Bonding over tics may be triggering tics

in November 2nd, 2021

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What makes a disorder up to four times more likely to affect young boys suddenly spike in girls? The answer might be social media. Tourette Syndrome is a condition that causes tics, which are repeated, uncontrolled, and sudden movements or vocal sounds, typically appearing in children between the ages of five and nine.

But now, teenage girls worldwide are showing up at doctors’ offices with tics at record rates. Reports in the U.S. show...

  • 60 cases since March 2020, up from 1-2 cases a year, at the Texas Children’s Hospital
  • 10-20% of pediatric patients diagnosed with Tourette’s, up from 3%, at John Hopkins University Tourette’s Center
  • 20 cases this year, up from 10, at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center.

Doctors from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the U.K. banded together to discuss the phenomenon and found one thing in common: TikTok. People with the condition began posting videos sharing their life with tics, such as one user whose symptoms made her involuntarily throw eggs while baking, to gain support and build community during the pandemic. But, unintentionally, exposure to these videos seems to be triggering tics in those watching them, affecting teen girls the most — the hashtag #tourettes now has ~5 billions views. TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t help, as engaging with a single #tourettes video can result in dozens taking over your recommended videos feed.

That said, TikTok isn’t the only factor. While the platform is being researched further, including by the company itself, doctors say anxiety and depression — both of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic — are major contributing factors as well.

🎬 Take Action

Know someone living with tics? Consider these recommendations: taking a break from social media, talking to a specialist, maintaining a normal routine, or getting physical (such as sports or yoga). Learn more from the CDC.

Resource Center:

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Doing yoga every now and zen can help manage tics.

Art Credit: ASCII Art Archive

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