ASMR videos of Houston woman snacking on pickles make her a viral sensation for their stress relief

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It's a curious phenomenon that's caught fire on social media.

Recordings of attractive women gently whispering into a microphone on Instagram. YouTube videos of long fingernails delicately taping on a keyboard.

For some, these sounds trigger a sensation that feels like a brain massage. For others, it's deeply relaxing.

The phenomenon is called ASMR -- or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response -- and for one Houston woman, her ASMR videos have made her a viral sensation.

Though, more than that, she says ASMR may have even saved her life.

"This can be embarrassing. It can also be a little weird and very strange," Spirit Payton said as she prepped a pickle spear for snacking.

Better known as the "Pickle Lady" to many of her fans, Payton chews, slurps and eats right into a microphone. YouTube videos of her snacking have millions of views. Her ASMRTheChew Youtube page has more than 300,000 followers all hanging on to every bite.

ASMR is triggered by sounds like whispers, accents and crackles. It gives some people a warm tingling feeling that starts at the scalp and moves down the body, many describing a sense of euphoria and calm in the process.

Payton first found ASMR through her daughter. It was a few years ago and Payton had been diagnosed with a rapid degenerative bone disease. With the pain getting worse by the day, it made it hard for the tractor trailer driver to provide for her three children.

"I"m basically almost a 80 to 90-year-old person on the inside," she said of her disease. "I was getting worse and I wasn't getting better and they told me the only thing they could do was make me comfortable."

Her daughter put a pair of headphones on her head and pressed play on a recording of fingernails tapping on a table. What happened next was the phenomenon ASMR.

"I was shocked. I imagined being somewhere really, really beautiful and I was so calm," said Payton.

Hooked on ASMR recordings, the effect was so powerful that Payton even quit the medication she was taking for her debilitating bone disease.

"I was becoming stronger and I realized this was so real and so comforting that no doctor, that no one could give to me," she said.

That's about the time when she started making her own ASMR videos daily, from her home featuring snack sessions with Cheetos, cabbage, candy apples and her most popular --pickles.

While there's no concrete evidence to suggest ASMR is an appropriate replacement for medication, one university in the UK has studied it, finding "temporary improvement in symptoms of depression and chronic pain."

Though her ASMR videos have found her fame and even a following from celebrities like rapper Cardi B, the "Pickle Lady" says she's most interested in helping people, maybe even saving someone's life the way she says ASMR saved hers.

"When a young man comes to my channel and says to you, 'Spirit, I'm so angry, I'm about to do something I know I'm going to regret because I can't keep calm,' and then writes me back and says 'thank you, you saved me that day,' it inspires me to continue to keep going," she said.
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