ASMR: the opposite of Misophonia?

A while back, I was listening to a National Public Radio program, and the hosts began talking about a condition called Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (or ASMR). As I listened, some things started to sound oddly familiar.

People with ASMR respond differently than the average person when they hear certain sounds, such as the sounds of soft voices (think Bob Ross), pages turning in a book, the clicking of a pen, or silverware clanking. The condition develops in mid-childhood, and many with ASMR report being anxious people.

rsz_asmr

An example of an ASMR-triggering video on YouTube.

But people with ASMR don’t respond to trigger sounds with anger or disgust. People with ASMR seek out trigger sounds because those sounds give them a pleasurable, calming feeling in the brain.

The woman on the radio program described it as almost going into a trance, with her head tingling and “aglow” in a way that worked to calm her anxiety. She sought out television programs and online videos of the sounds she enjoyed, and said her obsession with certain triggers had an addiction-like quality.

Here’s the definition of ASMR, courtesy of Wikipedia: “Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a neologism for a perceptual phenomenon characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and/or cognitive stimuli.”

As I listened to the radio program, some of the sounds that triggered a pleasurable response in ASMR people were triggering feelings of disgust in me. Here’s the radio program I heard, but be warned, there are some sounds in the program that may trigger a Misophonia reaction.

I also recently received a comment on this blog from someone who seems to have elements of Misophonia and ASMR. In some cases, trigger noises are upsetting; in other cases they are pleasurable. This has me wondering if people with Misophonia and ASMR have very similar sensory conditions, but we just process trigger noises differently and therefore have different outcomes.

There are apparently studies being done about ASMR, including a small study at Dartmouth College. You can read updates about that study here. I’m hoping the study of ASMR can benefit Misophonia research, assuming the two conditions share similar sensory wiring abnormalities.

Besides the one commenter I heard from, does anyone else out there experience both Misophonia and ASMR responses?

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35 responses

  1. I somehow came across the “ASMR” videos on youtube and it seriously aggravated the crap out of me, my heart even started to race! ASMR is one of the most irritating things I’ve ever come across in my life and it greatly increased my stress level. Listening to a video of it was like nails on a chalkboard but worse. Because of this article I now know I have “Misophonia”. I don’t think I have any ASMR qualities, interesting because I have chronic stress/anxiety. Keep that ASMR away from me. Just no. Ill listen to my 432hz binaural music, proven to heal and relax if I need to, and be just fine thank you.

  2. Darlene McClory | Reply

    My 10 year old son responds very violently to his triggers, but when he watches Olivia’s Kissper ASMR, it really relaxes him, and doesn’t seem to trigger anything other than positive reactions. (If you want to try ASMR, Olivia’s Kissper, she’s wonderful!)

  3. I also have both ASMR and misophonia. Whispering is almost always an ASMR trigger, and chewing is almost always a misphonia trigger. Not so much the crunching, but hearing the suction of people’s mouths opening as they are about to take a bite and the swish of food inside their mouths. These fill me with disgust and I’m practically nauseated. However, in some situations, some chewing noises trigger the ASMR. I guess it depends on if I’m seeking it out or not. Ex: My coworker (whom I’m not a huge fan of) loves to eat apples/peanut butter/spoonfuls of honey in their cubicle, and it’s enraging. I’ve had to walk away from my desk just to deal with it. My solution is to put on an ASMR video with similar sounds to drown out the awful ones.

  4. […] with many bloggers who experience both phenomena calling ASMR “the opposite of misophonia” (lifewithmisophonia 2014). Another blogger goes on the say that “as pleasurable as ASMR is, misophonia is equally […]

  5. Yes, I believe I have both. From certain sounds I receive what has been reported as the pleasurable tingle/glow of ASMR, but also by certain sounds I receive what I perceive as harsh, invasive pain in my brain. I liken it to a sudden icicle stabbing into your head. I’ve never thought much on the connection between the two. I will say this, though. The painful/hurt/invasion sensation is far worse than any pleasure the “ASMR” response has brought me. On a certain below the surface level I receive a small to middling amount of pain from a huge variety of everyday sounds.

