While tics typically go away on their own after a few months, if these sudden, uncontrollable movements or sounds do not dissipate after one year, they can be categorized as chronic tic disorder. Chronic tic disorder is included in the most recently revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), though its classification as a mental health disorder is controversial among the mental health community. The correlation between tics and mental health is supported by a 2011 study conducted by the University of South Florida College of Medicine, which suggests that there is a relationship between chronic tic disorder and other mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
Tics can take many forms. Those which are related to movement, such as nose wrinkling, head twitching or lip biting, are considered motor tics. Simple motor tics involve only one muscle group, while complex motor tics involve multiple. Tics that produce sounds, such as throat clearing, hissing or barking, are called vocal tics. Simple vocal tics are those which produce the simple aforementioned sounds, while complex vocal tics include entire words or phrases. Regardless of the type of tic, symptoms usually go away naturally without affecting an individual’s everyday functioning.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, chronic tic disorder affects less than 1 percent of children nationwide. For an individual to be diagnosed with chronic tic disorder, he or she must exhibit a tic nearly daily for at least one year. There can be multiple motor tics or multiple vocal tics present, but not a combination of the two. If both motor and vocal tics are present, that typically warrants a diagnosis of Tourette’s syndrome. The tic(s) also cannot be a side effect of medication, substance abuse or another medical condition.
These involuntary physical behaviors typically develop in childhood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that children and adolescents with tic disorders are more likely to be bullied than their peers, often leading to anxiety other mental health issues. A 2000 review of databases regarding the demographics of individuals with tic disorders, conducted by Dr. Blair Ford of New York’s Neurological Institute, found that adult onset chronic tic disorder is under-diagnosed. The review did confirm that most adults exhibiting tics began doing so in childhood or struggle with Tourette’s syndrome but Ford still suggests that adult onset tics are prevalent.
If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues stemming from chronic tic disorder, help is available. Sovereign Health Group is a facility that specializes in treating individuals struggling with mental health disorders, substance abuse issues and dual diagnosis. Call (866) 819-0427 to speak with a professional today.
Written by Courtney Howard, Sovereign Health Group writer