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Tic Disorders

Tourette Syndrome

The most severe tic disorder, Tourette Syndrome involves sudden, brief or intermittent movements (motor tics) and sounds (vocal tics), neither wanted nor easily controlled. Severe symptoms might significantly interfere with communication, daily functioning and quality of life. Specifically:

    • Both motor and vocal tics are present, though not always at the same time
    • Tics occur several times a day, nearly every day or intermittently, for more than a year
    • Tics typically begin between ages 7-10, but can begin as early as 2 (tics beginning after age 18 are not considered Tourette symptoms)
    • Change over time in location, frequency, type, complexity or severity 

Experts estimate upwards of 300,000 U.S. children have the condition. Males are about 3-4 times more likely than females to develop the disorder.

Other Tic and Twitch Disorders

Other, less severe spasm-like movements of particular muscles can occur anywhere in the body, often affecting the eyelids or face. Other tic disorders are determined by:

    • Age of onset
    • Duration of tics
    • Severity of tics (most tics are not severe)
    • Whether tics are motor or vocal or both

Two subtypes include tic disorders and twitch disorders 

Tic disorders

Generally harmless and temporary, tic disorders can be managed with treatment and lifestyle changes. Most people are able to suppress tics for a time, but this can result in discomfort that grows until it is relieved by performing the tic. Specifically, tic disorders: 

– Can be disruptive and troubling, affecting a person’s life, including school, work or social life 

– Not caused by medications, other substances or another medical condition, such as vision problems or allergies. Other medical conditions can be ruled out by blood and imaging (MRI) tests 

– Not caused by underlying mental conditions


Unlike tics, the majority of muscle twitches are isolated occurrences, not repeated actions. Also known as myoclonic jerks, twitches are entirely involuntary and cannot be controlled or suppressed.

– One type of muscle twitch is benign essential blepharospasm, which refers to eyelid muscles twitching uncontrollably over sustained time. In rare cases, this condition may involve the eyebrows, mouth and neck.

– An eyelid twitch cannot be controlled, unlike an eye-blinking tic. It occurs most often in adults and may be aggravated by dry eyes, stress, lack of sleep, caffeine and harsh light conditions. Experts believe blepharospasm twitching is caused by certain cells misfiring in an area of the brain.


Read more about CFI’s treatment options for Tic & Habit Disorders…



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