Sudden onset of tics

It’s fascinating to learn about the sudden onset of tics so many people have experienced lately.

Whether this is the pandemic, social media or something else entirely… it is something that needs a lot more research.

I was diagnosed with Tourette’s as a kid, however during the pandemic I have seen an increase in my own tics. Particularly my motor tics.

Disclaimer: I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at the age of nine, however this does not make me a medical professional. I will add helpful links to the right sources for anyone needing help and support.

a grey explosion of dust on a black background, symbolizing the sudden nature of tics in some people

Where are these tics coming from?

Two things regularly get mentioned alongside a sudden onset of tics in the past couple years.

The pandemic, and TikTok.

TikTok has been around a little longer, but has certainly increased in popularity during the worldwide lockdowns.

And of course, what has been a hugely popular way to spend time when we are stuck in lockdown? Social media.

A mobile phone sits on a desk in a dark room, with the Tik Tok app icon in focus.

Wired ran an article in March 2021 about young girls in particular asking for advice after developing tics.

Fascinatingly, boys tend to be diagnosed more regularly with Tourette Syndrome, as is true for many other neurological disorders.

Are people watching videos about Tourette’s and being affected? It is well known that sufferers do tend to have increased tics when reading or watching other sufferers.

Vice ran an article about Great Ormond Street Hospital seeing an ‘explosion of tics’, with young girls being referred more frequently than ever before.

Anxiety and stress cause an increase in tics

Currently, the main factors assumed to be causing this sudden onset of tics is stress and anxiety.

For those with Tourette and other tic disorders, this is already well known.

I personally see tics worsen at times of stress, as well as when tired or even wearing certain clothes.

Dr Sharryn Gardner in the above Vice article suggests that children being away from their friends for so long can make them excited to be reunited. Excitement can very much be a factor, not just stress.

She also states it is all completely new. More time is needed to understand.

Are these explanations only valid for sufferers already diagnosed, or also for those that have never had tics before? I would love to find out.

Diet and health can cause a sudden onset of tics

I stayed on a full time salary over lockdown, although my days going to work went from 14 days a month down to just six.

I noticed in the past two years that my tics were getting worse.

My blinking was more frequent. My shoulder shrugging more intense and my head nodding was keeping me awake most nights.

Not to mention the frequent anxiety attacks I was experiencing.

It turns out that my diet was a lot worse in lockdown. You know when it felt like airport rules in the early days? Beers at midday, a takeaway every other day.

My GP told me my blood pressure was high and I needed to cut down on salt. I was drinking almost to the point of dependency and my sleeping pattern was a mess.

Since I made some big changes, these tics have reduced in severity.

Being stuck indoors can cause an increase in tics

I have always said that Tourette and ADHD has made it virtually impossible for me to do an office job. The idea of sitting still for eight hours is torture.

I have always worked in the hospitality sector (with 6 months in an office) and needing to run around like a headless chicken has helped me immensely.

When I was told to stay indoors, it wasn’t just boring. It was incredibly stressful.

I am sure many of those experiencing a sudden onset of tics have done so due to being stuck indoors. We are social creatures (as I have been told), and love the freedom to roam.

Lockdowns just aren’t something our bodies and minds are used to. It is no surprise we see some side effects to this.

We need more time for more answers

This sudden increase in tics is fascinating. Especially because of how sudden this explosion has been.

2020-21 has been an incredibly stressful couple of years. And for so many reasons.

Stress and anxiety are two well knows factors for a sudden onset of tics.

Mix this with social media, and the fact that tics can be triggered by other people ticcing, and we are bound to have a problem.

I will come back to this post in due time. It was interesting to post about this and I will reflect on it in the months to come.

Your support helps immeasurably. By subscribing via Patreon, you become an essential part of our mission to spread understanding and support for those of us living with Tourette syndrome and OCD.

The newsletter is completely free, with monthly updates on recent articles and videos.