  6. I have ASMR and misophonia. Hair brushing, page turning, drawing, someone sweeping, wood sanding, water splashing = ASMR for me. Gum chewing, lip smacking, finger snapping, snoring =Misophonia. Speaking just for me, the ASMR triggers tend to be sounds I associate with relaxing activities. The misophonia triggers tend to be associated with bodily functions I find a nuisance. For example, gum chewing = swishing a piece of taste rubber around your mouth for an hour–ew! Also, in terms of my misophonia there is also the visual imagery of such sounds.

  7. Has anyone tried eft tapping for misophonia? YouTube has a how to video.

  8. I have misophonia, but my best friend has ASMR. Every sound and feeling that makes her happy drives me insane. It works out somehow. She understands when I have to leave a room.

  9. I too have both phobias. I am angered by loud chewing, nuts, potato chips etc. and when people inhale through the mouth while eating. My ASMR button is pushed when I see someone cleaning windows or carpets. Back in the 60’s when the typewriter service tech came in to clean the machines with a little brush and little vacuum I kind of went into a trance until he left. I guess I’m not completely nuts after all.

    1. LynnParker1936 | Reply

      Oh mercy, I feel semi normal after reading your comment. I enjoy the vacuuming.:-)

  10. I believe I experience both Misophonia as well as ASMR! Up until last year, I didn’t even know that either had a name!
    I love ASMR videos with crinkling packaging, drinking sounds, chewing- but only if crunchy, whispering, etc! I absolutely hate the sound of ‘chewy’ chewing (i.e. Soft candies) and the sound of animals licking themselves makes me want to scream. I’m also not a huge fan of whistling either, which I’ve only just now come to realize!
    I actually felt really anxious when I read your comment about flooding yourself with the sounds that you hate! BUT, I went to YouTube, typed in “ASMR- dogs licking” and listened for about 10
    Seconds! I had to turn it off because it was making my toes curl! LOL

    1. I am sorry Lee,
      I didn’t realize that this would be so bad, for you.

      Also as follow up to my previous post I found that the ASMR flooding starts to wear off and I am now much closer to my orignial Misophonia response. I do not want to go back to the flooding again, too painful.

  11. I have both! But for very different noises. I’m maybe autistic (in the diagnosis process) and have ADHD, so I’ve always had Asmr responses to everyday things, I don’t need to trigger them so much as oh a leaf moved in the wind and I’m tingling. Some sounds though kind of toy the line. I have the Asmr tingles going on but my heart is racing and I’m not sure if this hurts or not it’s confusing and uncomfortable. But better than misophonia triggers, so I tried to use Asmr to replace my misophonic reactions to whispers. I used to be able to listen to people whisper in Japanese no problem, and so listened to Asmr videos in Japanese and then branched off into other languages with more triggery tones in their voices. It didn’t work and for a while I’d have Asmr reactions and full blown misophonia reactions, which wasn’t fun. My reactions to whispers became worse afterwards (i chose whispers because they were a moderate trigger sound, they are now one of my worse trigger sounds, along with incoherent sounds and muffled noises). So some advice I guess, maybe don’t try what I did? Misophoina really outweighs the Asmr, and I have a feeling watching Asmr videos would be a really good way to pick up associated visual triggers.

  12. This might seem weird, but I have misophonia, that is I have very strong negative emotions when people are eating or making small little noises. This has led me to wear headphones for as much time as possible and trying to eat alone or eat only in loud venues. However, I also remembered that I hated ASMR when someone showed it to me. Today, I was thinking after getting into a fight with my spouse about trying to fix my reaction by flooding. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flooding_%28psychology%29

    So for the past two uncomfortable hours I have been listening to ASMR chewing sounds and guess what? Some of the anger has started to dissipate. This might be the cure, if you really want to get over it, just listen to these sounds for several hours, it might be painful and annoying and negative but after a while, since it’s pavlovian response not doing anything removes the triggering sound from the emotional response.
    Hope this helps.

    Oh and by the way, it’s not fun but start with something that you really hate in ASMR because that way it can’t get worse.

  13. I have a strange combination of both of these. I find that certain sounds trigger asmr, but (this is the strange part) when I hear my mum making these same sounds, makes me feel really, really angry and I HAVE to copy her and usually stomp out of the room! I love my mum more than anyone but I seem to only have misophonia with her, and asmr with the same noises in other situations?! It’s honestly not that I just get a bit annoyed with her, I cannot eat in the same room, or, if I have to, I purposely sit as far away as I can.

