As if teens and parents don’t have enough to deal with already, reports from the medical community show a new issue emerging. According to the Wall Street Journal, teen girls are heading to the hospital with sudden verbal and motor tics. The culprit? TikTok.

Studies are showing that adolescent girls are reporting that they have spent time watching TikTok videos of people claiming they had Tourette syndrome and then developed symptoms themselves. While the onset of the tics appears to mimic the disorder, most of the cases are actually “functional neurological disorders, a class of afflictions that includes certain vocal tics and abnormal body movements that aren’t tied to an underlying disease,” according to the WSJ.

photo: cottonbro via Pexels

While this situation appears to be just another disturbing trend coming out of the TikTok platform, it also coincides both with the pandemic and adolescent girls who had pre-existing mental health issues. A study from Australia’s Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health reports that it is “highly plausible that the increase in functional tic disorders in recent months is related to multiple stressors stemming from COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to modelling present on social media.”

As a parent of a teen, it can be tempting to see the tics as a ploy for attention or just drama, but that’s not the case. Pediatric neurologist Mohammed Aldosari, MD explains to the Cleveland Clinic that “These tics are a complex way for the brain to release overwhelming stress. Essentially, their brains express an emotional stressor as a physical disorder…These teens don’t intend to take on tic-like behaviors, and so they become distressed when their families or medical professionals just dismiss them or even doubt them. The worst message they can get is that they’re ‘faking it’.”

So what’s the solution? Doctors report behavioral therapy and limited social media consumption is key. Most teens will benefit from therapy not only to combat the tics, but to also reveal a likely underlying condition that made them susceptible in the first place.

Reducing time on TikTok and other social media platforms is one of the best ways to avoid situations like these in the first place, in addition to talking to your kids about responsibility and moderation. You can also read more about how TikTok is working to promote a safe environment here.



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