Do You Feel Involuntary Movements Or Sounds (Tics) Control You?
Have you found that you frequently and repeatedly blink your eyes or make facial grimaces despite the desire to stop? Do you often jerk your head and shoulders, and you’re unable to prevent this movement?
Maybe you feel compelled to clear your throat, cough, sniff, or grunt in order to get rid of the never-ending urge. Or perhaps you have complex tics, which is the presence of distinct, coordinated patterns or movements involving various muscle groups, such as a facial grimace combined with a shoulder shrug and head twist.
You may also be dealing with a combination of behaviors and sounds that seem to come out of nowhere but that elicit quite a bit of distress whenever they arise.
Tourettes Can Have A Big Effect On Your Life, But Support Is Available
Tourette syndrome and tic disorder can have an impact on so many aspects of your life, including your education, social relationships, family dynamics, etc. And because of your tics, you may also often experience bullying and additional health care conditions.
While many individuals report that their tics decreased during their late teens or early twenties, this is not the case for everyone. Due to limited knowledge about Tourette syndrome and even less information regarding treatment, individuals often suffer alone and do not know what to do.
This does not need to be the case with you. Regardless of if you have Tourette syndrome or are only dealing with one type of tics, specialists are available to help determine the right treatment for your unique needs.
Premonitory Urges Do Not Need To Control You
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 1.4 million people in the US, including 1 in 50 children aged 5-14 years old, experience persistent tic disorder, which includes Tourette syndrome.* However, due to the number of individuals that do not receive treatment and/or are not diagnosed, they acknowledge that it is really hard to accurately give a statistic. Additionally, the CDC reports that 5 in 6 children with Tourette syndrome also have another disorder, whether this is mental, behavioral, or developmental.*
Tourette Syndrome (TS), also called Tourette Disorder (TD), is a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, and involuntary movements or vocalizations called tics. Individuals with only vocal tics or only behavioral tics are considered to have Persistent Motor/Persistent Vocal Tic Disorder rather than Tourette Syndrome, which needs the presence of both.
What Causes Tourette Syndrome Or Tic Disorder?
There is not one clear, exact reason why one individual develops tics and someone else does not. We do know there is a strong neurological/biological component to the development of tics. In addition, there may be a genetic component. If someone in the family has Tourette syndrome, an individual might be at an increased risk.
Environment and behavioral responses, both positive and negative, can also contribute to or maintain tic disorder. And it’s clear that periods of stress, anxiety, or negative emotions increase the frequency of urges to tic.
Moreover, Tourette syndrome or tic disorder often occurs alongside ADHD, OCD, and oppositional behaviors, which can add to the challenge of tics.
Fortunately, with treatment, you can gain skills to combat and compete with the tics. Alongside your therapist, you can learn how to reduce the anxiety that these tics elicit as well as learn how to reduce their impact.
Tic Disorder Treatment Can Help Provide Ways To Reduce the Impact of Tics
Tics are frequently preceded by a feeling or urge building in the body. While this feeling is different for everyone, it has been described as similar to the urge to sneeze or scratch an itch.
Engaging in the tic (vocal or behavioral) relieves the uncomfortable feeling brought on by the urge, but it also continues to reinforce the cycle. On the other hand, similar to delaying the urge to sneeze, individuals can suppress or delay this urge for a period of time, though this can lead to a high level of distress over time.
While either avoidance or continued engagement in these tics can seem easier in the moment, neither is the long-term solution. Therapy, however, can help you learn to respond to your Tourettes with other behaviors—which can ultimately reduce the impact of these tics on your life in general.
What To Expect From Tics Treatment Sessions
Knowledge about Tourette syndrome is limited in society, and therefore, treatment will include psycho-education and normalization, trying to reduce some of the stigma and the loneliness that you may feel.
Sessions will not only educate you about how engaging with the urge (by completing the verbal or behavior tic) continues the cycle, but also provide you with alternative behaviors. By creating alternative, competing responses that are less obvious and less demanding, you can minimize social anxiety as well.
In addition, treatment will also help your family members learn how they can support you and what behaviors are/are not beneficial.
Tourette Syndrome Treatment Methods
At The OCD & Anxiety Center, we utilize the most evidence-based approaches possible when working with individuals in our care. Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT) is proven to be the most effective treatment for tics disorders.
In CBIT, you will initially learn to become more aware of your tics and the urges to engage in them. Once your awareness has increased, your therapist will then begin to teach you competing behaviors that you can engage in instead, to make your responses less obvious and/or less physically painful.
Therapy will also assist you in looking at ways to modify your daily activities and home environment to reduce the impact of your tics. At the same time, family members will learn to decrease their focus on tics, as this oftentimes becomes the mental filter and focus, which only increases and maintains anxiety.
Together, you and your family members will be taught how to manage emotions and interact with stress to decrease the likelihood of tics, riding the wave of their anxiety and the urge instead of reacting to them.
Perhaps You Are Considering Therapy For Tics But Still Have Some Concerns…
Tics are involuntary. How does therapy help?
Tics are neurological, which is not something that can be changed in therapy. However, we can work with you to learn to recognize the urges and to practice engaging in a competing response that will impact you less than the tic. We can also help you learn how to reduce stressors or anxiety that may worsen tics and teach you how to think about Tourettes or tics in a way that interferes less with your life.
Will my tics disappear completely?
We cannot guarantee that your tics will disappear completely, but research does show that individuals that engage in CBIT treatment will have a decreased number of tics and an increased ability to function. Like any disorder, we can provide you with skills that you need to continue to engage in outside of session as part of maintenance, even when you are not coming to therapy on a weekly basis. When you do this, even if your tics show up on occasion, the impact that they have on your life will be dramatically less.
What role does family play?
While it is the individual with Tourettes who will need to engage in utilizing competing behaviors instead of their tics, therapy teaches families how to support their loved ones, especially by learning to manage additional stressors.
We know that tics often get worse with attention, whether that is at home, school, or in the community with friends. We will work with family members to teach them how to respond to your tics. Family members can also learn about the competing responses in order to encourage you to use them when they see you engaging in your tics.
Tics Do Not Need To Define Your Life
While your tics or Tourette syndrome might be at the forefront of your mind, treatment at the OCD & Anxiety Center can offer you the right tools and competing behaviors to break the cycle and interact with your urges in a different way. To address further concerns or schedule an appointment, please call us at (630) 522-3124 or email us at email@example.com.