Many children have their own unique methods of coping with the stresses of life. Come to think of it, many adults have their own coping strategies as well. Unlike adults, who often turn to things like alcohol and drugs to cope with stressful situations, children often use their body to self-soothe. Sometimes these motions are intentional, like rocking back and forth, and sometimes these movement are involuntary, as when a tic develops.
What Exactly is a Tic?
Tics are a form of abnormal, repetitive, unintentional movements or vocalizations that do not necessarily follow a rhythm or pattern like rocking does. There is usually a strong, uncontrollable urge to tic, followed by the movement, which releases tension in the child. While adults can have tics, they usually present in childhood.
What Causes Tics?
The exact cause of tics is not known, though it is believed a combination of genetics and brain abnormalities play a role. Tic disorders often run in families and can be worsened by environmental factors such as low birth weight and maternal smoking during pregnancy. Stress and lack of sleep can definitely exacerbate symptoms.
Signs of Tic Disorder
• Your child is under the age of 18.
• Symptoms present usually before the age of puberty.
• While female children can develop a tic, boys are twice as likely.
• Common tics include eye blinking, facial grimaces, shoulder shrugging, repetitive touching, or straightening the arms or legs.
• Simple vocal tics include throat clearing, sniffing, and grunting.
Tics can worsen when you child is stressed or tired and will often diminish when they are calm and rested. You may notice your child’s tics change over time, and they may also have tic-free periods that can last weeks or even months, only to have the same tic or a new tic appear.
Treatments for Tic Disorder
Many times a tic disorder won’t disrupt a child’s life and in time will end on its own. However, there are those times when the symptoms are severe enough that they cause the child stress and interferer with their schooling and social life. In these instances medication or behavioral therapy can reduce the severity of the symptoms. Relaxation techniques are also commonly used to decrease the frequency of the tics.
If your child is showing signs of tic disorder and you’d like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.