988 posts in the category “Patient Experiences”

What’s ASMR? The phenomenon everyone’s whispering about

Posted 6 months ago by

Chills. Goosebumps. Tingles. “Autonomic sensory meridian response” or ASMR is described as a pleasurable wave of calm that comes to some people during exposure to gentle actions and/or sounds: think whispering, tapping fingernails or turning pages. These ordinary audio and visual triggers can inspire a deeply soothing effect on many people – making ASMR potentially appealing to people living with depression, anxiety, PTSD or even chronic pain.

“I find ASMR videos to always be extremely calming,” says one PatientsLikeMe member. “It’s basically the ‘tingles’ or a very chill feeling you get when you watch certain repeated motions or hear soft-spoken or whispered words… Give it a try, especially in moments of panic, anxiety, or agitation.”

Other PatientsLikeMe members have also talked about ASMR in the forums and in their treatment evaluations (join PatientsLikeMe or log in to see what they say).

With meditation, podcasts and soothing music as tested tools to inspire calm, it’s no secret that sound can bring on relaxation. But what exactly is ASMR and how can it help people living with chronic conditions?

The soothing art of ASMR

ASMR is a nonclinical term coined in 2010, and the trend has its origins online. Before it had its “official” acronym, the hard-to-describe experience and its growing presence online was mostly regarded as a quirky YouTube niche. Now, ASMR has become a full-fledged phenomenon with enough hype to place it at the center of a beer commercial that ran during the Super Bowl and a recent This American Life segment titled A Tribe Called Rest.

ASMR brings on what many people describe as a tingling at the crown of the head, which may continue down the spine and the rest of the body, in a wave of euphoria, followed by zen-like relaxation. Not everyone experiences ASMR in response to these stimuli, and there is no comprehensive data as to what percentage of the population does or does not experience it, but tens of millions of views of ASMR videos suggest that many people are indeed drawn to its effects.

Even before it had a name, ASMR had mass appeal. Bob Ross served as a proto-ASMR artist – people zoned out to the dulcet tones of the painter’s voice paired with the soft sights and sounds of his brushstrokes.

These days, many ASMR fans still turn to Bob Ross, as well as a number of other YouTube “ASMRtists” and channels that have emerged, such as Gentle Whispering and ASMR Darling.

The science behind the shivers

Not unlike the chills – or frisson – brought upon by a pleasurable or poignant piece of music, dopamine floods the brain’s reward system when the neurotransmitter (trigger) is activated. This, in addition to the building anticipation in the moments before the music’s crescendo, may create the same type of brain activity that occurs in response to the sights and sounds of ASMR videos.

Researchers are working to generate proof of the existence of ASMR as a physiological experience and not an imagined one. After watching an ASMR-trigger video, participants in a University of Sheffield research study who claimed to experience ASMR registered lowered heart rates than those who didn’t identify as experiencers of ASMR. In another study using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), researchers monitored brain activity during an ASMR video-watching session, with participants registering each instance of the signature tingling sensation. Their scans showed activity related to the reward (NAcc) and emotional arousal (dACC and Insula/IFG) centers of the brain.

A sense of calm

Columbia University sleep disorders specialist Dr. Carl W. Bazil suggests ASMR videos as a way to unwind. “People who have insomnia are in a hyper state of arousal,” he said in the New York Times. “Behavioral treatments – guided imagery, progressive relaxation, hypnosis, and meditation – are meant to try to trick your unconscious into doing what you want it to do. ASMR videos seem to be a variation on finding ways to shut your brain down.”

One Patients Like Me member agrees in its ability to both lull him to sleep and help promote restful slumber: “Lately, because I had stressful dreams, I watched ASMR video while my meds were kicking in for about an hour before my sleeping time… It took some research and some trial-and-error to find an ASMR artist who suited my anxiety and entertainment wants. My dreams were then neutral in my experience.”

The majority of people who create ASMR content are women. Using calming voices, they convey tenderness and care and sometimes even emulate touch aimed toward their viewers. The sense of pleasure that the videos incite in some viewers have led come to label ASMR a “brain orgasm” or “whisper porn.” Most people do not report sexual stimulus from the videos as a prime motivator, as reduced heart rate is a common response, which is not typically associated with sexual arousal.

Have you tried ASMR or do you have questions about it? Chat with the community here, and remember to update your profile (under the “My health” tab) if you’ve tried it as part of your treatment plan.


Easy listening: Podcasts for relaxation

Posted 7 months ago by

Podcasts are super popular, so let’s chat about what helps you chill out…with your earbuds in. Whose voices and which topics or types of podcasts do you find most de-stressing? Take a look at what folks around the web and here in the PatientsLikeMe forums have to say about podcasts and ideas for “easy listening.”

