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Tics


Aidan could feel it. He was in the middle of an exam and didn't want to make a scene, so he tried to control it. But it was no use. The stress of the exam was getting to him, and the longer he held in his tic, the more he could feel it building up inside him. Finally he had no choice but to let it out. It wasn't as bad as he anticipated — his shoulders jerked slightly and no one seemed to notice.

Aidan has a tic disorder, a condition that affects many people before the age of 18. Sometimes a person will have one kind of tic — like a shoulder shrug — that lasts for a while and then goes away. But then he or she may develop another type of tic, such as a nose twitch.

What's a Tic?

A tic is an uncontrolled sudden, repetitive movement or sound that can be difficult to control. Tics involving involve movements are called motor tics. Tics involving sounds are called vocal ticsTics can be either simple or complex.

The type of tics a person has may change over time. How often tics happen also may change. Tics often come and go and can get worse when a person is stressed or anxious.

It's perfectly normal to worry that a tic may never go away. Fortunately, that's not usually the case. Most tics are temporary. They tend to not last more than 3 months at a time.

Motor Tics

Simple motor tics involve a single muscle group. Complex motor tics usually involve more than one muscle group and can even look like the person is doing the tic on purpose. Simple motor tics include:

Complex motor tics include:

Vocal Tics

Simple vocal tics involve one simple sound. Complex vocal tics involve more meaningful speech (like words). Simple vocal tics include:

Complex vocal tics include:

Types of Tic Disorders

There are several kinds of tic disorders:

The Doc's Diagnosis

Tics can sometimes be diagnosed at a regular checkup after the doctor gets a full family history, a medical history, and a look at the symptoms. No specific test can diagnose tics, but sometimes doctors will run tests to rule out other conditions that might have symptoms similar to tics.

In certain cases, tics are bad enough to interfere with someone's daily life and medicine may be prescribed.

The Embarrassment Factor

Many times, people with a tic can think that their tic is the worst one ever. Of course it isn't, but it's still a concern for many people with tics. And those worries can cause unnecessary feelings of embarrassment and actually make the tic worse.

Nobody wants to make tics worse, but is there any way to make them better? While you can't cure tics, you can take some easy steps to lessen their impact:

Don't let a little tic dictate who you are or how you act. Learning to live with and not pay attention to the tic will make you stronger down the road.

Reviewed by: Shirin Hasan, MD
Date reviewed: October 2016


Note: All information on TeensHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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