CBIT therapy via telehealth throughout MA, NH, and VT
There has been a drastic increase in teens and young women having a sudden onset of involuntary and extreme sounds and movements. This crisis may be related to anxiety and isolation, as well as frequent viewing of social media with highly inaccurate and exaggerated content related to tics.
Pandemic -19 stress combined with misleading and exaggerated tic related social media is thought to be the cause of a new and extreme tic-like disorder occurring predominantly teenage girls. Paralysis, seizures, fainting, and hearing loss without known medical cause are also common symptoms.
A thorough neurological exam is necessary to rule out any underlying medical concerns for the tic-like behaviors and other symptoms. The cause may be attributed to a Functional Motor Disorder, which is a form of Functional Neurological Disorder, also known as FND. Sudden onset and extensive tic-like behaviors are very likely NOT due to Tourette Syndrome or a typical tic disorder. Those conditions begin at a much earlier age and present very differently.
Patients and their families benefit from knowing that the symptoms can often be managed with the realization that things can soon get better. It is important to stop watching social media with tic related content and to professionally address concerns related to the many losses over the course of the pandemic as well as stressors that existed prior to COVID-19.
Picking up tics and other physical behaviors happens somewhat often. It is not uncommon to see a room full of people yawn around the same time or for someone to feel itchy when someone else is itchy. There are also reports of cheerleading squads and football teams having very similar stomach aches and other ailments. Perhaps one of the most well known cases of tic-like behaviors seeming to be contagious was in Le Roy, NY. Multiple girls as well as one boy and a middle aged woman had a sudden onset of tic-like behaviors. When major news networks and talk shows began covering the situation, the symptoms became noticeably worse. As attention faded away, and there was assurance that there was no underlying medical cause or environmental threat, so did the symptoms and the patients soon recovered.
Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT) is successfully being used throughout the greater Boston area and across New England to directly address tic-like behaviors that have surfaced during COVID-19. Our occupational therapists are training patients how to stop the unwanted motor and vocal activity by doing a blocking technique successful with traditional forms of tics. Therapeutic intervention focusses on empathy for the patients, concern about this disabling condition, and action to reduce daily stress. Patients are also encouraged to work with a team of neurologists, mental health professionals, and educators.
Teenager using a CBIT strategy called a competing response to prevent an arm tic.
During the pandemic people with tic disorders and Tourette's have reported an increase in tics. In addition, some teenage girls and young women with no previous history of tics have experienced a sudden and intense case of tic-like behaviors. This situation is likely due to anxiety combined with the viewing of social media with misleading tic content. Researchers in the UK were the first to publish information about this trend. Their findings can be read below. Similar cases are global due to the far reach of TikTok, YouTube, and similar platforms. CBIT Therapy and mental health support are often the solution.
Tics related to watching videos with tic related content may be a sign of over exposure to many types of social media. If you are constantly checking emails and alerts, posting and reposting photos and news articles, or following creators and influencers, it is probably time to cut way back. Take charge by deleting accounts, cancelling alerts, setting screen time limits, and finding something more productive to do with your time. Social media certainly has some benefits, but over use and misuse is associated with greater isolation, depression, jealousy, anger, anxiety, and many other emotional and physical concerns. Due to the addictive nature of social media, breaking away may require the support of friends and family members, as well as behavioral health specialists.