3 posts tagged “patient discussion”

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

Posted 4 weeks 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.


Discussing your health condition with kids? 5 handy resources

Posted 10 months ago by

With Father’s Day coming up this weekend, parenting is on our minds. Do you talk about your health with your kids, and how do you go about it? Read on to see where to get pointers as a parent living with cancer, a mental health condition or chronic illness.

 

5 sites or articles to bookmark

Every situation and child is different, but the following resources may come in handy before your heart-to-heart.

  • Wonders & Worries’ Illness Discussion Tips – “Honesty is your best asset,” explains Wonders & Worries, an organization that provides support to children whose parents are facing chronic or serious illnesses. Their detailed guide recommends providing “accurate information that is appropriate for your child’s developmental level related to the illness and its treatment.” For example, say the name of your disease when talking with your child (who’s likely to overhear it eventually) and keep kids (and their school) informed about your current medical status and what it’ll mean for your routine, such as: “Nana will pick you up from school this week.”
  • Michigan Health’s “What Kids of Different Ages Understand” – This article is specifically geared toward parents with cancer, but it has some tips that can be helpful for people with various health conditions. The “Children’s perspectives” section explains what children typically understand at different ages. Babies and toddlers may not comprehend a serious illness like cancer, but can pick up on worries or sadness and changes in routine. School-age children (5-11 years) may have heard untrue information (like “cancer is contagious”) or experience “magical thinking” (e.g. – “Mom’s cancer is because of something I did.”). Tweens and teens may be tempted to turn to “Dr. Google” and get misinformation if you don’t fill them in.
  • Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s “Talking with Children About Cancer” – This guide offers more information about sharing a cancer diagnosis with your kids. Some of the main takeaways? Take a bit of time to prepare yourself for the discussion but don’t wait too long or follow a script. It’s healthy to acknowledge your own feelings, like: “This is all new to me, too, and I feel worried and sad right now. But we will get through this together, and I will feel better sometime soon.” Also, don’t expect perfection. “There is no ‘perfect’ way to have this conversation. You may burst into tears before saying a word, or snap at your partner for telling your kids to ‘behave,’ or cringe when your son makes light of the whole conversation. Forgive quickly. This is a tough time for everyone.”
  • AACAP’s “Talking to Kids About Mental Illnesses” – The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says that parents (with or without mental health conditions) can help prevent stigma and stereotypes by discussing these conditions. “When explaining to a child about how a mental illness affects a person, it may be helpful to make a comparison to a physical illness. For example, many people get sick with a cold or the flu, but only a few get really sick with something serious like pneumonia. People who have a cold are usually able to do their normal activities. However, if they get pneumonia, they will have to take medicine and may have to go to the hospital. Similarly, feelings of sadness, anxiety, worry, irritability, or sleep problems are common for most people. However, when these feelings get very strong, last for a long period of time, and begin to interfere with school, work, and relationships, it may be a sign of a mental illness that requires treatment.” PsychCentral and The Mighty also have helpful ideas for informing and supporting kids.
  • PBS Parents’ Kid-Friendly Medical Dictionary – This glossary covers only some health-related lingo (mostly related to illnesses kids might encounter themselves). But it gives a sense of how to explain complex terms to curious kids. “Kids think about their bodies in very visual, literal ways. Therefore, experts recommend parents answer medical questions using age-appropriate, simple, easy-to-visualize terms. Be brief and only tell your child what she needs to know, as too much information may overwhelm her. At the same time, respect your child’s intelligence and try not to dumb ideas down. It is useful to explain both what a condition or illness is and how it’s treated.” You can also look for children’s books that can help explain cancermental health conditions, the human body and more.

On PatientsLikeMe, nearly 17,000 members include “parenting” as an interest on their profile. Join the community today to connect with fellow moms and dads, and log in to explore thousands of forum posts about parenting and topics tagged with “parenting.”

Have you talked about your diagnosis or condition with your kid(s) (or grandkids)? Any pointers or resources to add? Make a comment below or in the forum discussion!

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