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ASMR: A Guide To Those Mysterious Head Tingles

Updated on April 22, 2013

ASMR. Those four letters mean a lot to those who experience it, but leave most others feeling confused and unable to understand just what it is that gets our heads "tingling" in response to certain sounds. Also known as Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, this phenomenon only affects a relatively small group of people. Are you one of them? Read this guide to find out.

A. What is it?

ASMR is a relaxing, tingling sensation that starts at the top of the head and can extend through the limbs. It can be broken down into two types: A and B.

Type A ASMR occurs by using only your mind. The sensation is consciously controlled and set off by certain thought patterns.

Type B, however, is much more common and is an uncontrolled reaction to an external trigger. This external trigger is required in order for Type B ASMR to occur. These triggers will be explored in greater detail later on this page. Some people do experience both types of ASMR.

As for the medical explanation behind this phenomenon... well, there isn't one. Though there are quite a few guesses as to what the cause may be. One of the more popular theories is that during an ASMR session, the person is experiencing a physical consciousness of serotonin being released. Another theory is that it is caused by endorphins. While neither one of these theories may be correct, they are more realistic than some explanations. For example, some people say that ASMR experiencers have ESP or are Indigo Children. As of right now, no one knows for sure what this sensation is caused by or what it means.

B. Who gets it?

It’s hard to tell exactly who experiences ASMR because those who do are usually hesitant to discuss it. Many people believe that this is a normal reaction that happens to everybody, but upon realizing that most people don’t experience this they often feel “weird” or like a “freak.” What we do know is that this experience is common in (but not limited to) more creative and/or right-brained individuals. Many people who experience ASMR are interested in music and art, but whether or not there is a correlation between music/art and this sensation is unknown.

To find out if you have ASMR, keep reading and watch the videos below. If you feel tingles, intense relaxation, and/or sleepiness, then you’re one of us!

C. An overview of ASMR triggers

Those with Type B ASMR (which is the majority of the ASMR community) rely on external triggers to produce this tingling sensation. Often, these individuals will go to YouTube where there is an established community of people who upload ASMR-inducing videos for others to enjoy. You’ll notice that these videos can all fit into one of many different categories, which are different types of triggers. These include tapping/scratching, whispering/softly speaking, and close personal attention/role playing. Each of these triggers will be explored below, and examples will be provided for you to view in order to find out which trigger you respond to most strongly.

Two more points:

1. ASMR can be triggered physically as well. Touching, lightly playing with, and washing/cutting hair can be a very strong physical trigger. This is obviously something that is impossible to emulate on the Internet, but many YouTubers have tried. You’ll find out more about that below.

2. Overexposure to one certain trigger or certain type of trigger can ultimately cause you to end up being immune to it. Many people have found one particular trigger that works so well for them that they use it constantly until the point where it does not induce ASMR for them any longer, and they are forced to search for another one. If you find a particular trigger that you enjoy, try not to overexpose yourself to it (as hard as it may be to resist!).

ASMR on the go

These MP3 downloads of ASMR tracks make it really easy for you to load them onto your iPod or other player and take them with you - it's portable relaxation!

Asmr and Relaxation : Whispers and Sounds
Asmr and Relaxation : Whispers and Sounds

This is a great one - it features 10 tracks of different ASMR triggers

 

D. Trigger #1: Tapping/Scratching

Tapping and/or scratching different surfaces is a very common trigger, and you’ll find several videos dedicated to it. The repetitive sounds and motions can be tingle inducing. The video below features these sounds on a variety of surfaces, so if this is a trigger for you then you’ll be able to learn even more specifically what surfaces and sounds you respond to the best.

Tapping/Scratching Video:

E. Trigger #2: Whispering/Softly Speaking

One constant in almost all ASMR videos is the fact that the individuals making them will be speaking very softly or whispering. This tone of voice can be a major trigger, especially when in conjunction with accented speech. Not only do I mean foreign accents (these are huge triggers!) but really accenting certain sounds/letters/syllables in your words.

