The rise of social media has been linked to the development of tics, a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary repetitive movements and vocalizations. Teen girls are developing tics in their neck, shoulders, jaw, and hands as they spend more time on apps like TikTok.
The girl with tics tiktok is a story about a girl who developed tics after using the social media app, TikTok. Doctors say that this could be a factor in developing these habits.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, teen females from all over the world have been presenting to physicians with tics—physical jerking motions and vocal outbursts.
Doctors who specialize in movement disorders were first baffled. Tics are uncommon in girls, but these teenagers had an abnormally high number of them, which had appeared out of nowhere. After months of research and consultation, specialists from leading pediatric institutions in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom found that the majority of the girls had one thing in common: TikTok.
Doctors believe the girls were viewing videos of TikTok celebrities who claimed to have Tourette syndrome, a nervous-system disease that leads individuals to produce repeated, uncontrollable motions or noises, according to a slew of recent medical journal papers.
Although no one has kept track of these instances on a national level, pediatric movement disorder clinics throughout the United States are reporting an increase in adolescent females with comparable tics. Since March 2020, Donald Gilbert, a neurologist specializing in juvenile movement disorders and Tourette syndrome at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, has seen approximately 10 new teenagers with tics each month. His clinic had only seen one patient each month before the epidemic.
TikTok just requires one key piece of information to figure out what you want, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation: the length of time you spend lingering over a piece of material. The app is monitoring you every second you pause or replay. Laura Kammermann/The Wall Street Journal photo illustration
Similar spikes have been observed by experts at other prominent universities. Texas Children’s Hospital has reported seeing around 60 adolescents with such tics since March 2020, compared to one or two instances a year before to the epidemic. According to Joseph McGuire, an associate professor in the university’s department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, 10% to 20% of juvenile patients at the Johns Hopkins University Tourette’s Center have reported acute-onset tic-like symptoms, up from 2% to 3% a year before the epidemic. Rush University Medical Center in Chicago says it observed 20 patients with these tics between March and June this year, up from 10 the previous year.
According to doctors, the majority of the teenagers had already been diagnosed with anxiety or depression, which was triggered or worsened by the epidemic. According to Dr. Gilbert, physical symptoms of psychological stress often appear in ways that patients have observed in others. He has seen patients in the past who had nonepileptic seizures and, in most instances, had observed the episodes of relatives who had epilepsy, he added.
On TikTok, there are lots of tic-like behaviors to see. According to a research by physicians in the United Kingdom, videos with the hashtag #tourettes had approximately 1.25 billion views when they started investigating the issue in January—a figure that has now risen to 4.8 billion.
“The safety and well-being of our community is our top concern,” a TikTok spokesperson said. “We’re working with industry experts to better understand this particular situation.”
Some physicians are wary of blaming TikTok, claiming that although the number of cases they’re seeing is much greater than previously, it’s not an epidemic.
“Some kids who watch social media acquire tics, whereas others who don’t have access to social media get tics,” Dr. McGuire said. “I believe there are several contributing variables, including anxiety, sadness, and stress,” says the author.
Kayla Johnsen at home with her parents, Brandi and Erik Johnsen. Kayla has been receiving treatment to control her tics after consultations to neurologists and psychologists.
Many physicians are skeptical of certain Tourette TikTokers’ diagnosis, claiming that the behaviors shown in their videos—multiple complicated physical and vocal tics—do not seem to be symptoms of Tourette syndrome. Tourette syndrome affects much more males than girls, and it usually begins at a young age and progresses over time. It is also treatable with medicine.
Regardless of the TikTokers’ assertions, Dr. Gilbert believes the symptoms of the teenagers who have seen them are genuine and most likely reflect functional neurological disorders, which include vocal tics and odd bodily movements that aren’t caused by an illness. Doctors suggest cognitive behavioral treatment and advise patients to avoid using TikTok for many weeks in order to unlearn these tics.
Looking for solutions
Kayla Johnsen, a 17-year-old Sugar Land, Texas high school senior, started experiencing tics last November after being diagnosed with a hereditary connective tissue disease. She said that when she started taking medication for the condition, the intensity and frequency of her tics increased, and she acquired new ones.
Her parents took her to the emergency hospital one day because she was having terrible back spasms. She was diagnosed with a functional neurological disease by a specialist there. The ER doctor recommended Kayla visit a therapist and a psychiatrist when she was discharged from the hospital, she claimed.
Kayla, who had been diagnosed with anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder years before, started seeing a therapist once a week and eventually completed five weeks of intense treatment. Both the anxiety and the tics were treated with medicine, but the tics remained.
She was ultimately sent to Texas Children’s Hospital’s movement disorders expert. He inquired about her social media usage when she saw him last month. She claimed she struggled to remain organized during remote school last autumn and went to YouTube to watch videos of other kids with ADHD to learn how they dealt with it.
This led her to TikTok compilation videos showing teenagers with tics who also have ADHD or anxiety. She remembered that in one of the films, a lady who was baking had so severe tics that she flung eggs against a wall; in another, a girl seemed to be unable to control her arm motions and struck the people around her.
Brandi Johnsen, Kayla’s mother, claimed the neurologist informed her that physicians were looking into the link between patients’ tics and social media.
“These kids are trying to get assistance for anxiety and other issues, and they’re turning to TikTok and other social media for help, and it’s backfiring in a horrible, awful manner,” Ms. Johnsen said.
“I believe these films caused my tics, and that it escalated into its own beast,” Kayla said.
Kayla Johnsen’s doctor informed her that, although her tics aren’t purposeful, she can learn to manage them, which has allowed them to lessen.
