Your Teen: Tourette TikTok and Teenage Tic Disorders
by Michele Turk
Since the spring of 2020, teenagers worldwide have developed intense, complex tics, often after watching TikTok videos of people who say they have Tourette syndrome.
As the parent of a child with Tourette syndrome, when I first read about the phenomenon, I was curious—and skeptical—because you can’t “catch” Tourette syndrome from watching other people tic on social media.
Experts I spoke with were quick to point out that most of these teens don’t have Tourette syndrome. What these TikTok ticcers appear to be experiencing are functional tic-like behaviors—a type of functional neurological disorder (FND, formerly known as conversion disorder) with mass psychogenic illness, where members of a group suddenly develop tic-like movements. In this instance, the group with FND includes teens worldwide who watch Tourette syndrome videos on TikTok.
The Tourette Association of America (TAA) issued a report titled “Rising Incidence of Functional Tic-Like Behaviors” which runs through the differences between FND and other tic disorders. Keith Coffman, M.D., Director of the Movement Disorders Program at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City and Co-chair of the TAA’s Medical Advisory Board offers this explanation: “Patients with Tourette know their body is moving uncontrollably and they would like it to stop, whereas in FND, they feel that it’s happening to them, not something they are doing.”
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