Number of teenage girls developing tics and Tourette's syndrome surges

Number of teenage girls developing tics and Tourette's syndrome surges

March 7, 2021

Number of teenage girls developing tics and Tourette’s syndrome surges as a result of rising lockdown anxiety

  •  Specialists at Great Ormond Street and Evelina have reported a rise in referrals
  •  Before pandemic, average of six teenage girls presented symptoms each year 
  •  Now experts say they are receiving three or four new referrals evey week 
  •  Tics are fast, repetitive, muscle movements that result in body jolts or sounds
  •  New study suggests pandemic has had mental health impact on young girls 

Teenage girls are experiencing an ‘explosion of tics’ and Tourette’s Syndrome triggered by anxiety and stress during lockdown, experts have warned.

Specialist clinics at Great Ormond Street and Evelina children’s hospitals in London report that prior to the pandemic no more than six teenage girls presented with tics in one year – but now there are three or four referrals a week, The Sunday Times reveals.

This is in stark contrast to the usual 200 cases seen by the clinic in a year, 80 per cent of which were boys aged seven to 12. 

Specialist clinics have reported a surge in teenage girls experiencing tics and Tourette’s Syndrome, which may have been triggered by stress and anxiety during the pandemic

Tics are fast, repetitive, muscle movements that result in sudden and difficult to control body jolts or sounds. 

A more extreme form, Tourette’s Syndrome, can include shoulder shrugging and blinking, as well as vocal tics, such as tongue clicking, animal sounds and more rarely, swearing.

An article published today in the Archives of Disease in Childhood journal suggests the shift has come about as a result of the pandemic and the mental health impact on young girls and women.

Experts believe girls have been impacted more by schools closing and not seeing friends

Professor Isobel Heyman, a psychiatrist at Great Ormond Street said: ‘The massive change in structure and routine for young people has created a real sense of disorientation. 

‘Schools closing, not being able to see their friends, not being able to engage in sports and activities – that has all had an impact.’

Suzanne Dobson, chief executive of Tourettes Action, said the charity had seen a surge in calls to their helpline.

Some young women have been turning to social media platforms for reassurance, but some psychologists believe this may be prolonging rather than helping symptoms

‘Parents are absolutely desperate to understand what has happened to their child.’ 

Dobson believes boys may have fared better than girls through the pandemic, communicating with friends virtually through gaming.

Teenagers have also been posting footage of their symptoms onto sites such as TikTok as a way of reassuring each other, though psychologists warn this may actually be prolonging rather than helping their symptoms. 

While this has been reassuring for many teenagers, creating a sense of identity and breaking down isolation, it has also helped to prolong symptoms.

The advice to parents is to try not to overreact. ‘[The symptoms] will probably go away again as quickly as they came,’ Heyman said.


 Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological condition characterised by a combination of involuntary noises and movements called tics.

It usually starts during childhood and continues into adulthood. Tics can be either be vocal or physical.

In many cases Tourette’s syndrome runs in families and it’s often associated with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Tourette’s syndrome is named after the French doctor, Georges Gilles de la Tourette, who first described the syndrome and its symptoms in the 19th century. 

There’s no cure for Tourette’s syndrome, but treatment can help to control the symptoms. 

Source: NHS Choices

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