Why Are Teens Suddenly Developing Tics? Social Media.

Shivani Patel, Writer

Tourette’s syndrome is defined by the CDC to cause “people to have “tics.” Tics are sudden twitches, movements, or sounds that people do repeatedly.” Over the past two years since the pandemic began, when teenage girls (and occasionally boys) started appearing at doctor’s offices and emergency rooms with tics, many doctors believed it was Tourette’s syndrome. However, this diagnosis was largely incorrect. Tourette’s syndrome is uncommon and is more likely to appear in boys than girls, usually between the ages of 5 and 7. So why the sudden surge in teenage girls exhibiting Tourette’s-like-symptoms?

 

After studying patients for several months, a number of pediatricians from hospitals all over the world realized that there was one overarching thing most of the teenagers had in common: TikTok. Isolation during the pandemic resulted in a drastic increase in social media usage, and TikTok, especially, showed to have harmful long-term side-effects. The presence of the pandemic also exacerbated the development of the tics. The tics are a way for the brain to release stress, and the body finds that the best way to release stress, in this particular situation, when affected by an emotional stressor, is as a physical disorder. The tics also go hand-in-hand with the development of mental health disorders, such as chronic depression. Dr. Mohammed Aldosari of the Cleveland Clinic, a top-ranked medical center located in Ohio, stated, “In just a few hours, maybe a day or two, girls who have no history of tics suddenly start to experience a lot of movement and vocalization.” The tics were caused by the repetition of phrases and movements that teenagers mimic when learning/creating a dance to post on TikTok. A study published in the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society, titled “TikTok Tics: A Pandemic Within a Pandemic,” found that tics caused by TikTok occurred about 29 times per minute. What is further alarming is that everyone who uses TikTok is susceptible to developing these tics.

 

It is difficult to treat tics caused by social media, but therapy has been shown to help. The real message amongst the alarming statistics and the physical proof, is that social media has negative aspects that can manifest into persistent disorders that can affect an individual’s health. Physicians have begun to argue that parents, school teachers, and community members should work towards promoting and enforcing a community for children that is not social media-centric. Since it is often difficult for parents to manage their children’s social media accounts, it is equally important for social media members themselves to take the initiative and regulate their social media usage, specifically TikTok usage.