Coughing tics

Coughing, grunting and/or throat clearing are some tics experienced by those with Tourette and tic disorders. With tics, it is often less about needing to clear the throat, and more to fulfil a sensory urge.

Since the recent pandemic, coughing has been something most people want to do less in public… very difficult with a tic disorder, even if the cough is not a symptom of illness.

Is coughing motor or vocal?

There is some confusion around whether or not certain tics are in the motor or vocal category.

Motor are movement based and easier to define. Vocal tics are described by as:

"Vocal tics are sounds that a person makes with his or her voice. Examples of vocal tics include humming, clearing the throat, or yelling out a word or phrase."

It is apparent that vocal tics are tics associated with sounds. However a coughing tic may come with an urge to feel tension in the abdominal muscles, or a vibration in the throat.

As some individuals carry out this tic to feel a bodily movement or sensation, this tic is harder to place in one category.

More articles on Motor and Vocal tics

Is coughing a simple tic?

These would be classed as simple tics if done in short bursts.

It would become a complex tic if it was longer in duration coinciding with other tics and muscle groups.

Main article: The difference between simple and complex tics

What to look out for

Repeated coughing and grunting can be very painful.

Vocal tics can result in a dry throat, and also muscle pain particularly in the throat/neck and abdominal muscles.

Regular head movements can also lead to headaches.

It would be wise to ensure that coughing isn’t a sign of another condition. Tics may appear to be the cause in someone diagnosed with a tic disorder, so it wouldn’t hurt to ensure any coughing, grunting or throat clearing is in fact a tic and not something else.

Due to the recent pandemic, coughing has been something many of us have refrained from doing in public. This may make those with a coughing tic particularly vulnerable to unwanted attention on public transport for example.

Support is important for those with these tics. Seeking professional advice from a specialist could help reduce the risk of injury and help to manage stress.

Is this caused by Tourette syndrome?

This depends on duration, and the kinds of tics experienced during this time period.

More can be read on this in the article below.

Main article: The difference between Tourette and other tic disorders

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Hi, I'm Sam. I write about Tourette and OCD to help myself and others.


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