NEWS

Why Certain People Are More Likely to Experience and Benefit From ASMR

woman brushing a makeup brush against a microphone

Andrey Popov / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • ASMR elicits a soothing, tingly response in some individuals that can calm anxiety and promote better sleep.
  • But not all people experience it. A new study suggests individuals higher in anxiety and neuroticism are more likely to benefit from ASMR.
  • As an easily accessible intervention, ASMR could be a helpful tool for people with anxiety.

Who could've guessed that corners of the internet would be dedicated entirely to videos of whispering and finger tapping? And for good reason, too. For many people, this content triggers a calming or tingling sensation called the autonomous sensory meridian response—better known as ASMR.

While ASMR can help people relax and get better sleep, not everyone experiences it. And a recent study from Northumbria University in England suggests that people with high trait neuroticism or that frequently feel anxious are more likely to experience and reap the benefits of ASMR.

The Research

ASMR content often features soft sounds, personal attention, tracing objects with a finger or tool and other gentle touches that elicit deep relaxation in viewers. The calm, tingling sensation, or "brain orgasm", that's felt often begins in the head and neck and can spread throughout the body.

But while some people find ASMR soothing, others don't see its appeal. To further explore this, study researchers evaluated the levels of neuroticism and experience of anxiety in both ASMR experiencers and non-experiencers before and after watching a video featuring popular ASMR triggers.

Joanna Greer, PhD

If we can add to the options that are available for people to help with anxiety, however that is impacting on their lives, then that can only be a good thing

— Joanna Greer, PhD

The analysis revealed that participants who were ASMR-experiencers had higher levels of neuroticism and anxiety. These participants also reported lower levels of anxiety after watching the video. While analysis showed that ASMR reduced anxiety in experiencers only, researchers made another surprising discovery.

"When we considered levels of neuroticism, anxiety, and even how much the individuals enjoyed the ASMR video, we found that these levels could also account for the reduction in state anxiety even when participants did not experience any tingles," says study co-author Joanna Greer, PhD. "This is what has led us to suggest that ASMR might be considered as an intervention for anxiety in general."

Greer notes that because we live in an age that's becoming more supportive of mental health, more people understand the impact of anxiety on daily life. Because certain people may not require clinical intervention for their everyday anxieties, and therapy isn't one-size-fits-all, accessible interventions like ASMR content could be helpful.

"If we can add to the options that are available for people to help with anxiety, however that is impacting on their lives, then that can only be a good thing," Greer says.

ASMR as Intervention

Psychiatrist Gregory Scott Brown, MD, author of "The Self-Healing Mind", agrees with Greer's sentiment, as any safe and effective treatment for anxiety, an incredibly common mental experience, is "worth exploring and paying attention to."

Brown is fascinated by the study, as he doesn't see many psychiatrists discussing ASMR with their patients. While he's not certain why these traits are linked to experiencing ASMR, it could be that neurotic people have an increased risk for baseline anxiety.

"People who tend to be more neurotic may be affected in a much more dramatic way by their external environment, especially if they perceive their environment as negative," Brown says. "If neurotic people are more anxious to begin with, perhaps they are more attuned to interventions, like ASMR, that may help reduce their anxiety."

Gregory Scott Brown, MD

If neurotic people are more anxious to begin with, perhaps they are more attuned to interventions, like ASMR, that may help reduce their anxiety.

— Gregory Scott Brown, MD

Could ASMR's steady gains in popularity be due to a heightened state of anxiety in the world? Perhaps, says Brown. He also wonders whether more time spent on social media can increase a person's ability to experience ASMR. After all, the phenomenon can be found in videos, on podcasts and all over social media, itself.

Regardless of how it's consumed, if ASMR can effectively lessen anxiety, it's a low-risk, easily accessible tool for promoting mental health.

What This Means For You

ASMR may not produce the same feeling for everyone, but if it has a soothing effect for you, it's an easily accessible intervention during periods of high anxiety.

Was this page helpful?
2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Eid CM, Hamilton C, Greer JMH. Untangling the tingle: Investigating the association between the autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), neuroticism, and trait & state anxietyPLoS One. 2022;17(2):e0262668. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0262668

  2. Lochte BC, Guillory SA, Richard CAH, Kelley WM. An fMRI investigation of the neural correlates underlying the autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR)Bioimpacts. 2018;8(4):295-304. doi:10.15171/bi.2018.32