What Are Tics?

Tics are involuntary twitches that may involve any voluntary muscle groups. Tics may be partially controlled, usually for a short duration during which a person makes a strong effort to control them. Later, however, the tics will reoccur and may be stronger due to the compensation attempt. Tics may consist of eye blinking, facial grimacing, nasal flaring, or mouth opening. To best understand how a person with a tic disorder feels, one may try to refrain from blinking his own eyes for a long period of time. This will be easy initially, but after about 30 seconds the blinking will occur almost automatically. This is how a person with a tic disorder feels constantly. Tics become worse when people are under stressful situations. Usually presenting for the first time when a family emergency or a move from a safe environment occurs.

Tics usually fluctuate in intensity and if they occur only temporarily, they do not qualify for any specific tic disorder.

Tics may be motor or vocal; the vocal tics include humming, grunting, or saying actual words, usually in an explosive, spastic fashion, (the words may be curses).

Tics may be simple or complex. A simple tic is purposeless, such as an eye blink, any other muscle twitch, a grunt, or a production of a noise. A complex tic consists of a muscle movement with a purpose, such as scratching, throwing, or chewing. A vocal complex tic is one that actually produces a word, not just a sound.