Are Teen Girls Really Developing Tics From TikTok?

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Doctors from around the world are reporting a rise in teenage girls presenting with physical tics, and have uncovered that TikTok might be the common link between the new cases.

It’s pretty rare for girls to have tics and doctors have been surprised by the unusual number of cases.

A new report by The Wall Street Journal said that most of the new cases developed super suddenly.

Going off new studies from the US, Canada, UK, and Australia, The Wall Street Journal reported that the teen girls with tics, were watching TikToks of people with Tourette syndrome.

Tourette’s syndrome is a genetic nervous-system disorder that causes people to make repetitive, involuntary movements or sounds, and it commonly affects far more boys than girls.

Since the start of the pandemic, referrals for tic-like behaviours in girls aged 12 to 25 have sky-rocketed.

And one US neurologist told The Wall Street Journal that he’s started seeing about 10 new teens with tics every month since March 2020, when previously he’d see one a month at most.

And he’s not the only one, a Children’s Hospital in Texas who used to see one or two cases a year, have now reportedly seen approximately 60 teens with tics since March last year.

But Can You Develop Tics From TikTok?

The use of TikTok exploded during the pandemic, and the app is particularly popular among teenage girls.

The hashtag #tourettes has 4.8 billion views. Most of the videos featuring people with the disorder are light-hearted and capture how difficult it is for people to do things like bake, or even to get a COVID test.

But the link between the new cases and TikTok became apparent to experts after noticing the strange similarities between their patients and the TikTok videos they watched.

One doctor studied 3,000 TikTok videos as part of her research and noticed numerous teens were saying the word “beans” in a British accent, even if they couldn’t speak English.

She discovered that it’s actually a common tic for one of the top TikTok Tourette’s influencers in the UK.

And seeing this specific tic now in numerous teen girls is surprising because people with Tourette’s syndrome usually have their own unique tics.

What’s The Response Been?

While experts say the symptoms in the new cases are real, they also argue it’d be too simple to say that TikTok has alone caused the rise in tics.

Anxiety, depression, and stress are all known to sometimes manifest into tics, and doctors are saying that most of the teens with these new tics had previously diagnosed anxiety or depression, brought on or exacerbated by the pandemic.

Doctors also believe that not all the tics on TikTok look like Tourette’s syndrome.

Instead, they think the tics are likely caused by functional neurological disorders, not an underlying syndrome or disease – which is good news because it means that the tics can be unlearned.

A TikTok spokesperson has responded to the reports, saying the company is consulting with industry experts to better understand this specific experience.

And doctors are recommending that girls experiencing these tics look into cognitive behavioural therapy, and to stay off TikTok for a few weeks.