What is Tics: An Overview

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jun 29, 2011
Quick Bites

  • Spasm-like muscular movements are called tics.
  • They can occur anywhere in the body.
  • Children are more prone to having tics.
  • More than often, tics are harmless.

An abrupt, uncontrollable movement or sound that doesn’t relate to a person’s normal gesture is called a tic. Like, a person suffering a tic may blink rapidly and repeatedly even if their nothing is irritating their eyes.

Tics come in different forms of uncontrollable movements or noises to different people. Children are more prone to tics and may suffer it for more than one year. A child with transient tic disorder has noticeable physical or vocal tics. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states that tics affect up to 10 percent of children during their early school years (AACAP, 2012).

Types of Tics

Tics can of two types:
Simple Motor Tics: They may include movements such as eye-blinking, nose-twitching, head-jerking, or shoulder-shrugging.

Complex Motor Tics: They consist of a series of movements performed in the same order. For instance a person might reach out and touch something repeatedly or kick out with one leg and then the other.

Tics are often referred to as unvoluntary movements instead of involuntary because people with tics are able to suppress their actions for a time. The suppression, though, results in discomfort that grows until it is relieved by performing the tic.

What is Tics

Risk Factors for Tics

Tics can affect people of all ages but are more prevalent among children. According to experts, almost 25% of children experience tics. Gender does have a role to play in who will get tics. Boys are more likely to develop the disorder as compared to girls.

The causes of tics are not known however, stress and sleep deprivation are often blamed to play a role in both occurrence and severity of motor tics. Tics are often confused with nervous behavior. They intensify during periods of stress and do not happen during sleep. Tics occur repeatedly, but they do not usually have a rhythm.

Symptoms of Tics

People with tics may uncontrollably raise their eyebrows, shrug their shoulders, flare their nostrils, or clench their fists. These are physical tics. Sometimes, a tic can cause you to repeatedly clear your throat, click your tongue, or make a certain noise, such as a grunt or a moan.

Are Tics Psychiatric Problems?

Tic disorder is categorized as an impulse control disorder, but there is no proof of a direct link with other psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression and anxiety. Sometimes people with tics have other disorders, but this co-morbidity is independent of tics. Children, for example, often suffer from hyperactivity.

Although tics are categorized as an impulse control disorder, this doesn’t mean that the person is impulsive in the everyday sense of the word. It is no more than a general diagnostic category that includes habits such as pulling one’s hair or biting one’s nails.

Image Courtesy: Getty

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