What are tics?

Tics are sudden and non-rhythmic movements or vocalizations that typically begin in childhood.  Some children and adolescents describe experiencing uncomfortable sensations that precede tics. These sensations can be described as an energy, pressure, itch, or ache; but are collectively referred to as a premonitory urge.

Tic Disorders

The occurrence of tics is relatively common in childhood, but in most cases tics do not typically persist beyond a few months.  When tics are present for longer than a few months,  patients and families may consider seeking consultation to determine whether a tic disorder is present.

Common Tics

  • Motor tics:
    • Eye blinking
    • Eye movements like eye rolling or a quick glance to the side
    • Head movements such as a head nod, head jerk, or lifting the chin up
    • Mouth movements like biting tongue, lip smacking, or chewing on the lip
    • Shoulder movements such as a shoulder jerk, shrug, or a shoulder roll
    • Hand movements like finger tapping, wrist flick, or knuckle popping
    • Arm movements such as passing hand through hair or arm extensions
    • Leg, foot, and toe movements like skipping, ankle rolling, or quick leg kick
  • Vocal tics:
    • Coughing
    • Throat clearing
    • Sniffing or snorting
    • Grunting
    • Whistling or humming
    • Mouth noises like clicking, popping, or kissing noises
    • Atypical breathing patterns such as forceful exhalation, wheezing, or gasping
    • Animal noises like chirping, screeching, growling, or squealing
    • Saying or repeating words and/or phrases

Treatment for Tics

Behavioral therapies such as habit reversal training (HRT) and the comprehensive behavioral intervention for tics (CBIT) are effective interventions for tic disorders. In these treatments, clinicians help children and caregivers to develop skills and implement strategies to manage their tics. In addition to behavior therapy, cognitive behavioral strategies can be helpful to manage tic-related impairment and improve quality of life for young people with tic disorders.

Our Research on Tics

Please help us learn more about tic disorders and how best to help patients and families overcome these symptoms by participating in our research. You can learn more about our ongoing research studies by visiting the Interested in Participating in Our Research? page. You can also contact us by calling our research coordinator at (443) 287-7157 or by emailing us at .

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