ones below to see if you are triggered.

We want to know what you think—totally weird, or do you experience ASMR?

This post was originally published on February 8, 2019, and has since been updated.

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