5 Myths about Tics

Myth #1 Children will eventually outgrow their tics.

This is sometimes the case, but it is not to be counted on, since two thirds of all individuals who have tics as children will still experience some tics as adults. Tics occur in 10-25% of school age children, although full Tourette’s syndrome will affect less than 1% of the population. Tics completely resolve in only one third of children who experience them and partially resolve in another third. The last third comprises the population of individuals who will have lifelong tics.  These numbers suggest that roughly 1 out of every 10 children could benefit from some training in how to manage tics.

Myth #2 – There is no real treatment besides medication for tics since it is a neurological disorder.

Your child can actually learn to manage and reduce tics.  A system called CBIT (Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics) has been found to be better than supportive therapy and better than medication alone in reducing the number and severity of tics. The studies show that the earlier you begin treatment, the better. With roughly ten weeks of treatment with CBIT, tic severity can be greatly reduced and the gains are lasting. It is also a system that your child can learn to use on his or her own so that future tics can be addressed without more therapy.

Myth #3 – Treatment should be avoided because talking about tics will make them worse.

It is true that when you just talk about a tic you may begin to see that the tic happen more, but when you talk about the tics in the context of treatment where you are working on reducing them in a systematic fashion, the severity of the tics is actually reduced over the long term. The increase in the appearance of the tic is only in the moment and will not begin to occur regularly outside of the treatment session.

Myth #4  – Trying to stop tics will result in more tics or new ones.

There is a belief that if you try to stop your tics you are going to get a rebound effect; that if you suppress them there will be this huge explosion of tics later on or that getting rid of one tic will just lead to a new one.  Studies have shown that new tics occur regularly whether a person is in treatment or not. The reduction of specific targeted tics, did not predict the appearance of new tics. Research also shows that there is no rebound in the number of tics after a period of trying to stop them. It should also be noted that true behavioral treatment for tics, does not rely on suppression of tics, but on training in using a competing response, and this is more effective than simply trying to hold tics back.

Myth #5 – Focusing on stopping tics causes anxiety, inattentiveness and behavioral problems in children.

There is a concern that if a person is making an effort to reduce tics, that effort will interfere with a child’s ability to pay attention in class. Studies have detected no cognitive or attentional impairment in individuals as a result of behavioral training to reduce tics. In fact, the self-awareness and self-control that individuals experience as they begin to see results in treatment actually reduced their general anxiety, and improved self-efficacy.  The Comprehensive Behavioral approach to treating tics, teaches the individual to become self-sufficient in the process so that they can learn to identify their tics and work through them on their own after treatment is concluded. This leads to an overall ability to focus and succeed in school because the distraction and distress caused by the tics will be reduced.

Himle & Woods (2006)

Behavior Research and Therapy

Woods et. Al (2003) Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis.