Patient Care

Tic Disorders and Tourette's Disorder

What are Tic Disorders?

Tics are sudden, brief and repetitive motor movements that can include spoken words (vocalisations) and sounds.

Examples of Tic Disorders include:

Motor Tics

Motor tics are movements of the body. Examples of motor tics include blinking, shrugging the shoulders, or jerking an arm.

Vocal Tics

Vocal tics are sounds that a person makes with his or her voice. Examples of vocal tics include humming, clearing the throat, or yelling out a word or phrase.

Tics can be either simple or complex:

  • Simple tics are sudden, brief and repetitive tics involving a limited number of muscle groups.
  • Complex tics are distinct, coordinated patterns of movements involving several muscle groups.

Tics typically develop between 4 to 6 years of age, and peak at the age of between 10 to 12 years. Tics tend to decrease during the teenage years, and eventually most disappear on their own.

Categories of Tic Disorders

Provisional Tic Disorder

Motor and/or vocal tics have been present for less than 1 year

Persistent Tic Disorder

Motor or vocal tics have been present for more than 1 year

Tourette's Disorder

Both motor and vocal tics have been present for more than 1 year

How are Tic Disorders diagnosed?

The diagnosis is made based on the history and physical examination. A Tic Disorder is diagnosed if the tics have been present before the age of 18 years. The tics must also not be due to the effects of drugs or another neurological condition.

There are no specific tests that are required to make a diagnosis of a Tic Disorder.

Tics can be associated with other mental health conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder, and learning disorders.

What are the treatment options for Tic Disorders?

Treatment is aimed at reducing tics that interfere with everyday activities and functioning:

  • Behavioural therapy can reduce the number and severity of tics. Therapists provide education about tics, and teach relaxation techniques. Another useful coping strategy is habit reversal, in which a new action is performed to replace the tic.
  • There are several medications that can be used to help control tics or reduce symptoms of related conditions. Doctors will conduct a thorough evaluation and advise on whether medications would be helpful.
Find A Doctor

Click here to access our Find A Doctor directory for a list of doctors treating this condition across our NUHS institutions.

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