By Jay Curtis
Something that I’m curious to explore is the intersection of ASMR and ADD. Too many stimuli in the world demand my attention simultaneously, yet ASMR captures all of me. I exclusively use ASMR to fall asleep at this point because of how soothing and effective it is at quieting the noise in my brain.
As a continuation from my previous post (which you can read here), I present another blog about my ADD, which I might do until my therapist tells me to stop. This particular post is in response to ASMR University’s post “[Voices of ASMR] Does ASMR help with focusing or ADD?”. You can view it here, but a quick summary includes a list of questions about how ASMR affects individuals with ADD or ADHD.
How did you discover ASMR helped you to focus?
The first time I experienced ASMR, I was in my friend’s college dorm room. He was an RA, so our friends and I hung out in his room (he was also dating my best friend at the time). He introduced me to Reddit, memes…a lot of internet things, and one of those was the ASMR subreddit.
My friend placed these over-the-ear headphones on me and hit play, and the sound of someone cutting my hair filled my ears. This insane tingling sensation shot down my spine from the crown of my head, and this buzzing feeling underneath my skin vibrated throughout my body. I threw the headphones off because of how visceral the sensation was, as if the woman was actually cutting my hair.
I had long heard I had an overactive, or vivid, imagination, and my first ASMR experience seemed to prove this statement. How could I feel something that wasn’t actually happening to me? It took years to realize how powerful ASMR was at calming my ADD.
Are there specific triggers or artists that help you to focus?
Over time, I kept coming back to ASMR, like an addict chasing the first high. About four years ago, I discovered Gibi’s YouTube channel (she’s my favorite ASMRtist), and I’ve followed her channel ever since. Her earlier videos featured role plays that soothed me and allowed me to escape into her little world of make-believe. Over time, I’ve learned that certain triggers scratch my itch better than others, and I discovered that I don’t have to watch a video to experience ASMR sensations.
My best guess is that ASMR is self-soothing or a form of stimming. I’ll rub my fingers together (the sound of skin is oddly comforting), open and reopen lids (one of my absolute favorite triggers), and tap on items. Tapping is a fun form to explore, because I can both feel the material beneath my fingertips or nails and hear the different sounds the material makes. The sensations of tapping overwhelm my brain and drown out everything else, allowing me to focus — mostly on the tapping, but hey, I’ve focused!
What does ASMR help you to focus on, in comparison to other methods?
Gibi’s ASMR allows me to get comfortable and shut my brain off, and her voice and facial expressions are extra soothing (not to mention affirmations as another trigger!). I love listening to her read StarGirl or tap on her toaster coaster, and after following her over the years, I feel like I know her pretty well. She’ll post videos that collaborate with other ASMRtists or give a shoutout to her favorite channels, but no other artist captures my attention the way that Gibi does.
I know that not everyone experiences the ASMR tingles, and relatedly most people I know who do watch ASMR, don’t do so for focus but for sleep (I guess that’s me, too, but I have to focus on the action of sleeping so it counts). I’ve hacked other ways to help me focus.
ASMR, without fail, shuts my brain down
For instance, I am a list person; if I can write down all my thoughts as check boxes, that means a) I don’t have to remember all my thoughts at the same time and thus clear up some computing power, b) I have a “to do” list that helps keep me on track and focused on my work, c) checking the little box off fills me with satisfaction of getting things done.
But! That list of check boxes doesn’t automatically result in accomplishment. (Alternatively, sometimes my ADD has me locked in on one task that I cannot let go of until I complete it in its entirety, and it can be distressing to be pulled away from that task. Check boxes can’t save me there.)
ASMR, without fail, shuts my brain down and quiets all that noise so that I can focus on sleeping. Even if the particular video isn’t what I want to watch, I’ll try several before I find one that feels right. Some nights I rewatch a video a few times before I actually fall asleep to it — sometimes I can get distracted by my own enjoyment from the video before I succumb to Gibi’s hypnotic ASMR powers, but ASMR works for me.
I write cross-genre SFF/Paranormal/Romance, and have been published in journals like Quail Bell Magazine. My pronouns are they/them. You can find me on Twitter at @AJCurtis6.