    This has been going on since I was about 10 but I only discovered the two conditions recently and am certain that they are related in some way because it’s exactly the thing I like 99% of the time that makes me feel rage and disgust when it comes from my mother. It’s nice to know I’m not just crazy! But I haven’t been able to find any other cases of people with misophonia just in reaction to certain people. It’s really weird, especially since me and my mum are really close and get on really well. But somehow her eating/mannerisms completely trigger something in my brain and I usually have to slam my fist against a wall or something. She just thinks I’m insane, which is probably true haha

    1. I have the exact same thing!!! When I was little my friend used to whisper to herself when she was playing with my hair ( the way little girls do) and I used to have what until last night I discovers has a name, ASMR sensations in my scalp.
      This has changed over time and I like the sound of crunching and mouth noises. Except when it comes to my boyfriend! I love him to bits but he sound of him eating repulsed me to the point of disgust. I thought I was mad and randomly stumbled along info about this all last night and I’m so relieved I’m not going mad!!!!

    2. Omg Eleanor i was just amazed when i came across your comments , i am EXACTLY the same and it makes me feel rotten coz i too love my mam to bits and we are very close and have a brill relationship but almost ALL of my miso reactions and theyre SERIOUSLY strong all seem to be 1000 times worse from my mother and yep i can 100% identify with the whole needing to punch your fist through the wall it drives me insane, and we have had several arguments over this infernal condition which untill recently i never realised was so common and thought i was just being a super sensitive bitch, which is how most ppl view it.. but when i discoverd it was actually very real i was both thrilled and pretty disapointed that theres not a whole lot that can be done about it , but i too have ASMR and get triggerd by alot of the very things that set off my Miso if theyre being done by my mother ! not sure why.. but there ya go lol not the only one .. realy would love to know why its her that mostly sets me off .. i can be listening to an ASMR video and ill be almost asleep and in a lovely relaxed position and then itll come to a part of the video that maybe has more pronounced mouth sounds and or more intense whispering etc and itll send me 100% in the opposite direction into a flot of absolute rage building it actually pisses me off so much i thouroughly HATE hate hate Miso !!!!!

    3. I experience the exact same thing, when listening to asmr i feel relaxed and tingly but at home or with family i react the opposite way

    4. This is exactly the same for me! I have both ASMR and severe Misophonia. The same sounds I love in ASMR videos of people I don’t know make me insane when people I am very close to (like my mom, dad or husband) make them. It has been like this since I can remember.

  14. I have had ASMR as long as I can remember. It’s both totally awesome and sometimes quite agrivating but overall I really enjoy how I respond to sounds.

    When I was a little kid in church I would listen to the more elderly members speak but I had no idea what they were saying… I was listening intently to hear every pop, click, G, and K that came from their mouths. It kept me calm and anything but bored while I sat in the pews.

    I have to work very hard nowadays to pay attention to what my step father is saying because he speaks the same way the more elderly members of my old church spoke. I feel like I am in a meditative trance with that tingling sensation going up and down my neck and spine when he speaks.

    On the down side, when I notice that someone is speaking without the pops and clicks it drives me crazy. I end up waiting and waiting, and getting more and more tensed and stressed until that person finally pronounces a word with a strong “g” or “k” sound at the beginning of a word (which are not particularly common in the English vernacular). If they barely enounciate those particular sounds I get so tense and frustrated that I have to stop listening to them for a little bit… But then I just start all over again.

  15. I definetly experience ASMR and Misophonia. Some people’s voices irritate me so much that I can’t be in the same room as them. And then some voices or trigger sounds leave me with a great sensation pleasurable feeling.

  16. Only just discovered what ASMR is today, and that not everyone experiences it! Until now I thought it was a totally standard reaction!

    Definitely think some research needs to be made into a possible link between ASMR and Misophonia. Surely there has to be something in it.

  17. OMG This is so weird. I’m a 42 YO male I’ve probably had both since I was a kid. I never new there was a name for either condition until today when I saw this page.

    Noises I cannot tolerate include chewing food loudly, someone sniffing or blowing their nose, particularly if they have a cold or have allergies, gum chewing, someone sipping or slurping tea or coffee, someone making crinckling noises with a chip or candy packet, noise of writing or typing….

