Does tight clothing make tics worse?

I am writing this after numerous occurrences in which tight clothing has made my tics worse.

Items in particular being a scarf or tie, jackets and tight jeans.

I have waited until my late twenties to early thirties to actually stop for a moment and analyse why my tics worsen. Sometimes it is hard to know when there are so many factors that can contribute… Stress, alcohol or a hangover, certain food and drinks.

The weather!

And it was only when I started looking into temperature and tics that I started to think about the clothes I was wearing, and how they were affecting me.

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The clothes that make tics worse

I have always had a dislike for ties. This was troublesome when in a role that needed me to wear a suit, but I often got away with an open shirt. Basically, the more clothes I am wearing, the more stress increases.

I once attended a CBT therapy session straight after work and was still wearing my suit as a result. The therapist (who was great) tried to introduce me to certain relaxation techniques. One involved closing my eyes, sitting still and breathing deeply. Imagining I am somewhere else away from my problems and letting my body rest as my mind wandered.

This would have had a much better outcome if I wasn’t in my damn suit. As much as I tried to escape in the moment my trousers and shirt felt like they were clingfilm wrapped around my body. I couldn’t feel free and my clothing didn’t help one bit.

I have mentioned how winter clothing does the same thing for me. As much as I want to feel warm on a cold winters day, my scarf and thick jacket restrict my shoulders and neck region, and this seems to make my tics go into overdrive. It is as if my body is trying to escape the prison I have just put it in, and I can rarely relax until I am able to take them off again.

Lack of movement seems to make me tic more. If I can keep the areas of my body that usually tic loose and relaxed, my tics reduce.

I am not sure if this is due to a combination of TS and ADHD (both I have been diagnosed with), but the less movement I am able to make the more tics I have. The more stressed I get.

Movement has always relaxed me

I cannot keep still. I try my hardest, and it is almost painful to try. Here I am currently sitting down relatively stress-free for half an hour or so, the only thing keeping me from going insane is channeling my stress through typing. As long as I am able to make some kind of repetitive movements, I remain calm.

A keyboard with the letters H-E-L-P on keys together

This has always been the case. School was boring enough, the added obstacle of sitting down in silence for an hour was painful. Exams were the worst, although I was always able to keep my composure with a fear of failing.

I am fortunate I get to go to work during lockdown. Video calls and working from home would be a disaster for me. I salute anyone that has to do this.

CHADD, a website dedicated to improving the lives of those with ADHD, states the following:

ADHD frequently co-occurs in children with Tourette Syndrome. Less than 10 percent of those with ADHD have Tourette’s, but 60 to 80 percent of children with Tourette Syndrome have ADHD. The ADHD diagnosis usually precedes the onset of the motor or vocal tics of Tourette’s, although sometimes the two occur together.

chadd.org- About ADD- Tics and Tourette’s Syndrome (1)

It seems like a lot of people with TS have ADHD, and if many people like me feel tight clothing is a trigger of increased stress, I imagine many people with TS feel tight clothing increases tics.

Some people prefer tight clothes

I have heard people say loose clothing is more of a stressor.

I will conduct a poll on this, as I would love to see the numbers. After doing some quick research I discovered forum chats about clothing and tics, some people stating that loose clothing was worse for them. The anxiety felt when certain materials lightly brush against them is a trigger, and tics start to occur.

Not all tight clothing is bad for me. I personally feel a tighter t-shirt isn’t as bad as tight jeans or a tight fitting jacket. The latter items restrict movement to the knees and elbows, and when my most basic movements are limited even a little bit, my tics increase.

These tend to be in the areas that I am restricting the most. A t-shirt doesn’t restrict so much movement.

For example, my most frequent tics tend to be head nodding, eyebrow raising and shoulder shrugging. Therefore scarfs, ties and tight jackets tend to be the worst for my tics.

Tics also increase when I am wearing these in an enclosed space and feeling hot. It isn’t just clothing that makes me feel restricted, it can be in the environments around me.

Watching a live sports game or concert are good examples of this. My knees are pressed up against the seat in front of me and I just want to jump out of there.

A close-up of empty stadium seats

Less room = more stress.

More stress = more tics.

Conclusion

Personally, tight clothing causes me problems. Particularly a suit and tie or a scarf and tight jacket or jeans. This increases if I am in an enclosed area.

This could be one reason why I feel more stressed in a work environment or during winter.

My body craves movement, and my tics tend to come out when this movement is taken away.

I am sure some of you reading this will have the same issue with tight clothing. Some of you may agree but feel the reasons for tics may be different. The materials for example. Although we share the same triggers, the reasons for those triggers may differ and that is what makes TS and tics so hard to conquer.

I would love to hear from some of you that searched this post specifically for answers. I am sorry I can only give my own perspective on this, but having a better understanding of how it affects other people in the TS community will be of great benefit.


Additional sources:

  1. chadd.org/about-adhd/tics-and-tourette-syndrome

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