ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response. While it is commonly thought to be someone whispering or making relaxing sounds, ASMR is actually a low-grade euphoria; whispering and relaxing sounds are just a trigger. It is that tingly feeling that goes down your spine that gives you the good chills.

ASMR videos are a growing trend on the internet and have even gained some primetime attention. During the 2019 Super Bowl, Michelob Ultra ran an ASMR-themed commercial. While it is gaining popularity online, there are some mixed reviews. It may give some people happy tingles, but others find it irritating. What is it and why is it so popular?

How it works

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Researchers are still studying the phenomenon, but they believe it is a shortcut to activate the pleasure response in the brain. When triggered, a feeling of euphoria radiates through the body. People who experience ASMR say that it is sent throughout the body in waves and can last for several minutes.

If you get the chills while listening to your favorite artist or song, you have not experienced ASMR, but frisson. Frisson is an emotional response to something such as music. The euphoric feeling hits only once and passes quickly. There are many websites that focus on ASMR where users describe their experiences.

What are triggers?

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The most common triggers are soft, relaxing sounds, visual stimuli, and/or gentle touch, mostly to the head, neck, or back. A study conducted on 290 people found that the top triggers were whispering, tapping or scratching sounds, getting a haircut, and watching others paint or draw.

If you are interested in seeing if ASMR works for you, there is no shortage of trigger videos on the internet. There are entire YouTube channels and websites devoted to ASMR. You can watch someone wrapping Christmas presents or whispering and tapping on the camera. Over 200,000 people have watched these videos.

Doesn’t work for everyone

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While many people enjoy the soft voices and tapping noises, some people are irritated and annoyed by them. These people most likely have a form of misophonia, which is considered the opposite of AMSR. Misophonia also gives people emotional reactions to specific sounds but in a more negative way. They are typically triggered by sounds made by the human body such as chewing or sipping.

Personality also has an impact on whether or not a person will experience ASMR. In the same study referenced in the previous section, they found that people who are more extroverted and open to new experiences are more likely to experience ASMR euphoria. Females also tend to experience ASMR more frequently than males.

Benefits of ASMR

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The immediate benefit of ASMR is the euphoric feeling that you get. If it appeals to you, it will give you happy tingles and make you feel good. People who experience ASMR have claimed it felt like euphoric waves that radiate through their body for up to 10 minutes at a time.

ASMR also has been shown to lower stress and anxiety. People who experienced ASMR had a heart rate that was 3.14 beats per minute slower than those who do not experience it. This is comparable to the effects of listening to music and other stress-reduction techniques. Some people use ASMR videos to relax when trying to fall asleep.