Doctors in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom have stumbled upon a mystery since March last year: Far more teenage girls than usual are coming to them with severe tics, ie compulsive sounds or movements that are difficult to control. Not only the increase is noticeable, but also the age at which the tics appear. Usually, tics are diagnosed in young children and go away on their own. Doctors also often link the complaints to Gilles de la Tourette’s syndrome, but boys in particular suffer from this. Cases in girls are much rarer.
So doctors were puzzled. Some doctors suddenly saw ten patients with tics a month, instead of one. Why do so many young teenage girls suddenly develop tics? After international research and months of consultations, doctors believe they have found a possible answer. They found a common factor between all those girls: They watched videos of people with tics on TikTok.
Specific TikTok tics
It is no coincidence that the peak in tics occurred around March 2020. During that period, the corona infections started to swing out of the pan and most western countries went into lockdown. Initially, doctors attributed the cause of the tics to anxiety and depression. But TikTok could also be partly responsible, it now appears.
Patients would adopt the tics they see in TikTok personalities with Tourette syndrome. For example, there were many patients who shouted “beans” as a tic. It later turned out that a popular British TikTokker had that same “bean” tic. The theory is that the patients unconsciously took over that specific tic.
However, Dr. Joseph McGuire, a professor at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, nuances. “There are kids who watch social media videos and develop tics and there are those who don’t watch social media videos and develop tics. There are many factors that contribute to tics, such as anxiety, depression, and stress.”
Videos on TikTok with the hashtag “Tourettes” have already been viewed 4.8 billion times.