By Sarah Desroche
ASMR (Autonomous sensory meridian response), despite its remarkable following, seems to have picked up a notorious reputation over the past five to six years. There are a handful of adjectives I’ve seen attached to this sensation: weird, sexual, “cringey”, strange, even “wrong.” I recently watched the This Morning interview focusing on ASMR, and was horrified to hear the sensation referred to as “whisper porn.”
The reality is, many of the people describing ASMR in this way are the people who do not experience the tingly feeling themselves. They are outsiders looking in, judging a phenomenon they simply can’t understand. As once put by Phil Collins, “Some people don’t trust what they can’t explain.”
It is my responsibility, amongst other members of the community, to set the record straight about ASMR. By definition, ASMR is “an experience characterised by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine.” The chemical reaction of ASMR releases a calm, relaxing, and usually sleepy feeling throughout the body. For myself and many other people, ASMR youtube videos are used to help us fall asleep and unwind our worries of the day. WhispersRed, one of the more prominent content creators in the ASMR community, has had perhaps the largest influence on my well-being in this context. For me, listening to Emma (WhispersRed) speaking quietly in a video is no different than if my mother was reading me to sleep. Her voice is calm, level, motherly, and sweet as honey. Even when she is pattering about, just simply talking about small events from the week, I get a great deal of comfort from the easy listening factor.
When I discovered that I had developmental PTSD earlier this year, a lot of the unusual behaviors and panic attacks I’d suffered throughout my adolescence began to make much more sense. Certain environments and activities were (and still are) extremely anxiety-inducing for me, ranging from large social gatherings to simply falling asleep at night. While ASMR can’t magically erase all of my mental illnesses and daily strifes, it plays a crucial role in helping me to balance all areas of my health. When I put my head down on the pillow and plug into an ASMR video, I’m not focusing on childhood trauma or panic attacks: I’m focusing on Emma’s voice, or the relaxing sound of someone crinkling paper or tapping. Having this outlet to relax and feel truly safe in my own bedroom is a feeling I can’t even put into words.
Emma, who also struggled with PTSD after a car accident, is a true symbol of happiness and wellness after trauma. Despite the privations that may have held her back, she has demonstrated the strength within all of us to pick up the pieces of our life. She has taught me, probably without realizing it, that beauty can be found in the most difficult of times.
In my life, ASMR videos are one of the key components for self-care. The list essentially goes as follows: bubble bath, tea, vegan cheese, Bob Ross, ASMR videos…and a good night’s sleep. I recommend these videos to anyone and anybody who expresses difficulty dozing off and relaxing. If you try out the videos and decide it’s not for you, so be it, but I amend you for giving it a chance. There are millions and millions of people around the world, one by one, coming forward and finding their place in this growing community. If you truly feel like you are one of them, don’t let any negativity prevent you from the self-care that you deserve.