Nov 29th, 2019, 05:04 PM

Add ASMR to your self-care routine

By Isabelle Wheeler
Man with headphones, Image Credit:Reshot / Minesh Patel
Man with headphones, Image Credit: Reshot / Minesh Patel
The phenomenon of ASMR is well on its way to becoming a new self-care tip that your therapist might recommend

You know something is up when one of the loudest people in the music industry gives a whispered interview. No joke, rapper Cardi B’s 2018 ASMR session with W magazine has over 30 million views and the top comment with 26 thousand likes states: “Petition for Cardi B to start an ASMR channel”. Yes, this is how huge ASMR has become. More importantly, though are the clear mental health benefits that it is having on its viewers.

But what is ASMR? It was given its name in 2010 by a nonscientist Jennifer Allen to avoid the connotations of the popular but misleading term “brain orgasm.” ASMR stands for Autonomous Meridian Response Syndrome and refers to a physical sensation of a slight prickling of the scalp and shivers experienced when someone speaks quietly and/or creates certain sounds or visuals. It started as an internet phenomenon in 2007 with a forum thread called “WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD,” which described this ‘tingling feeling’ and generated hundreds of comments. Not long after the first ASMR YouTube channel called WhisperingLife was created. There are now thousands of channels and videos dedicated to this sensation.

A recent study by the University of Sheffield shows that when people experience ASMR their heart rate literally decreases and they enter a calm state of relaxation. AUP graduate student Olivia Spinelli, who holds a bachelors in Psychology and has her own ASMR channel, agrees that even on fMRI [Functional magnetic resonance imaging] scans you can see different parts of the brain lighting up when people experience ASMR. Despite the need for further research into the benefits of this new phenomenon, it is clear that viewing these videos triggers a positive response within the brain which causes a kind of meditative state. Relaxation techniques such as meditation have already been proven to reduce anxiety and increase memory so there is inevitably a world of possibilities when it comes to the potential benefits of ASMR.

Person using phone and computer, Photo Credit: Reshot / Justin Govender

Researcher at the University of Sheffield’s department of psychology Giulia Poerio is quoted in an article saying that: “It is very early at this stage to talk about the practical applications of ASMR, but certainly people are already using ASMR videos to help combat stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia and loneliness.” Furthermore, she says that ASMR can not only calm people down but also increases feelings of social connectedness. If backed up by further studies, ASMR could not only hold the benefits of certain meditation techniques but provide the added effect of simulated social bonding. This feeling of connectedness happens because of the intimate interaction that takes place between the person performing ASMR and the witness. In an interview with ASMR creator WhispersRed, she says that more and more people are connecting on social media over this phenomenon and it is giving them a sense of shared community.

This desire for connection explains the huge amount of ASMR videos dedicated to personal attention. For example, creator Karuna Satori ASMR calls her viewers ‘family’ and has multiple videos where she roleplays as a best friend, mother, sister, and even as a therapist. Focusing on connectedness and mental health in the ASMR community is not rare and there are hundreds of videos on depression, anxiety, and even suicide prevention. Under these videos, users will often share their struggles with mental health difficulties. It is such a widespread phenomenon that an article came out in 2018 entitled: ASMR Videos Could Be A New Digital Therapy For Mental Health. However, using ASMR as one’s only therapeutic technique could actually be detrimental to mental health due to its typically being viewed alone with one’s computer.

Hence, ASMR can also be isolating.

Encouraging signs on a fence, Photo Credit: Unsplash / Dan Meyers

Student Guidance Counselor at AUP, Pamela Montfort, says that feelings of loneliness are some of the most common complaints amongst students. She agrees that ASMR can be a good technique for stress reduction but emphasizes the benefits of face-to-face relationships and warns of the over-dependency on technology to seek comfort. She says: “In the long run, people become deprived of essential skills and resources to handle the physical world’s demands which can lead to feeling even lonelier and more depressed”. In fact, in the comment section of a video for suicide prevention by creator Ephemeral Rift, a user said: “Right now it’s 6 am. I’ve been awake and crying since 2 am (…) I realized I hadn’t seen another human being in a month.” Therefore, overdependency on technology to seek connectedness can be detrimental to mental health.

In an article by the Huffington Post, Leselie Villarama, an Australian teenager who uses ASMR to cope with depression and panic attacks says that in fact many ASMR content creators specifically tell their viewers that their videos are not a replacement for visiting a therapist. ASMR is not a replacement for interpersonal therapy but can provide a huge amount of relief when experiencing mental health difficulties. So definitely check out this amazing phenomenon on YouTube and other platforms but keep in mind that to resolve mental health problems it is always recommended to speak with a therapist in a supportive environment. ASMR is an incredible therapy and it is possible to connect with a community of like-minded people online but don’t see it as a replacement for a face to face visit with a therapist or talking with a loved one when dealing with a real problem. ASMR can be used as a good buffer in between therapy and socializing as well as a helpful tool to keep with you and use when experiencing stress, mental health difficulties or simply when wanting to unwind.

Note: If you are struggling with anything book an appointment with AUP’s Councilor Pamela Montfort who is extremely supportive and can put you in touch with professional psychologists if needed. AUP Engage is also a great way to connect with people on campus and feel part of a community and finally here is a list of English Speaking helplines you can call in France.