Marywood University undergraduate doing research project on ASMR and anxiety

ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response UniversityStacey Watkins is a senior Clinical Psychology major at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA.

As part of her degree requirement, she has decided to do a research project about ASMR and anxiety. She has already received approval from her school’s Review Committee and has started to collect her data.

In my interview with Stacey she talks about the book which helped to inspire this project, her goals and hypotheses, her research methods, challenges with the project, and tips to other students who may be considering an ASMR research project.

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Is experiencing ASMR related to being a Highly Sensitive Person?

ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response UniversityMichelle Woodall is a Counselor and Psychotherapist in Edinburgh, United Kingdom.

She has her B.Sc. in Mathematics and Economics with a Certificate of Counseling from the University of Birmingham, along with a Diploma in Person Centred Counseling from the University of Warwick.

Michelle’s areas of focus include depression and/or anxiety in the Highly Sensitive Person.

She recently wrote a series of articles about the Highly Sensitive Person which included ASMR.  I reached out to Michelle to learn more about the term Highly Sensitive Person and how it may relate to ASMR.

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Could ASMR be used at work to decrease stress?

ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response UniversityThe workplace can be a stressful environment for most professions.  Work-related stress can result in poor performance, job dissatisfaction, and missed workdays.

One field that struggles constantly with job-related stress is health care, especially for those who work in surgical Intensive Care Units (ICU).

The word “intensive” is practically a synonym for the word “stress”.

Here is a crazy experiment: give these ICU workers one hour off in the middle of their workday to meditate, perform yoga, enjoy relaxing music, and watch soothing ASMR videos – then see if that helps their stress.

Well, one team of researchers almost did that exact experiment and just published the results in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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The potential involvement of GABA in ASMR

ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response UniversityIt has been widely reported that many individuals find ASMR helpful to reducing their anxiety, insomnia, and depression.

If there was one neurotransmitter that was known to reduce all three of these disorders then it might be appropriate to theorize the involvement of that neurotransmitter in ASMR.

Well, the neurotransmitter gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) may be a terrific candidate.

GABA is a neurotransmitter that is widely released throughout the brain.  It is well understood to have an inhibitory effect on most neurons.  Another way to view this is that GABA tends to calm, comfort, and soothe other neurons.

Is GABA involved in treating anxiety disorders?  Yes.  Drugs like Xanax and Valium are benzodiazepines which are anti-anxiety medications.  These kind of drugs reduce anxiety by enhancing the effect of the patient’s natural amounts of GABA.

Is GABA involved in treating sleep disorders?  Yes.  Benzodiazepines are also widely used to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders.

So are benzodiazepines widely used for depression?  No.  The most common type of medication used to treat depression are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).  These drugs increase the amount of the patient’s natural amount of serotonin.

So GABA has not been viewed strongly as being involved in the therapeutic role of SSRIs for depression.

But a recent research publication in the journal Science challenges that view.

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