CBIT Therapy is leader in the management of Sudden Onset Tiks, including a disorder commonly referred to as TikTokTics, This condition is related to pandemic anxiety, isolation, and frequent viewing of social media influencers with tic-like content.
TikTokTics are a sudden onset of multiple and extreme tic-like behaviors thought to be a physical response to emotional distress. In New England, this serious condition occurs almost exclusively in middle to upper class white young women who follow social media influencers with questionable tic and Tourette Syndrome related content. Patients often pick up many of the same exact behaviors they have viewed and feel a strong connection with tinfluencers and their millions of subscribers. TikTokTics are thought to have emerged during the pandemic and are classified as a Functional Motor Disorder, which is a form of a Functional Neurological Disorder, also known as FND. This means that the symptoms are real but much more closely related to anxiety than a neurological cause. Patients benefit from finding ways to decrease isolation and unsubscribing from all social media with tic related content. It is also important to address concerns related to the pandemic and the many losses it has caused.
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 scratches their arm. There are also reports of cheerleading squads and football teams having very similar stomach aches and other ailments. 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) has been found to be the most effective treatment for TikTokTics and the most effective delivery method is telehealth.
CBIT Therapy is an occupational therapy practice that utilizes video calls to treat patients in their homes, where most of the social media is consumed and stressors and supports can be identified. We train patients how to stop disruptive motor and vocal activity by doing a blocking technique successful with traditional forms of tics.
Teenager using a CBIT strategy called a competing response to prevent an arm tic.
Patients with sudden onset tics related to social media often believe they have Tourette Syndrome. This is because their behaviors are extremely similar to popular influencers claiming to have Tourette's. Common tic-like behaviors include whistling, hitting the head, saying "beans" and throwing things such as eggs. Since this condition is very new (and does not even have an official name) research on the subject is limited. Below are articles guiding the way to understand and treat this disorder. On 10/17/21 The Wall Street Journal also published an article on sudden onset tics related to social media.
Tics related to watching videos with tic related content are 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 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 has some benefits, but over use and misuse is associated with greater isolation, depression, jealousy, anger, anxiety, and other emotional and physical concerns. Due to the addictive nature of social media, breaking away may require the support of family members and behavioral health specialists.
In 2020 the Calgary Tic Disorders Clinical Registry referred to TikTokTics as Functional Tic-Like Behaviors (FTLBs) and is tracking the trend closely. The condition is extremely disabling and even associated with suicide attempts. Misdiagnosis leads to further complications related to medications and recovery.
TikTokTics is due to a parasocial relationship. If you subscribe to an influencer / creator and consider the videos they make an integral part of your identity or social life, it may be necessary to unsubscribe and turn off notifications. If you are not sure if your time on social media is a concern, consider how often you view videos, how much you know about the influencer, if you post things in chat boxes, and whether or not you follow any of their advice or copy their speech or behaviors. Parasocial relationships are a form of social media addiction that demands immediate support.
CBIT Therapy helps patients and their families learn strategies to manage sudden onset tics caused by anxiety and repetitive viewing of videos of people displaying tic-like behaviors.
CBIT Therapy is part of Online OTs LLC and collaborates with clinicians at UMass, MGH, Boston Children's Hospital, and many practices throughout MA, NH, and VT. A HIPPA compliant Google Suite platform is used for video calls. Allways Health Partners, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and private pay are accepted. Mass Health recipients are eligible for limited financial assistance.
Please FAX referrals to 857-202-5085. Thank you!