How ASMR Can Relieve Anxiety

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Ever heard of ASMR? I didn’t till around two years ago when a good friend of mine explained how she uses it to alleviate anxiety.

Admittedly, I had no clue what she was talking about when she first mentioned the term. And as she continued telling me about it, I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt.

ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response and it’s a small sensation that tingles the skin. Usually, in a static-like way. Beginning near the scalp and moving its way down the lower areas of the body.

It became an internet marvel a few years ago when people began uploading videos onto YouTube for the sake of triggering ASMR. These videos can be anything from the sound of someone typing on a keyboard to somebody flipping through a magazine.

People have found a variety of ways to create these tingling sensations for their viewers and there are even well-known YouTubers who call themselves ASMRtists.

Upon learning all of this, I was quite surprised to see how such a simple concept could take on such a large audience. And with my friend’s explanation for why she uses it, I couldn’t help but pose the question; Can ASMR really relieve anxiety?

The unfortunate truth is little research has been done on the topic. Not enough for solid scientific evidence, at least.

In 2016, at the University of Winnipeg, psychology professor Stephen Smith and two colleagues made one of the only studies on this phenomenon. Using fMRI scanners and 22 individuals, the study placed half of them under ASMR experiences and the other half in control.

There were some faults in the study as not everyone felt relaxed. But they did discover some unique aspects in the ASMR individuals.

When the mind is awake and alert, the areas of the brain most precipitated are within the midline of the brain. However, within those who were experiencing ASMR, it was seen that other areas of the brain reacted, such as its visual network.

As professor Smith explains, “that instead of having distinct brain networks the way you or I would, there was more of a blending of these networks.”

Besides Smith’s research, there’s no other scientific evidence that ASMR is a solution to mitigating anxiety. Still, biopharmaceutical science professor Craig Richard has a theory as to why people feeling relaxed after an ASMR experience.

After interviewing many who feel relief from the videos, he believes it puts the viewer into a “tranquil, womb-like intimacy.” Claiming that the sounds of someone typing on a keyboard create minor sensations that are similar to feelings of love.

Anxiety is such a complex illness in which people will go about treating it in different ways. If you’re struggling with finding a coping mechanism, there’s no reason you shouldn’t give ASMR a try.

Though it’s not a definite solution, it could be the possibility you’ve been missing out on.

Written by Paul James