• Maggie Dunsford

ASMR: Happy Tingles-Runaway Blog

Updated: May 3, 2020

Okay, I don’t know about you, but I fall into the YouTube rabbit hole about every other week. And let me tell you, it has lead me down some weird corners of the internet. You start your viewing session on a fairly normal video and three hours of watching recommended videos later, you might find yourself in some...strange places. YouTube does indeed have a lot of niche videos that are targeted at a small group of people. And ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) might seem at first like that “weird side of YouTube.” But ASMR is becoming pretty mainstream and popular with celebrities like Margot Robbie, Cardi B, and Katy Perry creating ASMR content and even brands making commercials using ASMR. IKEA has a 25 minute ASMR commercial online. Some ASMRtists (what some ASMR content creators call themselves) are making enough money off of their videos that ASMR has become their full-time job.

But let’s take a step back. What even is ASMR? And how does it relate to mental health?

ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response which sounds super science-y and complicated, but it’s actually quite simple. Although ASMR is a fairly new trend online, the actual phenomena probably existed long before it was given a name. ASMR is a feeling of relaxation when hearing or seeing certain stimuli ie. triggers.

Many people experience tingles that start in the back of the head and that radiate down their spine to their limbs when viewing ASMR videos. Triggers like whispering, tapping, hand fluttering, eating, along with many others can create these tingles and there are ASMR videos for every trigger imaginable. Maria also known by her YouTube name Gentle Whispering creates ASMR content and describes it as “...showers of sparkles. It’s like warm sand being poured all over you, trickling over your head and down into your shoulders. It’s like goosebumps on your brain.”

ASMR might seem fringe or weird. Some people even think it’s sexual (it isn’t, at least not inherently). But the popularity and growth of ASMR is a testament to how much people enjoy it. Many people use ASMR to go to sleep at night, or just to relax, or manage depression or anxiety. Not much research has been done of ASMR yet because of how new it is, but thousands of people sing its praises as a way to relax and feel better.

I experience ASMR and have for as long as I remember, even when I did not have the language to describe what I felt. I remember feeling relaxed and getting tingles as a child when I got my hair cut, at the nurse’s office, and during storytimes. When I found ASMR, I realized there was a word for what I experienced and a way to relax whenever I needed it. I found ASMR in high school and have been listening to it ever since. ASMR makes me feel calm and grounded and like I’m not alone. I usually use ASMR to fall asleep and it’s such a comfort to be able to drift off feeling so relaxed. When I’m anxious and depressed and have had a bad day, I know ASMR videos are just a click away and they offer relief.

This isn’t to say that ASMR is a treatment for mental illness. ASMR is not a substitute for therapy and medication and it’s not a cure-all, but it has helped a lot of people including me. Maria, the ASMRtists mentioned earlier has gotten messages from people all over about how her videos have helped them. From struggling college students to people in the military to people with sleep disorders, ASMR can be a big help.

ASMR is not for everyone. For example, people with misophonia may strongly dislike ASMR. Misophonia is a strong dislike or hatred of certain sounds and ASMR might trigger misophonia in some people instead of the positive emotions it’s meant to create. ASMR isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and that’s okay! But it’s something a lot of people swear by to help them relax and deal with mental illness and sleep disorders. I’m one of the people ASMR has helped and I’m so grateful for the ASMRtists who I’ve watched over the years. So if ASMR is something you might be into, give it a try! If you’ve been hesitant about watching ASMR or weren’t sure exactly what it is, I hope this helped explain things a bit. Happy tingles everyone!

Image Credit: Getty Images/westend61


Gibson, Caitlin. “A Whisper, Then Tingles, Then 87 Million YouTube Views: Meet the Star of ASMR.” The Washington Post. WP Company, December 15, 2014. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/a-whisper-then-tingles-then-87-million-youtube-views-meet-the-star-of-asmr/2014/12/12/0c85d54a-7b33-11e4-b821-503cc7efed9e_story.html.

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