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Imagine a sensation that has a cult following on the internet, including hundreds of YouTube videos and many forums, that is real to those who feel it but hasn't been scientifically proven. It's weird, but cool, and it all started on SteadyHealth.

Have you ever had a "head orgasm", a strange tingling sensation in the scalp triggered by the weirdest and widest variety of stimuli? You could be missing out if this sounds completely unfamiliar to you, but this phenomenon is still incredibly interesting. 

This sensation, first described as a "weird sensation that feels good" by someone right here on SteadyHealth in 2007, has now developed a cult following on the internet. Hundreds of YouTube videos are dedicated to triggering the feeling, and forums existing solely to discuss this phenomenon draw hundreds of thousands of subscribers. The sensation, having gone through a list of different names, is now referred to as Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response or ASMR. While scientists are skeptical, they can't disprove the feeling exists. 

What on Earth? That's worth learning more about!

What Is Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR)?

The sensation we're talking about can best be described as a powerful, pleasant tingling sensation in the head or scalp, as the result of exposure to various stimuli. Wikipedia broadens this description to say the sensation can also take place in the back and peripheral regions of the body. Let's be clear, though — this sensation is not triggered by direct physical stimulation of the relevant areas of the body. Instead, it's far more mysterious than that.

What does it really feel like? Though I don't personally experience ASMR, I think I know. I came across a sign advertising "Indian head massage" at Camden market in London about 15 years ago. The seller used a metal device that looked like wire spider legs protruding from a stick. The massage lasted only about five minutes, but it was an incredibly powerful experience. As the lady massaged my scalp, a powerful, almost electric tingling sensation shot through my scalp into my neck, back and shoulders. I bought the device, but the sensation only ever appeared when someone else did the actual massage. Self-massage didn't work.

The "weird sensation that feels good" seems to be a feeling very similar to receiving an Indian head massage with one of those wire devices. Keep in mind, though, that nobody is actually touching the scalp of those who experience ASMR. What causes it, then? Not everyone who experiences it has the same triggers, but the phenomenon can be caused by the sounds and visual representations of:

  • Whispering
  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Tapping on glass with nails
  • Building with Lego bricks
  • Bathroom cleaning
  • Hair brushing
  • And many, many more things. 

Videos to trigger the sensation are now easily accessible on YouTube, but the initial discussion on SteadyHealth reveals that there are many triggers besides visual and auditory stimuli.

Some reported experiencing the sensation around elderly or nice people, while others said they notice it when filling out forms, around slow-moving people, while fixing small devices, and even in the library.

The Origins Of This Mysterious Sensation

While people have probably been experiencing this sensation privately for hundreds or even thousands of years, the first identifiable discussion about the "head orgasm" was started right here on SteadyHealth on October 19, 2007. The thread was titled "Weird sensation that feels good", and we owe it to SteadyHealth member Okaywhatever.

"I get this sensation sometimes. There's no real trigger for it. It just happens randomly," Okaywhatever wrote. "It's been happening since I was a kid and I'm 21 now. Some examples of what it seems has caused it to happen before are as a child while watching a puppet show and when I was being read a story to. As a teenager when a classmate did me a favor and when a friend drew on the palm of my hand with markers."

This post vividly describes how the sensation can be triggered by physical stimuli in unrelated parts of the body, as well as visual stimuli and people being kind.

Okaywhatever continued: "It's like in my head and all over my body. If I get an itch when I'm experiencing the sensation I won't scratch it cause the itch helps intensify it. I also like to trace my fingers along my skin because it feels good when experiencing the sensation. Sometimes my eyes will water. When the sensation is over I will sometimes feel nauseous, but not that bad. Just a slight hint of nausea."

"What is it?? I'm not complaining cause I love it, but I'm just wondering what it might be... help."

Others soon replied, remarking that they were familiar with the sensation too. The phenomenon was described as a "tingling in my scalp", a "head orgasm", "weird head sensation", "Attention Induced Head Orgasm" and "brain-gasm". 

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