    ASMR triggers are certain types of scratching sounds like someone scratching their head, pages turning in a book, sounds of someone working on something intently such as someone sewing, an artist at work or the like. The sounds of my six year old building Lego is a real treat…

    What’s weird is that some sounds can trigger both. For example the sound of someone typing can drive me crazy but can also bring on extreme ASMR. It depends on my mood and what I’m doing, but it also depends often on who is making the sound. Certain people seem to be able to create ASMR and certain people can’t. (not only can’t they, but if they did the same thing it would cause the opposite effect and I’d likely need to get as far away as possible from those sounds.)

    It seems more females than males who make these noises trigger ASMR for me. But some males can be super at it.

    I sound like a complete nut job in this post but I don’t think even folks who know me well would know I possess any of these two “conditions”.

    1. I can totally relate from both miso and ASMR side plus the Lego effect!! I am 40 yrs old female. These conditions are so “under-studied” yet misophonia us such a debilitating to an otherwise happy and normal person.

    2. I can totally relate from both miso and ASMR side plus the Lego effect!! I am 40 yrs old female. These conditions are so “under-studied” yet misophonia is such a debilitating condition to an otherwise happy and normal person.

  18. I have been experiencing ASMR since I was a kid and my Mum’s Italian friend used to read me bedtime stories in a soft, lilting inflection that sent electrifying ripples over my scalp!

    Triggers for me include pages turning, someone concentrating on something intently, permanent marker writing in an otherwise quiet room, scraping metal with a shovel, the precise actions of a bank teller or a librarian…random, I know!

    I also feel absolute unbridled disgust with some noises – the worst for me is lip smacking when eating and chewing gum – I cannot be on a train without headphones and music! It causes a feeling of absolute rage that I find really hard to contain sometimes.

    Interestingly, whispering and plastic wrappers crinkling annoy the hell out of me in everyday life, but there are some ‘ASMR artists’ on YouTube (notably Gentle Whispering) that gives me the most amazing ‘head tingles’ when they crinkle wrapping or whisper.

    I’d love to see some more academic research into both – thanks for the post!

  19. I have both to some degree – but my ASMR primarily activates on a visual level, in particular if I sit and watch someone drawing (which is always particularly difficult to explain to my artist friends why I like sitting and watching them sketch, haha, but turns out most of them like being watched, so it works!) – I thought it was maybe the auditory experience of pencil on paper, but my friends experimented on me (a lot of artists are wannabe scientists) and even when I had sound-suppression headphones on, the sketching still triggered the ASMR.
    My misophonia has certain triggers, mostly tea slurpers (especially those that gasp afterwards), crunching apples and snoring, these specific sounds make me very distressed and angry, very quickly. But I can happily sit next to someone munching on a bag of crisps and not get annoyed at all, which I know is a trigger for others.

  20. Hello…smile. Thank you for your blog. My experience is that my sister has had Misophonia since she was a child and I have had ASMR since I was a child. We have figured this out as adults very recently. On a 1-10 scale, with 1 being mildest, I believe I am about a 6-7 on the ASMR scale. I have triggers that get me every time, but I am not obsessively trying to find them or trigger myself, also some common triggers for others I don’t have. I also appear to have a very mild Misophonia regarding mouth sounds, like a 1, but I would think that chomping and slurping is off putting for many people to hear that don’t have a Distress response. However, I may need to rethink that, because an anomalous nervous-system-meets-emotions type of response is clearly in my family genetics. My sister is probably a 7 on the Misophonia scale, although I’m sure it seems like a higher number to her. I place her there on the scale because she does have some coping mechanisms that help, but I fear she is getting more sensitive as she gets older. We are just figuring this all out though. Again, thank you kindly for the blog, it is a good resource for those of us trying to help family and find our way.

  21. I have suffered from misophonia for close to 30 yrs and just recently discovered the definition and forums. Today I realized I have ASMR too. I also wonder if and how they are correlated and hope this gives clues to research on how to treat misophonia. I would love to participate on any research or therapy trials.

  22. I am almost 60 years old and have suffered from misophonia since 4 years, or perhaps earlier and I just don’t remember the first years. Of course, I’ve only learned about the word misophonia and the “condition” recently. Over the years I’ve quit jobs, avoided social situations and, like Erickson in an earlier comment, turned to sedative alcohol to quell the torture of the pervasive noises.

