Can be addictive to ASMR

ASMR - the inexplicable head orgasm

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It is the most absurd things that are shown to us in youtube videos. For hours, women read from a book in a whisper, slip into the role of a hairdresser, men play shoe sales or carefully pack packages. These are activities from everyday life that - one might think - would not tempt anyone to watch or listen. And yet, over a million users have already viewed Violet's hair-cutting video on YouTube, for example.

Why? They hope that the soothing voices and noises will trigger a pleasant tingling sensation in the back of the head. The physically pleasant reaction, which can continue into the spine and other limbs, is what their supporters call Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR). There is not yet a German translation for this, which may also be due to the fact that the ASMR community has so far only achieved a high level of awareness in the USA. The first German ASMR website went online just recently.

Whisper, click, sort

The triggers it takes to get the ASMR feeling are very different. They range from voices with unusual accents and language patterns, to role-playing games in which instructions are given, or clicking noises, to carefully inspecting or sorting everyday objects. The "head forgasm", as it is often referred to, can also only be achieved by some by controlling their own thoughts.

People continuously report on YouTube videos or in ASMR forums that they have always believed that they were alone with their feelings. The Internet has now become a treasure trove for the so-called "trigger videos". The best ASMR videos are shared and rated on social networks. For example, the ASMR platform on Reddit.com has over 22,000 subscribers. In the Huffington Post, journalist Nicholas Tufnell even points out the addictiveness of ASMR, which he sees himself exposed to in the hunt for the good feeling.

No neurological explanation

Scientific research on ASMR that could provide clues about the actual existence, cause and effect of the phenomenon has so far been sought in vain. The Viennese neurologist Wolfgang Lalouschek says about the state of knowledge: "From today's point of view there is no real neurological, organic explanation on which ASMR could be clearly based."

Lalouschek's personal impression of this is that this is a very suggestive phenomenon in which people influence their feelings and a momentum develops: "The sensation arises because someone believes in it."

Nerve networks are strengthening

Something similar sometimes happens with illnesses. "If someone has panic attacks with certain physical feelings, for example chest pain, then there are often no organic causes. It is the increased attention that is directed to a certain region. Minimal signals are then interpreted more strongly, the system sways high, so that at some point there is really pain, "says Lalouschek.

Epileptic seizures are also considered as a possible explanation for ASMR. "There are limited (focal) epileptic seizures. For example, where someone suddenly has a sense of smell or taste. In the case of ASMR, one would have to assume that these people actually have some form of epileptic seizure during their experience. I would rather exclude them, "says Lalouschek. It is fundamentally difficult to get to the bottom of the ASMR phenomenon scientifically. The reasons for this cannot be found simply by looking at the activity of the brain areas.

As many explanations as there are for ASMR, there are also so many different users of the ASMR videos. Many people are unfamiliar with the tingling sensation in their head, but use the clips to relax in stressful situations or to help them fall asleep if they have trouble sleeping.

Often it is young, pretty women who flirt with the camera in the ASMR videos. This has resulted in ASMR being put into a sexual context as well. Some videos are marked as not suitable for minors on YouTube. However, ASMR supporters resist being pushed into this corner. Where the line between the tingling sensation in the head and sexual sensations lies is perceived very individually. In any case, it is pleasant feelings that the whispering videos want to evoke on the net. (Teresa Eder, derStandard.at, June 28, 2013)