Whisper video:

F. Trigger #3: Close Personal Attention/Role Play

This is my biggest trigger, and a very popular one among the ASMR community. You'll find everything from people pretending to put makeup on you to mock eye exams, haircuts (which imitate the physical triggers) to someone treating you in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. Anything that focuses on you is highly tingle-inducing. One of my personal favorite role-play videos is the cranial nerve examination featured below. Another trigger that loosely fits into this category is how-to videos. Watching someone complete a task while explaining it to you does cause ASMR for many people. Between the instructional quality to his videos and his soothing voice, Bob Ross is a very popular trigger in this community!

Close Personal Attention/Role Play video:

G. A Few Final Thoughts

-It's imperative to stress that this is in no way a sexual experience.

-Not all triggers will work for everyone, and the triggers mentioned above are not the only ones. They are just the most popular. If you have others, please feel free to comment below!

-What's your ASMR story? I (and other readers, I'm sure) would love to hear about it in the comments below.

-Keep checking back for updates to this lens, including a guide to the best ASMR-inducers on YouTube!

Even if you don't have ASMR, I'd love to hear from you anyway!

Do You Have ASMR? - What's your favorite trigger? Favorite YouTuber? Comment below!

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    • Zano Smith profile image

      Zano Smith 18 months ago

      I have type A ASMR . I can trigger the skin response at will instantly. I can only maintain the intensity for seconds before it starts to decrease but then can pulse the response again. I could demonstrate it for anyone at anytime. I'm very interested in having this ability measure and would be a lab rat for any scientist.

    • profile image

      kat1e 20 months ago

      Seems like they removed that video but I've found some other great videos on their channel: https://youtu.be/hGzV5VyDcRw https://youtu.be/DlJVEmWq0vM Isn't that cool? I find it so relaxing!

    • profile image

      kat1e 21 months ago

      hmm the videos you linked don't work for me but a guy at work mentioned that he experiences it when he watches videos of some person whispering. My triggers are usually not related to other persons but sounds of objects instead, like a train rolling by in the distance or when some crumples tin foil like in this video: https://youtu.be/uEtPs1AtxBI

      The crackling sound really gets to me, not sure why though. For some people it happens because of certain memories but I don't think I have a particular eventful memory of crumpled tin foil, so that can't be it

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      DAVE 2 years ago

      I Have always had a tingle in the back of my neck when I get a hair cut. Now I understand what it is. Actually anytime anyone touches me there It tickles. I have also found ASMR to be somewhat sensual especially video of women lighting matches but I think it has to do with something that happend to me in childhood by a babysitter so I identify Women and matches as sexual

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      riccy987 3 years ago

      Good grief. I've had this all my life and never knew that other people did. My trigger is being watched. Which explains why I became an actor. But weirdly my biggest trigger in this area isn't actually performing - it's standing still while technicians set up lights around me. And the trigger extends to items owned by me being watched. My first memory of this sensation is from school. It was a maths class and I happened to have a bucket with me for some show-and-tell in in another class. The teacher asked to borrow the lid of the bucket to explain something about circles to the class. I have no idea what he was teaching us, as I was too busy blissfully sinking into this strange sensation. And even today, in rehearsals for plays, if I lend another actor a newspaper or a jumper as a stand-in prop, bam, away we go!

    • profile image

      coldcash1 3 years ago

      I almost drive myself crazy wondering what this is and why I can do it. For me, ASMR is completely voluntary. I use to meditate when I was younger and assumed the tingling sensations were universal. Now, I simply roll my shoulders or take a deep breath and my body tingles starting from my head down to my toes. I even am generally able to control its flow and direct a larger portion to a specific spot. I don't have a clue if any of it means anything but I do sometimes try to direct the "energy" to wounds. and I trigger before I have to do something that requires focus like shooting a basketball or aiming. Who knows if it helps or it's a placebo effect but I'd love to finally get some answers..

    • sweett0609 profile image

      sweett0609 4 years ago

      Love your lens! I've had ASMR as long as I can remember. Gentle Whispering is by far my favorite YouTube ASMR artist. I think its safe to say I'm addicted to her channel.

    • ChrisLdn profile image
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      ChrisLdn 4 years ago

      @anonymous: You're right - I think people do frequently mix up ASMR with the music shivers.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: and actually this is why the youtube clips don't work for me because they're contrived - so the consciousness of the other person isn't quite right...

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      The triggers for me have usually involved the observation of someone undertaking a methodical task in a state of quiet concentration, usually with soft pleasing sounds associated with the task. One memory as a kid was watching my dad at a shop trying to determine which light bulb was the right one to buy by opening each box and examining the bulb carefully (while I stood quietly watching enjoying the tingles - the one time patiently and obediently waited next to him!). Other examples could be watching someone draw, the sounds of selecting a new pencil setting off more tingles. In terms of people's voices, the sound of saliva in a quietly spoken voice will do it. But the content of what is being said has some relevance - it's usually officious in thought, like detailing or describing something, thereby speaking in a way that is methodical and slow. All of these examples had me thinking that it is usually associated with the state of consciousness of someone else - the person being observed. Also, some explanations seem to confuse ASMR with the immense shivers one gets listening to inspiring music - to me they are completely different phenomena.

    • ChrisLdn profile image
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      ChrisLdn 4 years ago

      @anonymous: You might be thinking of something called frisson, which is different from ASMR, but you probably do experience both :).

    • ChrisLdn profile image
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      ChrisLdn 4 years ago

      @anonymous: This isn't necessarily true for everyone. I know it certainly isn't true for me, as I've experienced ASMR during many of the conditions you listed. It's very interesting though... Must be hard to experience it when the conditions have to be just right for some people. Thanks for your comment!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      In order to have that kind of feeling, you need to be in somewhat of a drowsy mode. If you have had enough (or too much) sleep, if you have had coffee or stimulants, if you are worried about something, chances are, you won't get it. If it's too hot, chances are you won't get it either. (if it's too cold it doesn't work either).

      Blow-drying by someone seems to work. I don't know about others though

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I see everyone describing ASMR as a pleasurable sensation.

      Am I the oddball?

      I can't say that it has been for me... I have a very strong triggering from sounds like teeth clicking (even my own), scratching metals, or the sound of a stainless steel fork on the porcelain of someone's teeth. Sometimes, the sounds send me to the point of physical distress.

      I finally had to work hard on "conditioning" myself to consider these triggers as "pleasant". Now when I am exposed to them, I mentally repeat a relaxing mantra and tell myself it's pleasant, not painful. It has helped. I don't physically cringe at the triggers any more.

      "Whisperer" videos have a very similar trigger for me -- and I think if I'd bumped into them before I had started conditioning my trigger responses.

      Like everyone else, I'd never been realized others either (a) didn't feel the same way or (b) had any kind of even similar responses. Having a label to attach does help... I don't think I'd have caught on until I heard the NPR story...

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I first recall experiencing ASMR when I was a child of 5 in kindergarten. It was another girls birthday in the class and her mother had baked her cupcakes to share with all of the children in celebration. I remember her passing the cupcakes out quietly one by one to all of the children and when she came to me she gave me one as she did everyone else. I was just locked in this total state of euphoric bliss being served a cupcake. Haha sounds so silly to type that out, but I still get it from time to time being served things (restaurants etc..). Also whispers and hand touches totally send me there. And while the actual blissful feeling is not in and of itself sexual, It can sure be a turn on.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I discovered the reason for the tingling only a few months ago, and am glad I found it has name and I'm not the only one! I made a collection of my favorite videos myasmrfix.com

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I'm 16 and i think that i have ASMR too. It sometimes happens to me while watching trailers, because of action and excitement and music i think. But i have others triggers as well. I never felt comfortable about it but i though that everyone got it. Now it is not such a big deal for me and now i realised that it even have name! And i am feeling more special now so thanks :)

