I first heard of ASMR a couple of years ago via the viral breadfacing videos (see below). While the concept of breadfacing is still a mystery to me, I have learned more about ASMR. Basically, it signifies the subjective experience of “low-grade euphoria” characterized by “a combination of positive feelings and a distinct static-like tingling sensation on the skin”. It is most commonly triggered by specific auditory or visual stimuli, and less commonly by intentional attention control. What fascinates me is that while some people absolutely love it, others cannot stand it.
Examples of ASMR?
There are many sounds that ‘trigger’ ASMR. Some of the more popular ones include:
- Page turning
- Sticky fingers
- Water drops
- Ticking clock
- Motor humming
- Cat purring
You can read more about these in detail in this thorough article. It also describes the physical triggers for ASMR.
Why Some People Hate It
I enjoy a nice whisper, but just reading that list made me cringe. A lot of these sounds that make some people so relaxed and happy make others go crazy. I have a lot of friends who hate the sound of people chewing and the older I get, the more irritated I am by certain sounds as well. However, science says that this isn’t just a personal preference or annoyance. It is part of a disorder known as misophonia.
Misophonia is a disorder of extreme emotional responses to innocuous sounds like slurping or lip-smacking. This is so common that believe it or not, treatments are currently being developed to help people who suffer from it.
“Michelob Ultra brought the trend to a much wider audience when it ran a Super Bowl ad in 2019 featuring actress Zoe Kravitz, who tapped her fingers, whispered, and cracked open a bottle of beer in the most sensual way imaginable. Now, ASMR is a true pop culture phenomenon, one with established online celebrities.
ASMR, sometimes described as a “flow-like” mental state, isn’t a new sensation. The term was coined in 2010 by a woman named Jennifer Allen who worked in cybersecurity and wanted a way to describe the phenomenon that people in her online community were reporting. In 2015, the first peer-reviewed study on the subject was published, and it found that the videos helped some people fight off stress, chronic pain and sleep disorders, and possibly even depressive thinking.
But not everyone finds ASMR sounds and sights relaxing. Some people actually find them irritating.”Science: How Stuff Works
The diagnosis of misophonia is not recognized in the DSM-IV or the ICD 10, and it is not classified as a hearing or psychiatric disorder. It may be a form of sound–emotion synesthesia, and has parallels with some anxiety disorders. Research is still being done, but since some children with autism can have a difficult time with sensory stimulation, and particularly loud sounds, there has been speculation that misophonia and autism may be linked.
This ASMR video is 23 minutes long and features different triggers. It has over a million views, 31,000 likes and hundreds of comments complimenting the creator as one of the best ASMR artists. While not all the sounds in this video make me want to smash my laptop to make it stop, I personally don’t see the apeal. Perhaps I suffer from mild misophonia or am on the autristism spectrum.
Until there is more research done, we’ll only be able to speculate why some people love it and others hate it. One scientist compared ASMR to jazz music. He believes that there is nothing too complicated and that some people simply like how it sounds and others don’t. However, it is possible to grow to love a certain style of music. So maybe it can be possible to gain a liking for ASMR?
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