Affects up to 20 out of every 100 children
Tics in children are diverse. With vocal tics, people repeatedly make sounds — sniffing, snoring, clearing their throat, or repeating words. Other children have motor tics and ignore, blink, or turn to their bodies.
The problem affects many: up to 20 out of every 100 children develop at least one of these tics as they grow. A team of researchers from Australian universities evaluated evidence-based studies on the topic and published recommendations for parents and therapists in the British Medical Journal.
Mostly improved without medication
Conclusion for researchers: There are a number of practical strategies for helping children. Medications are only an option for severe cases.
It’s also comforting to know that tics often go away on their own after a few weeks or months. Symptoms usually do not last more than a year. But you can go back. As children get older, tics become less common. After puberty, they occur only in half of those affected. In adulthood, about 5 percent still have it.
What parents can do
- Wait: Tics often go away after a few weeks.
- Accept the tics and do not pay attention to it.
- Do not ask the child to stop the tics – it is almost impossible for him to do this.
- Inform teachers, classmates and playmates.
- Practice with the child how to explain the tics to others.
- Avoid triggers such as stress, anxiety and boredom.
- Take breaks with the exercise.
- Try relaxing activities such as listening to music and yoga.
- Boost your self-confidence by doing hobbies like sports.
- If tics are causing problems, cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, can help.
Genetic predisposition is a possible cause
Tics often first appear between the ages of six and seven – involuntarily and for no apparent reason. The reasons are still being investigated. Disorders of specific brain processes are discussed. Genetic predisposition is an influencing factor, experts write in the Portal of Neurologists and Psychiatrists at the Network Foundation.
Tics can also be the result of infectious diseases. For certain symptoms, some parents and doctors mistakenly suspect other etiologies, for example eye problems with constant blinking, allergies or chronic colds with constant inhalation.
Tics cannot be suppressed in the long run
In the long run, children cannot influence the desire to make certain movements or sounds of their own accord, even if they sometimes manage to do so for a while. For example, some sufferers suppress their tics during school lessons, which increases internal tension.
Stress, anxiety, worry, lack of sleep, or fatigue can exacerbate tics. It usually decreases when a child is relaxed, focused or distracted – such as when playing sports or playing a musical instrument.
advice: Parents of affected children can ask teachers for an appropriate seat in the classroom and, if necessary, for additional time to work in the classroom. Educators should monitor potential bullying. A class sponsor can help support the child in everyday school life.
Rely on psychotherapy when stressed
If the tics are severe, last longer or bother children, they should go to the pediatrician with their parents. Experts can recommend more treatments. Cognitive behavioral therapy and so-called habit-reversal training have been shown to be beneficial. With both, the child learns to better deal with stressful situations.
Medication is only for severe cases
Medications are only an option for children if non-drug treatments don’t work and the tics are very severe and long-lasting. One option might be antipsychotics, which are commonly prescribed for neuroleptics, or alpha-2 agonists, which lower blood pressure and act on the central nervous system.
Distinguish between tics and Tourette’s syndrome
Different from other tic conditions such as Tourette’s syndrome. This neurological disease also begins in childhood. Several motor tics and at least one vocal tics occur. They lasted more than a year. Those affected often also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
A diagnosis of Tourette syndrome can be a relief – the child and those around them can learn to deal with it and live well.