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I also have ASMR I am 13 years old and it first started when I was 7(of corse I didn't know it then) I was at school and the teacher told us all to whisper to each other about something we did this weekend. It was funny the way I felt when she whispered some words I didn't know what had happened . Then a few years ago my 4 grade teacher told us about it and that's when i learned i had it. I love the vids above thanks.ð

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I also have ASMR I am 13 years old and it first started when I was 7(of corse I didn't know it then) I was at school and the teacher told us all to whisper to each other about something we did this weekend. It was funny the way I felt when she whispered some words I didn't know what had happened . Then a few years ago my 4 grade teacher told us about it and that's when i learned i had it. I love the vids above thanks.ð

    • ChrisLdn profile image
      Author

      ChrisLdn 4 years ago

      @1001-Matratzen: Thanks for your comment! I'm planning a little update on this lens within the next week or so and I'll be sure to link to your website at that time :).

    • profile image

      1001-Matratzen 4 years ago

      Hi!

      I am from Germany and also have ASMR. Because ASMR is not very well known in Germany I decided to open an own blog and a community that's of course written in German ;-) Is it possible that you mention my sites on your lens? That would be very helpful for all the German readers! My sites are: asmrblogdeutschland.wordpress.com and www.asmr-deutschland.de. Thank you

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      It really blows my mind {still} to know I'm not the only one who experiences this. My earliest memory of tingles comes from when I was very young and my mother would take me to church. I was raised Catholic, and during the mass, there are readings. There was one particular lady who had the most most soothing voice. I was always so happy when she read because of the wonderful trance like feeling it caused. Since then, the sound of pages flipping/soothing voices have always got me. I experienced my first tingles as a 5-year-old, and now that I'm 33, it's fantastic to discover that I'm not the only one.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      It really blows my mind {still} to know I'm not the only one who experiences this. My earliest memory of tingles comes from when I was very young and my mother would take me to church. I was raised Catholic, and during the mass, there are readings. There was one particular lady who had the most most soothing voice. I was always so happy when she read because of the wonderful trance like feeling it caused. Since then, the sound of pages flipping/soothing voices have always got me. I experienced my first tingles as a 5-year-old, and now that I'm 33, it's fantastic to discover that I'm not the only one.

    • profile image

      SororPeregrina 5 years ago

      *raises hand* Serious ASMR person here! When I was a child, all the other little girls wanted to be hairdressers. Not me. Because my earliest trigger was having my long hair played with, I was always the volunteer to have mine brushed and braided and otherwise fiddled with. As I became an adult, watching or reading about facial massage joined the party (not all-over massage, just the face), and YouTube is full of terrific videos from beauty esthetician schools showing exactly that. My favorite is an 11-minute instructional video from a school in Ireland called IBHT. No talk at all, just written instructions, beautiful music, and a very graceful esthetician. The channel is ibht2011 and that particular video can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pjg_IF3PlSA

      Interesting that you mentioned triggers going away through overexposure. I imagine that the reason would be the Law of Diminishing Returns.

      Super lens, and I've bookmarked it. Nice to know that someone else knows exactly what ASMR is (and is not).

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I may have experienced ASMR, thanks for sharing this information.

    • ChrisLdn profile image
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      ChrisLdn 5 years ago

      @anonymous: I don't make videos, but thank you. There are countless great videos on YouTube.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      @ChrisLdn: my email is mknowles469@gmail.com

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @ChrisLdn: did you get my message

    • ChrisLdn profile image
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      ChrisLdn 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Oh I don't make videos, I just watch them :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @ChrisLdn: would you consider doing a 30 min asmr video for me?

    • ChrisLdn profile image
      Author

      ChrisLdn 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for sharing; I've never heard this trigger before!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      my asmr trigger is a little weird but i like to watch and listen to women lighing those strike anywhere matches the sound they make lighting up is so relaxing to me.just seeing and hearing them lit one after the other it sounds so nice

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I never heard of this before. Very interesting.

    • Kumar P S profile image

      Kumar P S 5 years ago

      Nice lens ! Thanks for sharing.

    • aviwolfson profile image

      Avi Wolfson 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great lens, thanks for sharing!