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ASMR Videos May Help Reduce Anxiety, Study Shows

It has been described as simply a YouTube trend and was banned in China for being “vulgar”.

But according to a new scientific study, ASMR — described as a pleasant tingling sensation caused by whispering and gentle touches — may help reduce anxiety.

Researchers at Northumbria University have found in experiments that a five-minute ASMR video with a series of relaxing “triggers” reduces anxiety in those who experience the phenomenon.

Many people now regularly watch YouTube’s wide selection of ASMR videos to relax and relieve symptoms of stress and insomnia, all of which indicate elevated levels of anxiety.

New Analysis Suggests Relaxing Phenomenon ASMR Reduces Anxiety In Those Who Experience It

WHAT IS ASMR?

ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.

It is a deeply relaxing sensory phenomenon described as a pleasant tingling sensation that emanates from the scalp and neck and can spread to the rest of the body.

ASMR occurs involuntarily and is caused by focusing on auditory, tactile, or visual triggers.

Common examples of these triggers include receiving or watching someone else receive personalized attention such as massages or brushing hair, as well as listening to soft sounds such as whispering or tapping.

ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) consists of relaxing ‘brain tingles’ that some people experience in response to specific sights, sounds, and textures.

The sensation usually starts on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine, helping people relax, relieve stress, or sleep.

During ASMR, a person experiences a tingling sensation that starts in the head and neck and can spread throughout the body.

Not everyone experiences ASMR, and those who do have different triggers for it — whether they’re getting a massage or listening to whispers.

In recent years, millions of videos have been created online with sounds and situations that can trigger ASMR.

The term ‘ASMR’ was not coined until 2010, but before that, stories of people experiencing the curious phenomenon had already been described.

In 2015, Austrian author Clemens J. Setz said that a passage from Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel “Mrs Dalloway” describes what sounds like ASMR.

In the passage, a nursemaid speaks to the man who is her patient “deep, softly, like a soft organ, but with a roughness in her voice like that of a grasshopper, which scraped delightfully at his spine and thundered in his brainwaves of sound. †

Examples of ASMR triggers include receiving or watching someone else receive personalized attention such as massages or brushing hair, as well as listening to soft sounds such as whispering or tapping

Examples of ASMR triggers include receiving or watching someone else receive personalized attention such as massages or brushing hair, as well as listening to soft sounds such as whispering or tapping

STATE US FEAR CHARACTERISTICS

Trek anxiety is the tendency to experience fear.

People with a high appetite, tend to see the world as more dangerous or threatening than people with a low appetite.

Meanwhile, fear of the state is a response to a specific situation that is perceived as threatening or dangerous.

State anxiety varies in intensity and fluctuates over time.

Source: APA

Previous research has suggested that people who are able to experience ASMR may have elevated levels of neuroticism, but the exact link between ASMR and personality traits has been unclear.

To find out more, the researchers at Northumbria University recruited 64 participants ages 18 to 58 to watch a YouTube video designed to kick-start the phenomenon.

Thirty-six of the participants were categorized as ‘ASMR experienced’ and 28 were categorized as ‘ASMR non-experienced’. This was based on whether or not they experienced ASMR before and their reactions to the YouTube video.

The video lasts five minutes and was posted to YouTube in 2020 by user ‘Cynthia Henry ASMR’. It consists of a wide range of ‘triggers’, such as tapping, scratching, applying make-up and cleaning the microphone, which are presented in rapid succession.

The participants completed several questionnaires to evaluate their levels of neuroticism and anxiety. They rated two types of anxiety: “state” anxiety, which describes the moment-to-moment anxiety experienced in certain situations; and ‘trait’ fear, when our personality is prone to fear.

Neuroticism and the two types of anxiety were assessed for the participants before and after watching the ASMR video.

Statistical analysis of the participants’ responses found that ASMR experiencers had higher levels of neuroticism, anxiety, and state anxiety before watching the video.

CHINA FORBIDDEN ASMR IN 2018 TO BE ‘FILLER’

In June 2018, the Chinese anti-pornography agency said it is banning ASMR videos.

A statement said: “A large portion of the ASMR audience are young people.

“All Internet companies should really fulfill their duties and step up their efforts to clean up websites, implement content review processes and protect minors from harmful content.”

ASMR videos disappeared from major platforms like Youku and Bilibili.

After watching the video, the fear of the state was reduced for the ASMR practitioners. In contrast, non-experienced individuals did not experience a reduction in state anxiety after the video.

“However, neuroticism and fear of traits are personality constructs and therefore relatively stable over time,” study author Joanna Greer told MailOnline.

“You wouldn’t expect these to change in response to the video, and that hasn’t been measured.”

ASMR experts also reported a greater benefit from the video.

Overall, the study found that watching an ASMR video reduced anxiety in those experiencing ASMR tingling.

‘Personality traits associated with high anxiety were also associated with these benefits, therefore ASMR may be an appropriate psychological intervention for anxious individuals in general,’ say the authors.

Overall, the findings suggest that ASMR-experienced individuals may be characterized by greater levels of neuroticism and anxiety disorders than non-experienced individuals.

They also suggest that ASMR could serve as an intervention for individuals with elevated levels of neuroticism and anxiety in general.

However, the authors note that further research is needed to address the limitations of this study and increase understanding.

One such limitation is the YouTube video that is played to the participants, with a quick selection of sounds that can only be described as annoying even by ASMR experiences.

“Due to the subjective nature of ASMR, there is substantial individual variability in which triggers elicit the sensation,” the authors say.

The full findings are published in the open-access journal PLOS One

WHAT IS ASMR AND WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL HEALTH BENEFITS?

Autonomic sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a pleasurable or relaxing sensation that is often accompanied by a ‘tingling’ sensation.

A large online community claims that ASMR clips on YouTube elicit a response that, for some viewers, resembles a warm tingling on the skin.

It is usually triggered by whispering, but can be triggered by a range of stimuli, including gentle touches, observing everyday tasks, and hearing crackling/ticking sounds.

The sensation usually starts on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine, helping people relax, relieve stress, or sleep.

Researchers say the sensation may be a response to specific sights, sounds, touch, smell and other stimuli.

ASMR may be beneficial for people struggling with anxiety and depression, but direct evidence is not yet available, according to Dr. Craig Richard of ASMR University, an online community dedicated to researching the topic.

“A 2015 research paper reported that the 500 study participants watched ASMR videos to relax and cope with stress, and that watching ASMR videos had a positive effect on their depression,” he said.

Another strong point of support for ASMR’s potential helpfulness is the thousands of responses on online forums, Facebook groups, the ASMR subreddit, and especially YouTube videos.

“While this kind of anecdotal evidence is weak, the sheer volume of it has helped bring attention and focus to ASMR’s potential therapeutic value.”

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