2 March

Tics & Tourette disorder: should you be concerned?

=== Jordan J. Ghassemian & Evan Cole Lewis, MD ===

About Tics

Tics are more common than people tend to think, and are experienced in some of the following ways:

Movement Tics such as:

  • Blinking
  • Shoulder shrugging

Vocal Tics such as:

  • Sniffing
  • Throat clearing

There are four ways to categorize tics:

  Provisional Tics Persistent Motor Tics Persistent Vocal Tics Tourette Disorder
Time Less than 1 year More than 1 year More than 1 year More than 1 year
Type of Tics Motor and/or Vocal Motor only Vocal only Motor and Vocal
Age of Onset Less than 18 yrs old Less than 18 yrs old Less than 18 yrs old Less than 18 yrs old


All of the above conditions improve as children age, and the majority tend to “grow out” of their tics around early adolescence.

Conditions like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are more common in children with tics (1, 2). They are also more common in individuals diagnosed with Tourette Disorder compared to the other categories.

How are tics treated?

Tics are harmless and do not result in any injury to the brain. They tend to improve with time whether they are treated or not. Usually left alone, the child will show improvements on his or her own.

Although medication may be beneficial to reduce the frequency and intensity of tics, they often do not go away with medication.

Some medications used to treat tics include:

  • Guanfacine
  • Clonidine
  • Antipsychotic medications, such as Risperidone

Another treatment option is behavioral therapy. This can help children control the urge to exhibit tics, and may be as effective as using medication.

For more information about tics and Tourette disorder, please visit the Tics & Tourette Disorder Resources page on the NCT website.



1. Charf, J. M., Miller, L. L., Mathews, C. A., & Ben-Shlomo, Y. (2012). Prevalence of Tourette Syndrome and Chronic Tics in the Population-Based Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children Cohort. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry, 51, 192-201. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2011.11.004

2. Freeman, R. D., Fast, D. K., Burd, L., Kerbeshian, J., Robertson, M. M., & Sandor, P. (2007). An international perspective on Tourette syndrome: selected findings from 3500 individuals in 22 countries. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 42(7), 436-447. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8749.2000.tb00346.x

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