What are tics?

There are two main categories of tics: Motor tics and Vocal tics.

Motor tics are sudden repetitive movements of the muscles of the body that occur repeatedly.

Vocal tics are in the muscles that control speech and cause involuntary sounds.

Most children develop an eye tic first. Other tics develop shortly afterwards with the intensity increasing during early adolescence. Tics can be embarrassing and even painful. Tics tend to take place less during sleep and more in times when the child is under stress. They can also increase when a child is sick or suffering from allergy symptoms.

Why can't tics be controlled?

The symptoms of TS are involuntary, although some people can sometimes suppress, camouflage, or otherwise manage their tics in an effort to minimize their impact on functioning. However, people with TS often report a substantial buildup in tension when suppressing their tics to the point where they feel that the tic must be expressed. Tics in response to an environmental trigger can appear to be voluntary or purposeful but are not.

Tics are often worse with excitement or anxiety and better during calm, focused activities. Certain physical experiences can trigger or worsen tics, for example tight collars may trigger neck tics, or hearing another person sniff or throat-clear may trigger similar sounds. Tics do not go away during sleep but are often significantly diminished.