Putting the puzzle pieces together
In the last year, about 30 teenagers were referred to Rush University Medical Center for a variety of involuntary behaviors, ranging from jerking arm motions to swear words to head and neck twitches. According to some physicians, self-injurious conduct was prevalent, with many patients showing bruises and abrasions as a consequence of their tics. Caroline Olvera, a movement disorders fellow, observed that many teenagers were pronouncing “beans” with a British accent. Even those who couldn’t communicate in English did so. Some patients reported seeing TikTok videos of other people with tics.
Dr. Olvera set up a TikTok account and began monitoring recordings of adolescents and adults who claimed to suffer from Tourette syndrome. She found that one of the most powerful Tourette influencers was a British man who often used the word “beans.”
Dr. Olvera discovered that 19 of the 28 most-followed Tourette influencers on TikTok reported acquiring new tics as a consequence of viewing other producers’ videos as part of her study, which included 3,000 such TikTok films.
Previously, there have been clusters of tic-like illnesses, including a well-known instance a decade ago in which many teenagers in upstate New York acquired tics that were classified as “mass psychogenic sickness.”
According to a recent paper written by Mariam Hull, a child neurologist at Texas Children’s Hospital who specializes in pediatric movement disorders, such cases were mostly confined to specific geographic locations, but social media appears to be providing a new way for psychological disorders to spread quickly around the world.
A similar effect was observed by one group of researchers in Germany, when a famous YouTuber uploaded videos about having Tourette syndrome. The medical community, on the other hand, has mostly concentrated on TikTok, which has expanded quickly throughout the epidemic. The firm said earlier this month that its monthly users had surpassed 1 billion, and it was the most-downloaded nongame app in August.
TikTok is very popular among adolescent females, with numerous surveys indicating that it is their preferred social networking app. Many of the films of individuals with tics are humorous, demonstrating how difficult it is to bake or recite the alphabet while coping with uncontrolled body movements or vocal outbursts.
And after viewers click on videos that show on their “For You” tab, similar ones may surface, selected by an algorithm based on how long individuals spend on each piece of content.
Dr. Hull believes that developing a tic will require more than one watching of a film. “Some youngsters have taken up their phones and shown me their TikTok, which is filled with these Tourette cookery and alphabet challenges,” says the narrator.
Kayla Johnsen researches coping methods for tics, such as learning to identify the ideas and emotions that may cause them.
Beginning the process of recovery
While Kayla Johnsen’s neurologist at Texas Children’s Hospital validated the ER doctor’s diagnosis of functional neurological disease, he also emphasized to her that she can learn to manage her tics.
She stated that having a clear diagnosis and understanding she has the ability to control the tics has helped them to lessen, but she still has to learn methods to stop them. She’s working through exercises from a book suggested by her neurologist to help her identify ideas and emotions that may cause tic episodes and develop stronger coping skills.
A handful of Kayla’s classmates have recently acquired tics. Kayla is concerned about them, and she isn’t sure whether they picked up the tics from her or from watching TikTok.
The experience has been difficult for the family, which has described it as lonely and frustrated. Kayla said that she still views ADHD videos on TikTok, but she no longer watches tic videos. She said that she is attempting to maintain her optimism.
“After this began, I developed a new phrase: ‘It’s just another thing,’” Kayla said. “I’ve already gone through a lot with all of the anxiety I’ve experienced for years and the symptoms I’ve had from the hereditary illness.” ‘It’s just another thing,’ I’d remark if my tics grew worse. That’s the response I’d give if someone asked how I was doing, because if I really thought about it, I’d pass out.”
Kayla said she still watches ADHD videos on TikTok but stays away from videos concerning tics and Tourette syndrome because she is concerned about friends who have acquired tics.
What can parents do?
There are certain things parents may do if their kid exhibits unexpected new tics, according to doctors who specialize in treating functional neurological diseases.
Take a vacation from social media. Doctors recommend that parents question their children about the kinds of videos they’ve seen on TikTok or other social media sites, and that they refrain from viewing videos of individuals with tics for many weeks. Parents may connect their TikTok account to their children’s to enable content controls using TikTok’s Family Pairing function.
Seek the advice of a professional. If the tics are severe enough to interfere with a child’s everyday life, schedule an appointment with a pediatric movement disorders specialist. Early action and the correct diagnosis may assist in resolving issues more quickly. Certain hospitals and clinics are recommended by the Tourette Association of America for the treatment of tics.
Maintain a regular schedule. “Sitting at home and thinking about your symptoms is the worst thing you can do,” Dr. Gilbert said. Because tics may worsen during periods of transition, he recommends that a child see the school nurse during an episode rather than going home for the day.
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Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. To avoid damage, parents often hover over toddlers with uncontrolled body motions, and they frequently respond when youngsters scream curse words. According to Dr. Gilbert, this reinforces the habit. “Don’t pay attention to them,” he advised. “It doesn’t halt it; instead, it feeds it.” Other medical professionals agree.
Take a walk. “I usually urge my patients to participate in a sport or practice yoga—something active that engages both their mind and body,” Dr. Gilbert added. “It isn’t evidence-based, but it keeps them occupied.”
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Julie Jargon can be reached at [email protected]
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The tics tiktok reddit is a social media platform that has been the center of controversy. Some people believe that it could be a factor in teen girls developing tics.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why would a teenager develop tics?
Tics are involuntary movements that people make. They can be caused by anxiety, stress, or other emotions.
Can a 13 year old develop tics?
I am not sure what you mean by develop tics.
Can you develop tics at 15?
Yes, I can develop tics at 15.
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