ASMR whisper therapy: Does it work? Relaxing, healing with sounds and a whisper

PHOENIX - Millions have tried it, and thousands claim to have experienced it. It's called ASMR and it's a tingling, physical, pleasurable sensation -- from a whisper?

While it may have a scientific name, the phenomenon is anything but.

With the help of social media, the ASMR trend has taken off in the past few months. But what is it and how does it work?

Type four simple letters into a Google or YouTube search -- A, S, M, R -- and suddenly you're transported to an intricate, online world you've only imagined in your dreams. 

Video after video, you hear hushed tones, experience familiar sounds and witness seemingly everything from the unmistakably mundane to the absolutely absurd.  

These videos, posted on YouTube, some just months ago, are already getting millions of views from people who want to experience ASMR, which stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.

But, what exactly is it?

"It's different than any other sensation you could describe," explains ASMR practitioner Jennifer, who's based in the Valley. "I would get the sensation around [the back of my head] and it's a physical reaction to something. It's good. It's enjoyable. It's pleasurable."

It's a name given by those who claim to experience this natural phenomenon. They say the brain reacts to certain sounds and experiences, which creates a physical, tingling, euphoric sensation.

It's become extraordinarily popular online, thanks, in part, to Jennifer's YouTube channel, "AppreciateASMR." The last video she posted has nearly half a million views.

But, there was a time she thought she was crazy.

"I thought I was a complete weirdo," Jennifer says. "I remember being in my mom's arms. The tone of her voice was really soothing. That's the first time I remember [experiencing ASMR]. As I got older, I started noticing it with other situations."

Jennifer says she would experience ASMR in odd places, like the makeup chair. These situations coupled with whispering are called "triggers", and that makes role-playing ASMR videos very popular. 

Essentially, the creator works to fabricate an extremely personal experience for the viewer.

"It's different than watching a television show. A person is interacting with you, the viewer, to affect you," Jennifer says.

Critics claim the videos are overtly sexual. In fact, YouTube flagged one of Jennifer's videos as inappropriate for an audience younger than 18-years old.

"It's not intended to elicit a sensual or sexual response. That's not the purpose of these videos," she strongly states.

So, what's the real purpose of ASMR videos? 

Jennifer says they serve as a method of relaxation. She also says the videos have been known to relieve insomnia, anxiety and panic attacks. 

The medical community doesn't officially recognize ASMR, but Dr. Michael Yasinski, a Board Certified Psychiatrist who practices in Scottsdale, believes ASMR could be legit.

"It reminds me a lot of meditating, yoga. So, if you're able to focus and relax, then all of the other parts of the brain that typically are responsible for stress and anxiety, things like that, essentially get shut down," he says.

"We attract a ton of people," Jennifer explains. "Not because they have ASMR, but because the videos relax them. There's a letter I received that I will always remember from a 13-year-old in Israel.  She's blind."

In broken English, the teen writes, "I have sleep disorders. I just afraid to sleep, because I don't want to dream nightmares."

"We're sort of at the dawn of a new era for stress relief and relaxation," Jennifer says.

That era is occurring in a curious, quirky community that you'll only find by typing four simple letters.

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