The uptick is real: tic disorders are on the rise in teenage girls as a result of watching TikTok videos of people living with Tourette’s Syndrome (from 1-5% pre-pandemic to 20-35% post pandemic). While doctors point to TikTok as one of the obvious contributing factors, the culprit’s actually a lot bigger….starts with the big C.
Yep, COVID-19 has pulled the trigger on tics, which comes online anytime there’s underlying anxiety or depression involved. A neurologist told Vice News that the trend is “an epidemic within a pandemic,” or in other fancy terms, a mass sociogenic illness. While a contagious psychological disorder like this could have been contained in the past by geography, it’s now spreading like wildfire thanks to social media.
Is the tic like the Delta Variant of Tourette’s Syndrome?
Metaphorically speaking, yes. This new tic is still a functional neurological disorder (think repetitive and involuntary movements and sounds). But unlike its big brother Tourette’s, there’s a few distinct differences:
- Tourette’s tics tend to come on around 5-7 years old, whereas this new tic hasn’t been found in anyone younger than 11
- While Tourette’s tends to skew male, the new tic is showing up in young women who also tend to have anxiety and a mood disorder.
- Plus, these younger girls have suffered more extreme symptoms than Tourette’s patients
Apparently, social media isn’t the (only) bad guy
While scapegoating TikTok may feel like the thing you wanna do, hold your horses. A neurologist plays devil’s advocate: “It’s important not to focus all the attention exclusively on social media because we don’t want to stigmatize the social media personalities sharing their experiences [of the tic] on TikTok or YouTube.” In case you forgot, TikTok’s become a sort of virtual AA for teens looking for community around mental health issues.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take action if your kid’s got the tic. Start by getting curious about what they’re watching (and why), and if you’re raising your hands calling “SOS,” medication and cognitive behavioral therapy are just a few convos away.