Medscape: Social Media May Be Increasing Cases of New-Onset Tics

Dr. Kathrin LaFaver interviews Dr Tamara Pringsheim on the topic of acute-onset explosive tic-like behaviors linked to social media in a Medscape article and video interview.Doctors are reporting an increase in adolescent girls presenting to the emergency room with complex motor and complex vocal tic-like behaviors. “The level of disability was extremely high, with many of these young people unable to attend school due to the severity of their symptoms and some even requiring hospital admission.”

“Subsequent discussions with colleagues in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, and Australia revealed that they all were seeing comparable cases with striking similarities in the phenomenology of these tic-like behaviors. Since October, the number of cases has continued to grow, and we are also seeing an increasing number of young adult women with similar symptoms.”

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Dr. Kathrin LaFaver, a movement disorders specialist at Northwestern University here in Chicago interviews Dr Tamara Pringsheim on the topic of acute-onset explosive tic-like behaviors. Dr Pringsheim is an associate professor in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Psychiatry, Pediatrics and Community Health Sciences at the University of Calgary. In addition, she is the lead for the Tourette and Pediatric Movement Disorders program at Alberta Children’s Hospital and the deputy director of the Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education.

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Excerpts from interview

“We believe that these TikTok videos may be a trigger for functional tic-like behaviors on the basis of a disease-modeling mechanism, and also be a trigger for tics similar to the echophenomena that we frequently observe during social gatherings of people with tics.”

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“In the rapid-onset cases, the majority of tic-like behaviors we are witnessing are complex, with large-amplitude movements resulting in self-injury or directed toward other people, and complex vocalizations consisting of the repetition of random words, as well as coprolalia in the majority of cases. Many of the same words and phrases are in common between patients.”

“Pringsheim: The level of disability experienced by young people with these rapid-onset tic-like behaviors is extremely high. If I were to compare side by side, I would say that for many, the level of disability associated with these tic-like behaviors is higher than it is for most of my patients who have a diagnosis of Tourette syndrome.”

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