A recent Channel 4 TV programme, Britain’s Tourette Mystery – Scarlett Moffatt Investigates, promised to explain why there has been an increase in the number of people, mainly teenage girls, who have developed tics since the start of the pandemic.
The programme featured Echo, an 11-year-old who suddenly developed tics on the first day of school, just after she had fallen out with her best friend. Overnight she was “jumping, twirling, clapping, making noises”. She has tics that involve hitting her mother and involuntarily calling her a “stupid motherfucker”. She describes herself as having “sudden-onset Tourette’s”. After moving to a new school, within a few months, her tics stopped.
Nicole developed similar tics and took to social media with her mother to find out more and later to raise awareness. She acknowledged that watching other people tic can make her symptoms worse – but also that people are entertained by her social media posts. Her tics have not improved. She feels her tics are “who I am now”.
In my work as a consultant neurologist, I’ve met people like Echo and Nicole, with sudden onset tics as a teenager. There has been an increase in numbers since the pandemic, but there is no mystery about what they have.
Functional neurological disorder
New tics in a teenager…