Chronic Motor or Vocal Tic Disorder

What is it?

Chronic motor tic disorder is a condition that involves quick, uncontrollable movements or vocal outbursts (Tourette’s disorder is a condition characterizing both motor and vocal tics). Chronic motor tic disorder is more common than Tourette’s and usually starts at age 5 or 6 and gets worse until age 12. Tics can include excessive blinking, facial grimaces, quick movements of the arms, legs, or other areas, ounds like grunts, throat clearing, contractions of the abdomen or diaphragm. Some children have many kinds of tics.

Signs and Symptoms

A child with tics experiences what appear to be uncontrollable movements or vocal sounds. For example, a child with motor tics may engage in repetitive and rapid shoulder shrugging, eye blinking, lip biting, or facial grimacing. A child with vocal tics may repetitively clear his throat, hum, sniff, snort, or squeal. Some children describe an uncomfortable feeling in their bodies before a tic occurs; this is called a premonitory urge. Many children feel brief relief of this uncomfortable feeling after the tic occurs. Tics can get worse with excitement, fatigue, heat or stress. Boys are more commonly affected than girls.

Diagnosis and Treatment

To be diagnosed with chronic motor or vocal tic disorder a child must have either single or multiple motor or vocal tics, but not both. Although the tics may come and go, they must persist, in one form or another, for more than a year and appear before 18 years of age.

Treatment depends on how severe the tics are and how the condition affects the child. Medicines and talk therapy are used when the tics greatly affect daily activities, such as school and job performance. Children may also be taught relaxation techniques to decrease frequency of the tics.

Neuroleptic medications can help control the symptoms of tics by blocking the brain’s dopamine neurotransmitters.

What are the risk factors for children?

Tic disorders commonly occur with other conditions, including ADHD and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Many children with tic disorders may also experience anxiety and depression because of the social implications of having tics, as well as the disruption it causes in their daily lives.