ASMR and Why People Love to Hear Strangers Whispering on Internet

From eating ice to cutting sand, the ASMR trend has swept the internet with its effects on anxiety and mental health

4 min read
ASMR and Why People Love to Hear Strangers Whispering on Internet

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Specific kinds of sounds soothe us, that is no big secret. Think running water, sea breeze, waves so on and so forth. But how about the sound of munching potato chips, someone eating ice, slicing sand?

Does this video calm you?

If this or any of the sounds mentioned above send tingles down your spine, you’re not alone. The massive ASMR community backs you on it.

ASMR or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response refers to the reaction invoked in your body by specific kinds of sounds.

Dr Sameer Malhotra, Director-Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, New Delhi, describes it as tingling sensation experienced by people in response to an auditory stimulus.


Sand, Slime and Role Playing

There are close to 15 million ASMR videos on YouTube.

There are close to 15 million ASMR videos on YouTube.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube Screenshot)

A simple search leaves you with titles, bizarre at first glance, but welcoming and calming once you familiarise with the world of ASMR. Cases in point include:

i) Best Friend Does Your Nails

ii) even a Harry Potter themed roleplay!

iii) Someone eating a baby mermaid (also one of the most watched ASMR videos)

iv) Doing Your Makeup

Of course there is a sexual subtext here - I mean if we’re talking about role-playing producing physical sensations, where else could we be headed? So much so, China banned ASMR from its platforms in June 2018 because of its sexual nature.

According to this report, the ruling came via China’s anti-pornography office. The statement that was issued explained that “porn was being released under the guise of ASMR, emphasising that this could be a threat to minors, who apparently make up a large part of ASMR’s viewership.”

The report further added that according to a 2015 study at Swansea University in the UK, only 5 percent of total ASMR users experienced sexual arousal.

So, what is ASMR primarily being used for?


ASMR and Mental Health

According to a study by the University of Sheffield in the UK, ASMR can have the same effects as a mindfulness or meditation exercise. The study went ahead to conclude that ASMR has both mental and physical health benefits in the form of lowered heart rates and reduced levels of anxiety. Additionally, ASMR is also known to have helped pregnant women relax, and fight insomnia.

ASMR is also known to have helped pregnant women relax, and fight insomnia.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

Dr Malhotra explains it by saying that the possible mechanisms through which it operates include distraction from worrying thoughts by using sensory inputs in the form of comforting or relaxing sounds. These sounds positively affect the neurochemicals in the nervous system.

However, doctors and mental health experts advise that while ASMR might calm anxiety, it really is no lasting treatment for anxiety or depression. He explains that when we engage the brain in a task-oriented activity, the ‘day-dreaming’ parts of the brain, medial prefrontal cortex and the posterior cingulate gyrus are most active.

The reduced connectivity may be associated with decreased attentional control and ASMR may involve a reduced inhibition of sensory-emotional experiences that would be suppressed in most individuals.
Dr Sameer Malhotra

In simpler terms, the ASMR sound is calming your other senses and helping you lull off to sleep or ease your anxiety.


Who Does ASMR Work On?

Now, if you are shaking your head at all of this in disagreement, you are perhaps not the only one. While lack of conclusive data keeps any definite deductions evasive, Dr Malhotra does add that ASMR will work only on people who are suggestible and open to experience.

According to this report, Craig Richard, a professor at the Shenandoah University School of Pharmacy in Winchester, Virginia, explains how specific people are more susceptible to it, in the following manner:

Increasing levels of oxytocin happens naturally during pregnancy, and oxytocin is the brain chemical most associated with the triggers and stimuli of ASMR. When I’m asked why I think some people experience ASMR and some don’t, my best guess is that I think the people who experience it are producing increased amounts of oxytocin.
Craig Richard

It is a surreal internet trend, with people doing some very unusual things for hours. Maybe it works for you, maybe it doesn’t, but either way here’s a person eating ice for you online. Enjoy!

(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)

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Topics:  Depression   Insomnia   Anxiety 

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