    As a child, I ran out of the church with my hands over my ears because of the “mouth noises” which ricocheted, amplified themselves, mixed with the rosary bead rattles, surrounded my brain and permeated my body. No escape except to literally run from the building right in the middle of Mass. I could not restrain myself.

    For years, as a young child, I would scream out loud at the family sounds which surrounded me. I had a loving family who grew to resent my “disdain” and cruel behavior which was not even conscious on my part. I was nearly schizophrenic with the rage, feeling physical torture and unable to shed myself of the agony except through total isolation. But even when walking by myself, then and now, I often feel as if I’m being followed because of the persistent flap of my shoes on the pavement and I’ll speed up to get away. Not away from the follower. Away from the sound which is impossible!

    In ordinary conversation I will sometimes excuse myself to get away from an offending sound. And I can never be close enough to someone that I can feel the pushing of the air from their vocalizations. Literally makes me nearly faint from anxiety to get away.

    The physical, mental, emotional and social stress of this condition are debilitating and I’m amazed I’ve made it to be 60!

  23. I discovered ASMR about a year ago and I find it so strange that I can experience ASMR and misophonia in separate situations. There are some triggers that, depending on the situation, will give me a pleasant response while watching ASMR whereas in a real life situation I experience that fight or flight response from misophonia where I just need to get away or I go into a rage. Interestingly, I’ve found that watching too much ASMR (a few videos every night) without periods of relief can actually lessen the pleasant tingles. One of the ASMRists has said that to get the tingles back, you have to take a hiatus from the videos. I just wish that experiencing too many misophonia triggers would make the response subside as well. :/

  24. Erickson Winter | Reply

    I admit I’ve never heard of ASMR until your article. So I recently went to youtube and found that I do indeed have the ASMR response, which baffles me because some of the dry mouth noises when certain presenters whisper is a misophonia trigger in other situations. I have had the tingling before, and with my recent exploration this week I’m not sure how potent my ASMR reaction is compared to others. Typically when an environment is that quiet I get anxious about hearing that random cough or sniffle or gum-pop (I suspect the anticipation of noise would be phonophobia, which is just built up over years with misophonia?). I’m not even sure I ever thought the tingling was anything different than what others felt also and didn’t know it could be triggered until this article.

    If this helps, a little about my miso: The first time I remember having misophonia was age 6. Day to day, I’m probably 7-8 on the scale, and less and less common I dive into 9-10 (extremely violent thoughts, punching things but not people or pinching/scratching myself); Thanksgiving as a teenager, stuck in a place for an extended period with an obnoxious gum chewer/popper…sometimes there are just so many sounds during a day that it doesn’t take much and I’ll start shaking in rage and can’t focus on anything at all -especially if I wake up to a trigger noise, then my day is doomed.

    I spend a lot of my time in headphones listening to screamo/angry music (which for some reason calms me) and alcohol unfortunately has become a coping technique for the evening social interactions that I’m not sure I will be able to handle.

    Thanks for the article, and really hope something comes from this research! I used to have lucid and even some waking dreams where I could control ASMR-like feelings but I don’t have lucid dreams anymore…I’d be happy to share if anyone researching this is interested.

  25. This is intriguing. Is it possible that misophonia and ASMR are one and the same? ….simply an extreme emotional reactions, desirable or otherwise, particular sounds.For me, there are numerous everyday sounds that bring about a feeling of rage….lip smacking, a spoon scraping tuperware. But there are other sounds that create a feeling of serenity…clothes dryer, window fan. I’ve actually started listening to Youtubes of these sounds at work on particularly stressful days. I understand it has to do with how the sounds are coupled to our emotions thru our amygdala or something. (ref: The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind by S. Horowitz). I Thanks for the post

  26. My son has had misophonia since he was about 6 yrs old. I had no idea what was wrong with him. I have a bit of it myself, but to a lesser degree. He also sleeps to youtube videos of ASMR sounds to sleep. I can’t stand those sounds. He likes ASMR but can’t tolerate the sound of his brother’s voice. Hhasnt eaten with us in years.

  27. Caroline Worsley | Reply

    Very interesting read, I have both but the Misophonia far outweighs the ASMR. I’d be really interested to learn more about this research.

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