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 tics. Tics 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
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.
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:
mimicking movements by others
Simple vocal tics involve one simple sound. Complex vocal tics involve more meaningful
speech (like words). Simple vocal tics include:
Complex vocal tics include:
repeating words and phrases
Types of Tic Disorders
There are several kinds of tic disorders:
provisional tic disorder — this is the most common type of tic disorder. With a provisional tic
disorder, the tics have been happening for less than a year.
chronic (persistent) tic disorder — this is a less common tic disorder. With chronic
(persistent) tic disorder, tics have been happening for more than a year. The tics
may be motor or vocal, but not both.
Tourette syndrome — this is a much less common tic disorder. With Tourette
syndrome, a person has multiple motor tics and at least one vocal tic happening
for more than a year.
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
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 focus on it. If you know you have a tic, forget about it. Concentrating
on it just makes it worse.
Try to avoid stress-filled situations as much as you can — stress only makes
Get enough sleep. Being tired can makes tics worse. So make sure to get a full
Let it out! Holding back a tic can just turn it into a ticking bomb, waiting to
explode. Have you ever felt a cough coming on and tried to avoid it? Didn't work out
so well, did it? Chances are it was much worse. Tics are very similar.
A tic? What tic? If a friend of yours has a tic, don't call attention to it. Chances
are your friend knows the tic is there. Pointing it out only makes the person think
about it more.
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.