ASMR: A Guide To Those Mysterious Head Tingles
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!
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.
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.
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!
Other ASMR Resources
- ASMR Research
There has not been a lot of ASMR research done, but this is the page to find out about what IS being done.
- ASMR Island
Anything and everything ASMR-related that you could hope for. Listen and watch triggers, communicate with other people who experience ASMR, etc.
- Role Play Videos
A small collection of some of the best role play videos on YouTube
- German ASMR Blog
A reader left me a comment suggesting a couple links for German ASMRers - check out this link as well as the other one left in the comments below!
Even if you don't have ASMR, I'd love to hear from you anyway!