Ideas from our community and around the internet

“I’ve found quite a few podcasts that give guidance for meditation,” one member says in the forum. “My favorite is ‘Zencast’ — it is a series, that has [nearly] 500 episodes. There are quite a few others. You can find them from most any podcast player library. Use meditation, or mindfulness, as search words. You may find them helpful!”

Other members have also chimed in with their favorite relaxing podcasts (join PatientsLikeMe or log in to see what they say!).

Whether you’re into meditation, music, history or mysteries, there’s seemingly a podcast for everyone. While we haven’t had a chance to listen to all these (so we can’t vouch for all the content or possible advertising), we’ve rounded up some relaxing podcasts that have gotten media attention and noted some trends we spotted.

(Please don’t listen to sleep-inducing podcasts while driving! Also, beware of possible topics or content that may be triggering to you, of course.)

“Storytime” podcasts

LeVar Burton Reads – “Stressed adults yearning for a bit of relaxation in this hectic world now have a peaceful refuge: LeVar Burton’s new storytelling podcast,” SFGate reports. “The soothing voice of PBS’s beloved ‘Reading Rainbow’ recently launched a podcast” where he reads short stories for adults.

The Classic Tales Podcast – This one “features some of the best mostly unknown stories from around the globe, throughout history, all told by the award-winning narrator B.J. Harrison,” Medium says.

Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast – “Nobody is too old to be lulled off to sleep by a bedtime story, and grownups deserve them, too,” one Bustle writer says. “Miette has one of the most soothing [expletive] voices I have ever heard. Is it Scottish? Is it Welsh? Does it matter? I really don’t know but it is absolutely lovely and so relaxing.”

Culture and history podcasts

Soul Music – “Soul Music is a lovely podcast from BBC Radio 4,” the Evening Standard reports. “Each episode explores one song and what it means to different people around the world.”

Longform – The Evening Standard also recommends this podcast, “if you’re interested in writing, and even if you’re not. Each episode is a different interview with a writer, whether that’s a journalist, an author or a podcast host. The episodes focus on the stories they make, how they found them, how they are inspired to write…”

Travel with Rick Steves – “Yes, THAT Rick Steves [PBS star],” writes one Taunton Daily Gazette reporter/podcast fan. “Each week you’ll take a trip around the world and hear about unique local customs from expert guides, authors and travelers.”

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History – “This one is great for long trips, because each one is at least four hours long, if not longer,” the same Gazette reporter says. “If you are a history buff, you are sure to enjoy Carlin’s enthusiasm and attention to detail. He also has a real knack for empathetic retellings of how the people living through these events must have felt.” Some folks on Reddit mention Carlin in this thread about podcasts with relaxing voices.

Old-timey and mystery podcasts

The Great Detectives of Old Time Radio – “This little peach focuses on detective stories from back in the day with host Adam Graham,” Bustle says. “Utilizing the lovely legal loophole that all radio shows pre-February 15, 1972 are fair game in terms of copyright, this podcast will lull you into a deep and rewarding slumber while musing on whodunnit instead of whatever anxiety-inducing thoughts keep you awake.” Classic radio podcasts are rising in popularity and you can find a bunch more online — some complete with that great crackly sound.

Mysteries Abound – “Let me tell you, this man’s voice is more soothing than anything I’ve heard,” the same Bustle writer says. “The podcast looks at weird stuff from the internet, mysteries, lists of interesting facts… the music is very dreamy and chill as well.”

Meditation and sleep podcasts

The Mindful Podcast – “If you’ve never tried mindfulness, it’s a simple form of meditation,” the Evening Standard explains. “It helps you become present in what’s going on so [you] become of where you are and what’s going on without feeling overwhelmed. The Mindful Podcast helps you achieve this state of mindfulness,” and the episodes are short (usually 5-10 minutes). Hundreds of PatientsLikeMe members have reported trying meditation and mindfulness as part of their treatment — click the links to see what they say.

Sleep With Me: The Podcast That Puts You to Sleep – Medium calls this “one of the most renowned and best reviewed sleep podcasts out there. In each episode, the narrator “Dearest Scooter” delivers meandering, stream-of-consciousness monologues in monotone to ramble you to sleep with his boring stories.”

Sleep and Relax ASMR – “Have you ever tried ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response?” the Medium writer asks. “If you have, then you know how good the tingles that start in your scalp and snake down your back feel. You would also know how well that feeling relaxes you and puts you to sleep. If you have not experienced ASMR, and some people can’t, still give this podcast a try as the soft background music and slow whispers can still help you relax and put you to bed.”

ASMR, which is also big on YouTube, could be a type of small (pleasurable) seizure, the neurologist behind the NeuroLogica blog explains — so do some research and check with your doctor first if you have a seizure disorder and questions about ASMR.

What are your go-to podcasts for relaxation? Join PatientsLikeMe or log in to swap ideas with the community here!