The misunderstanding around 'Tik Tok tics'

Since the start of the pandemic I have been approached many times by TV producers and journalists looking to find out more about the phenomenon that has been reported around the world about an apparent ‘sudden onset’ of tics in young women.

This is a complicated story which can't be condensed into a newspaper headline. I have recently had the opportunity to speak and write about this complex subject based on the information available so far.

There have been headlines blaming social media and Tik Tok in particular, suggestions that these young women might be 'faking it' or seeking attention or even that it could be part of a world-wide mass social hysteria with tics 'spreading' between young people in these online communities.

I am not keen to blame social media alone – it's a complicated picture some of which is covered in the articles below.

I was honoured to be a co-author and member of an international working group organised by the Tourette Association of America. As a group of international researchers and clinicians a document was produced about the rising incidence of functional tic-like behaviours or 'sudden onset' of tics. The article can be accessed here.

I was also interviewed by The Guardian newspaper for an article ‘The unknown is scary’: why young women on social media are developing Tourette’s-like tics'.

This was followed up by The Guardian podcast Science Weekly 'Is TikTok giving people Tourette’s Syndrome?' (Episode available below)

It has been great to speak with journalists who are understanding and willing to include signposting to important resources for people who are experiencing this - the important thing to realise is that, whatever the cause of the tics or tic-like behaviour, people are experiencing these challenging symptoms which are causing them tremendous distress. A vital take-home message is regardless of what diagnostic label someone has, all of us need understanding in the face of such difficult times and the challenges young people are facing.

You can find more information about Functional Neurological Disorder here.

Tourettes Action has created some advice about sudden onset tics.

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