With a coronavirus vaccine still 12 to 18 months away from becoming available to the general public, some ASMR creators are offering the experience through roleplay. One of these artists is SensorAdi ASMR, with over 225 thousand subscribers on YouTube. Dressed as a doctor, he starts his coronavirus vaccine video (posted in January this year) by sowing some soothing seeds of doubt. “Maybe it is not coronavirus, OK? So don’t panic,” he reassures, diving into the roleplay of administering a test and vaccine. “I’ve got a cure for coronavirus… Relax, we will handle it.”
As infection rates and deaths rise globally, so too does the general anxiety around our current global health crisis. For ASMR creatives and enthusiasts, that’s where these coronavirus-roleplay videos can come in. “My audience likes my character when I’m Dr. Sensor,” says “SensorAdi.” “Ninety-nine percent of the reactions were good, as always. The rest were that maybe it was not the best taste and time.” The video’s comment section is full of positive feedback. “Thank you dear Doctor Sensor for relaxing us and raising our vibrations, we love you,” wrote one viewer.
While to some the videos can seem strange and niche, he’s not alone in hoping coronavirus-related ASMR videos could help soothe anxiety during strange and uncertain times. There’s a range already popping up on YouTube, including testing roleplay and even a toilet paper-inspired video. Kiana, creator of the Tiptoe Tingles ASMR channel, created a quarantine makeup ASMR video, which involves her touching and tapping a variety of beauty products while describing her quarantine experience. Prefacing the description with “obviously a joke,” Kiana says the idea for the video came from a desire to alleviate her followers’ stress in a comedic way.
“By no means was the topic itself supposed to be comedic, as I understood the seriousness of it, but with all of the uneasiness and uncertainty of this time, lighthearted videos really do a lot for people for calming purposes,” she said. Starting to create ASMR videos over a year ago, Kiana became interested in the community after finding that the videos helped her with insomnia and anxiety in high school. “I continued to watch it in college for sleep aid and relaxation purposes,” she explains. “I also started my channel because I wanted to see more fast ASMR type videos and often saw only slow ASMR channels that were not what worked best for me.”
Kiana believes that “now more than ever” ASMR can play a large role in helping with stress and anxiety. “I have gained a lot of my subscribers, my family as I like to call them, reach out to me in messages and comments saying how my videos have helped them with the stress and anxieties of online schooling, work, or even just uncertainty of the future,” she says. “I have had seniors in high school and college talk about how ASMR has helped calm them down from anxiety over a lack of graduation. I have had essential workers, from grocery stores to nurses and doctors talk about how these videos help to calm them down after long shifts and anxiety over these exposures outside.”
Dr. Emma Gray, a doctor of clinical psychology, is researching how ASMR can provide effective short-term relief from various discomforts (including anxiety, stress, depression, and insomnia), although she recognizes that it doesn’t resolve the cause of the problem. Calling herself “The ASMR Psychologist,” she’s currently working on a survey to gain more insight into the topic. “ASMR has been largely overlooked by academics and the healthcare community so little has been done in this area,” she tells Observer. “This is the first study to look at how ASMR could be used alongside existing treatments for mental health and wellbeing.” With over 10,000 people completing the survey so far, 50 percent indicated a preference for videos that offer personal care and attention.
“Healthcare professionals are trained to look after us, which explains when we are feeling in need of a little reassurance and comfort we might be drawn to a roleplay that features a soft spoken, attentive medic,” she says. “The coronavirus is triggering a lot of distress and discomfort, so it makes sense that ASMR artists are attempting to help people to cope with this by creating content that feels relevant.” Her hypothesis suggests that ASMR triggers brain chemicals (like endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, GABA, melatonin) that can lure you into a deep state of relaxation, sleep and overall feelings of wellbeing. During this time, she believes people will turn to ASMR for immediate relief from distress and discomfort, but for longer term relief ASMR does need to be combined with psychological strategies proven to resolve the underlying causes of symptoms.
More research is needed to fully examine the impact of ASMR on our mental health and many also don’t consider it an art form. Yet, as ASMR content continues to thrive on YouTube, this niche community is gradually gaining more recognition. With the global pandemic causing anxieties to skyrocket, it may be just what some people at home need to help them get through this trying time. “I believe ASMR is more than an art form, ‘more than just tingles’,” says Dr. Gray. “I think it has the potential, if combined with existing therapies for mental and maybe physical health, to boost their effectiveness, enabling us to create a ‘super therapy’.” Regardless, it’s easy to see the attraction of a soothing vaccine roleplay in an uncertain time where a return to “normal” feels distant to many.