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Teen girls start developing tics shortly after watching TikTok videos of people displaying tics – doctors warn

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Since the beginning of the pandemic, teenage girls all around the world have been showing up at physicians’ offices with tics—physical jerking motions and verbal outbursts.

Initially, movement-disorder specialists were baffled. Girls with tics are uncommon, and these teenagers had an abnormally high number of them, which had appeared unexpectedly. After months of research and consultation, specialists from leading paediatric 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 had been watching 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 monitored these instances nationwide, paediatric movement disorder clinics across the United States are reporting an increase in the number of teen girls with such tics. Since March 2020, Donald Gilbert, a neurologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center specialized in juvenile movement disorders and Tourette syndrome, has seen about ten new teenagers with tics each month. Prior to the pandemic, his clinic saw little more than one patient each month.

Other prominent universities’ specialists have also observed similar trends. Since March 2020, Texas Children’s Hospital has seen about 60 teens with such tics, up from one or two instances a year before to the outbreak. According to Joseph McGuire, an associate professor at the university’s department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, 10% to 20% of paediatric patients have reported acute-onset tic-like symptoms, up from 2% to 3% a year before to the pandemic. Rush University Medical Center in Chicago reported seeing 20 individuals with these tics between March and June of this year, up from ten the previous year.

According to doctors, the majority of the adolescents had been diagnosed with anxiety or depression in the past, which was triggered or worsened by the virus. Dr. Gilbert noted that physical signs of psychological stress often appear in ways that patients have seen in others. He previously said that he had patients who had nonepileptic seizures and had, in the majority of instances, seen the seizures of relatives with epilepsy.

There are plenty of tic-like behaviors to witness on TikTok. On TikTok, there are many tic-like symptoms to observe. When specialist in the United Kingdom started investigating the phenomena in January, videos with the hashtag #tourettes had about 1.25 billion views – a figure that has now risen to 4.8 billion.

“The safety and well-being of our community is our priority, and we’re consulting with industry experts to better understand this specific experience,” a TikTok spokeswoman said.

Some specialists are hesitant to blame TikTok, stating that although the number of patients they are treating is much greater than it was before, it is not an emergency.

“There are some kids who watch social media and develop tics and some who don’t have any access to social media and develop tics,” said Dr. McGuire.

“I think there are a lot of contributing factors, including anxiety, depression and stress.”

And many physicians cast doubt on certain Tourette TikTokers’ claimed diagnoses, stating that the behaviours shown in their videos—multiple complicated physical and verbal tics—do not seem to be Tourette syndrome. Tourette syndrome affects much more males than girls and often develops progressively over time beginning in childhood. Additionally, it is treatable with medicine.

Regardless of the TikTokers’ claims, Dr. Gilbert stated that the symptoms experienced by the teens who watched them are real and most likely represent functional neurological disorders, a category of afflictions that includes certain vocal tics and abnormal body movements that are not associated with an underlying disease. Doctors suggest cognitive behavioral treatment and advise patients to abstain from TikTok for many weeks in order to unlearn these tics.

Image Credit: Getty

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SourceWSJ

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