Until a couple of weeks ago I had absolutely no idea that these brain tingles I experienced since childhood had a name, let alone that others experienced them too. One of my earliest recollections of these pleasurable tingles was when I used to get my haircut. I remember sitting in the chair while the hairdresser would talk to me softly and touch my hair. I would get goose bumps all over and a distinctive pleasurable buzz coming from my head that would continue to flow down my back. I was very confused by this sensation, back then I was unaware that it could be triggered by external factors such as people whispering. When I eventually tried to explain to my parents about this sensation I was often ignored and the conversation topic was changed quickly afterwards. I experienced this sensation very infrequently for the next few years though ever time it happen it seemed to leave me happy and content for the rest of the day.
For people that don’t know ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response or as it is commonly know on the Internet, a ‘brain orgasm.’ ASMR is a sensational phenomenon that turned into an online community of tingle heads. They share videos created by ASMR artists that designed to trigger this relaxing feeling in their viewers. I discovered the neologism for ASMR when a friend posted online that he was doing some PhD research into the phenomenon of brain tingles. I completed the online survey that he was using for research purposes. The survey consisted of videos on YouTube by self-described ‘ASMR artists.’ In their videos they would whisper, tap and slowly complete tasks such as typing on a keyboard. I immediately started to feel the tingles again. The only difference is this time is that they were knowingly triggered. Contrary to common misconception ASMR is not at all sexual. In fact it couldn’t be further from it. My triggers range from listening to Eastern European women inaudibly whisper to watching Bob Ross do an instructional painting video or watching that scene in Toy Story 2 where the old man repairs Woody the Cowboy.
Since the age of 14, I have experienced repeated episodes of major depression that has had a massive impact on my quality of life. It has often made it impossible for me to get out of the bed in the morning or to concentrate on my studies. I tried a range of things in an attempt to self medicate and fight my depression. I tried conventional treatments such as antidepressants and therapy. Though the side effects of the medication left me feeling empty and the fundamental principles of a range of different therapies hard to accept. I tried jogging daily, which only lead me to feel restless and energetic at night and finding impossible to calm down. I even dabbled in meditation and mindfulness however clearing my mind just made me vulnerable to more emotion and negative thoughts. None of them seemed to make a dent against my sadness.
Though nowadays whenever I feel like my black dog is taking over, I just sit down and watch an ASMR video. Afterwards I am left feeling calm and to find all my anxiety and sadness has floated away. The tingles feel like taking a drug that is both a stimulant and a depressant but with no after effect at all. It leaves me with an enormous sense of wellbeing that I carry through with me for hours after. I understand that some would argue that this is not a healthy way to deal with my depression but to be perfectly honest it seems to be working. While I wouldn’t say that I’m addicted to ASMR videos, just like any other drug or pleasurable experience, I am finding myself watching videos more frequently. Though in correlation I do seem to be more happy, optimistic and focused.
I strongly believe that more research into ASMR will allow us to harness this feeling. Once we harness it we can use it as a natural relief for stress and all different forms of mental and physical illnesses. I believe that like myself discovering and not being embarrassed by your triggers will allow people to live more healthy and productive lives. The key to curing depression lies somewhere within these basic childlike tingles and with depression soon becoming the biggest cause of disability in the world, we need to discover how and as quickly as possible.