Tips to tackle tics

Tips to tackle tics

Twilights’ heroine Kristen Stewart  is “ridden with tics.” The actress explained her body constantly makes involuntary movements, adding she can’t help making jerky motions or fiddling with her hair and clothing when she is nervous.

The 19-year-old tries her best to keep her habits under cover, but revealed they did cause problems when shooting her new movies.

A tic is a quick, sudden coordinated movement which is apparently purposeful, recurs in the same part of body, and can often be reproduced by the child on request.

It is not entirely involuntary in that it can be purposefully suppressed to some extent. Some people with this may be able to suppress (control) a tic for sometime, although this is said to be like trying to hold back a sneeze.

They feel increasing tension until the tic is finally released. This occurs as a transitory phenomenon in about 10% of the population with boys outnumbering girls three to one and with a mean age of onset around 7 years.

Types of tics

*Motor tics (Bodily movement) – affect any part of body, but they often involve the muscles of the face, eyes head and neck. These produce movements such as facial twitching, grimacing, blinking and shrugging of the shoulders.

*Phonic or vocal tics (sounds) – these include coughing, grunting, clearing the throat and sniffing.

The exact cause of tics is not known although genetics appears to play a part. There is a positive family history and sometimes a previous history of neuro developmental delay.

Transient tic disorders

As many as one in ten children will develop a transient or simple tic at some point during their school years. Such tics usually occur in just one muscle group and don’t last more than a few months, although a child may have a series of different transient tics over a period of 6 years.

Chronic tic disorders

Not only do chronic tics persist, sometimes for years, but they change little in their character.

While they don’t usually need treatment, they can be disruptive, especially if a child realizes others think them strange. Occasionally, a person has several tics and is said to
have chronic multiple tics. Chronic tics are also a feature of Tourette syndrome.

This neurological disorder causes multiple motor and vocal tics, which can be quite dramatic and frequently change in nature.

Tips to tackle tics

*Stress can aggravate symptoms or simply make life harder – relaxation and biofeedback techniques may help.

*Most tics don’t interfere with life or school and don’t require treatment.

*Don’t panic if your child develops a tic – most are mild and transient.

*People taking stimulant drugs (for ADHD, for example) may develop tics but these should cease when the drug is stopped.

*Psychological support and counseling can be helpful for those with disruptive tics.

*Cognitive behavioural therapy may help some people control their condition.

*Medication is the most effective treatment in reducing the tic itself. However, the power drugs used tend to have unpleasant side effects. While 70 per cent of those with Tourette have tried drugs many people prefer to manage without medication if possible.

If your child develops a tic

* Don’t stop them making repetitive movements or sounds because this may cause them to become stressed, which may make the tic worse

*  Wherever possible, ignore the tic because if attention is drawn to it, it may get worse.

*  Reassure your child that they are well, that no harm is likely to result from the tics and that there’s no reason for them to feel ashamed.

*  Make a point of educating other children about tics  so that they’re aware of your child’s condition; encourage them to react naturally.

*  Most importantly, try to reduce the levels of stress and anxiety around you and your child.

(The writer is a consultant paediatrician)

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