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info@lipsychologist.com

When Should We Be Concerned About Childhood Tics?

by Jan 23, 2024Child Psychology

Tics – which are seemingly involuntary behaviors – can be a source of concern for parents, often raising questions about their nature and implications. Tics are common in children, and while your child will often (although not always) outgrow tics, they are still something worth paying attention to.

What Are Childhood Tics?

Tics are sudden, repetitive movements or sounds that a child may make, often occurring involuntarily. They can be classified into two categories:

  • Motor Tics – These involve physical movements, such as blinking, shrugging, or facial grimacing.
  • Vocal Tics – These include sounds like throat clearing, grunting, or humming.

Tics are most commonly observed in children between the ages of 5 and 10. They are often transient, meaning they can come and go over weeks or months. In most cases, tics are harmless and a typical part of childhood development. However, the persistence or severity of tics can vary.

It is not entirely clear why tics occur, but they are linked to the developing brain, changes in neurotransmitter levels, and motor cortex maturation. This is one of the reasons that many children outgrow tics after the age of 10, when certain areas of their brain have matured.

Should We Be Concerned About Tics?

In a general sense, most tics are harmless. There are situations where you may want to contact a doctor for an intervention, in cases where the tic could be a sign of a different type of neurological issue. Examples of issues that cause concern include when the tics:

  • Persist for an Extended Period – If a tic lasts longer than a year, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional.
  • Increase in Frequency or Severity – A noticeable escalation in the tic’s frequency or intensity warrants evaluation.
  • Impact Social Interactions or School Performance – If tics begin to affect a child’s social life or learning, professional advice should be sought.
  • Are Accompanied by Other Symptoms – If tics are accompanied by behavioral changes, such as attention difficulties or obsessive-compulsive tendencies, further investigation is recommended.

However, even transient tics warrant a bit of concern. Not because of the tic itself, but because tics can mean that a child is experiencing stress or anxiety, which is known to both trigger tics and increase their severity. So, while you may not necessarily need to concern yourself with the tics, you should still consider whether or not your child is struggling with stress in a way that would benefit from intervention.

Supporting a Child with Tics

Parental support plays a crucial role in managing childhood tics. It’s important to:

  • Avoid Drawing Attention to the Tics – Pointing out or focusing on the tics can increase a child’s stress, potentially worsening the symptoms.
  • Foster a Supportive Environment – Creating a nurturing and understanding environment at home helps the child feel secure and accepted.
  • Seek Professional Guidance – Consulting with a healthcare provider ensures the child receives appropriate care and support.

While tics are a common aspect of childhood development, being vigilant about their nature and impact is important. Understanding when tics might be a cause for concern and seeking professional advice when necessary are key steps in ensuring the well-being of a child. Remember, most tics are transient, and with the right support and management, they can be effectively addressed.

Contact Long Island Psychology Today to Get Started

Long Island Psychology specializes in providing mental health treatments to adults of all ages that need help overcoming their mental health struggles. We are able to work with patients that are experiencing pain and provide appropriate mental health solutions based on your symptoms and experiences. Contact us today to get started.

Contact:

(516) 732-0273
info@lipsychologist.com

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