Ever since the breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors have recorded a global surge in tics-like behaviour among teens. Usually, a sudden onset of involuntary movements either in motor skills or vocal skills characterizes Tics. Some experts revealed that Tik Tok is the cause of this rise in tic-like behaviours. In this blog, I bring you an interesting insight into this!
Tics can happen at any age, but they are most prevalent in children. According to experts, about 20 % of children experience tics. This syndrome is far more common in boys than girls. However, in recent times, the surge is seen among the teens!
But first, let’s understand what tic is.
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What are tics?
Tics are short-lasting sudden movements, twitches or sounds that occur in a repetitive manner. It can be of two types – motor tics and vocal tics. Eye blinking, nose-twitching, head-jerking, or shoulder-shrugging, are common examples of simple motor tics. While yelling, grunting, humming or clearing the throat repeatedly and uncontrollably are examples of vocal tics.
Tourette Syndrome, a condition of the nervous system causes people to have tics. The onset of this syndrome is usually seen in children between the ages of 5 to 10. The symptoms often aggravate when the child is stressed, excited or sleep-deprived.
Also, experts say that it is often seen that people with tics have someone in their family or extended family with a history of tics, OCD, ADHD or other co-occurring conditions like anxiety and depression.
Symptoms of Tics
Often the first symptom of tics is a simple motor involuntary movement, like blinking or a grunting sound. In some cases, tics may become more complex like they can begin in the head, face or neck and may involve the rest of the body. It is an intense premonitory urge that decreases in intensity after the tic passes.
What’s causing a rise in Tic Like Behaviour?
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors have witnessed a surge in the cases of tics. The new cases of Tic disorder are mostly seen in teenagers with no history of tics. Teen patients are exhibiting symptoms that are distinctly different from those seen in Tourette syndrome or usual Tic Disorder patients.
After clinical observations, experts came to the conclusion that this sudden onset of tic-like behaviour could be exacerbated by stress. The symptom became prominent in people with an unidentified history of Tic Disorder.
Is Tik Tok causing this rise in Tic Like Behaviours in Teens?
There is no denying the fact that social media has a huge influence on teens. And COVID-19 has increased their screen time considerably. This has resulted not only in increased exposure to trolling but also has in low self-esteem and disrupted sleep. And as I said above, sleep deprivation and stress are the main triggers of Tic.
Further investigations revealed that teenagers who reported Tics watched multiple videos on Tourette’s syndrome on Tik Tok. For many teens, watching influencers displaying tics and tic-like behaviours may trigger similar symptoms. This is especially true in people who have had an underlying susceptibility.
Studies on this strange connection revealed the belief that these Tik Tok tics are caused by a condition called a functional neurological disorder (FND). FND is a real neurological disorder and those with FND are not faking it!
Functional Neurological Disorder
Functional Neurological Disorder (FND), is a set of neurological symptoms. It is often thought to be a physical manifestation of psychological distress. It is often worsened by stress or trauma and is not voluntary or purposeful.
Functional Neurological Disorder and the tics share many common features, including appearance, suggestibility, distractibility, and worsening in times of stress. Echophenomena, the repetition of external movements or sounds, is a symptom of FND, Tic as well as Tourette syndrome. However, there are certain differences that make each case unique.
Because of the similarities, the diagnosis of FND becomes difficult. Distinguishing tics from tic-like behaviour in FND can be very challenging. The general public or clinicians not specialized in Tic Disorders may not be able to reach a proper diagnosis. That’s why it is important to consult an expert if you are experiencing such symptoms.
Difference between Tics and Tic-Like Behaviour in FND
FND has a sudden and abrupt onset while Tics is gradual.
FND is commonly seen in the mid-teens and Tics are common among children.
In FND, the Tic-like symptoms closely replicate those of the influencer on social media.
In FND, Tics begin in the body or limbs without a history of tics involving the eyes, face, and head.
The severity of tics in FND does not rise or fall. However, Tourette Syndrome may get better or worse with time.
How to Reduce Triggers?
Often functional tic-like behaviours are triggered by personal or environmental factors. Knowing and reducing the triggers are the key to controlling the tics. Often a psychologist or a counsellor can help you identify the triggers.
If watching social media videos are your trigger then cutting down on watching tic-related content can help. This can also help in increasing the likelihood of recovery when receiving behavioural therapy and treatment.
Here are some other tips that can help –
- Practice relaxation therapies like deep breathing, meditation or yoga.
- Find the triggers and try to eliminate them.
- If watching online content is the trigger then avoid such videos.
- Focus on a healthy sleep regime.
- Try Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
How to Control the Brain?
One of the key aspects of treating FND is controlling the brain to recognize how to manage movements and sounds. Experts revealed that Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help in controlling these symptoms. CBT is an effective treatment for tics and may be helpful for some functional tic-like movements.
If you are experiencing a sudden onset of Tic-like syndromes, then it might be because of the increased stress and anxiety during the times of COVID. Also, if you are watching influencer videos on Tics or TS, then please stop watching them!