Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Can TikTok Cause Tourettes’?

Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological condition characterized by sudden, repetitive, rapid, and unwanted movements or vocal sounds. This disorder most typically presents between ages 5 and 7 and is four times more common in boys than in girls. This pattern of diagnoses was consistent until the pandemic when doctors began to notice a stark rise of cases in preteen and teen girls. Doctors initially thought that they were observing an isolated phenomenon, but after connecting with other doctors globally, it was revealed to be a trend everywhere. Not only was the demographic of patients similar for these new cases, but the patients even demonstrated the same involuntary behavior. This led doctors to believe that the common denominator in these cases was the usage of a popular social media platform. 

The severity of the outburst and types of uncontrolled behavior in these news cases are much different than what has been observed in patients before the pandemic. Typically, symptoms of Tourette’s would appear gradually early in childhood starting with subtle involuntary movements such as eye blinking, head movements and throat clearing. More complex tics can develop later over a period of months to years after simple tics have been present for some time. However, in the time of the pandemic, the majority of the reported cases were from females who were experiencing a sudden onset of intense symptoms. The sudden onset of unexplained tics only made up a total of 1% of the total Tourette’s cases before the pandemic. Now it makes up 35% of the total cases. 


The development of tics is not only known for occurring gradually, but also for developing uniquely to the individual. It fascinated doctors and researchers as to why so many of the new cases of teens experiencing these sudden onset symptoms had the same patterns of behavior. These patterns from these patients included the repetition of seemingly random words and other obscene phrases such as “beans”, “woo-hoo” and “flying shark”. The same hand and arm movements and gestures were also observed throughout this niche of patients. Because of the wide range of geographic locations these cases were reported in, doctors were led to believe social media was the root cause, specifically a very popular platform called TikTok. 


The next question that was difficult for doctors to understand is why this phenomenon seemingly started occurring as a consequence of the pandemic. Social media has been around for decades and it hasn’t had this grandiose of an impact on the involuntary movement of the users until this point. Researchers and doctors suspect that the patients are experiencing this movement disorder brought on by stress and anxiety which was suspected to be made worse from the pandemic and teens increased social media use. This begs the question: is it really Tourette’s syndrome? Doctors say that although the behavior of these teens is not indicative of Tourette’s, it is still real and concerning. 


In regard to treating these teens experiencing these outbursts, doctors say that they would recommend they engage in behavioral therapy sessions. Although medications have been helpful for treating those who suffer from Tourette’s, those who have been experiencing involuntary movement as a result of learned behavior and stress would benefit more from therapy. With behavioral therapy from trained professionals, these teens can hopefully help channel their stress and anxiety into other things and reduce their involuntary movement.

Source: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/tiktok-causing-tics-in-teen-girls/

“Angela Baily” (7) 


  1. HI Angela, this was a really interesting post. I cannot believe that Tiki's Tok has had this strong of an impact on people. I think it is most interesting how they say similar words. re these words from popular tiktoks?

  2. Hi Angela,
    This post was really interesting considering the rise in social media and how often young kids are exposed to it. Do you think this could be similar to the rise in mental health issues over the years due to social media like instagram?

  3. Hi Angela,
    I have read articles very similar to this in the past and it has always fascinated me, I have noticed on my own tiktok that there was an uprise in people that had slightly more uncommon mental health issues during the pandemic. Seeing as preteen/teen years are crucial for development and they missed out on a portion of these years due to the pandemic, I wonder if they learned from tiktok to do these movements.

  4. Hey Angela,
    Very interesting read. We know that everyone had social media, and tiktok has been on the rise since before the pandemic. Considering what you said about the stress and anxiety on teens from the pandemic, it's understandable that they would use social media such as, tiktok, as a way of comfort and social connection. Noting the fact that many people were scared to go outside. Do you think the lack of socializing can also be a factor to this? Since this started to rise during the pandemic.

  5. Hi Angela, I found this article very interesting because we are still finding out the effects quarantine had on us. I never thought tik Tok would be linked to a neurological condition but I'm not surprised considering how hooked most people are to the application

  6. Hi Angela,
    this article was very interesting because this app is something that I believe a lot of people our age use daily. I wonder what other health impacts associated with apps and social media will come to light.
    - Hannah K

  7. This came as a surprise to me. i am on Tik Tok a lot and never did research or was informed on things like this!

    -Lara Pereira

  8. Hi Angela I really enjoyed your blog post. It is crazy to think that such a commonly and wide-used app could cause something as serious as Tourettes syndrome.