Tic Disorder – What Are They And How Do We Treat Them


(MENAFN – Kashmir Observer)

Through Wasim Kakroo

Blinking, coughing, sniffing, snapping fingers, repeating a phrase or sound, and many other uncontrollable repetitive movements in children often cause parents concern. They are tics.

Tics are rapid, repetitive muscle movements that cause body shaking or sounds that are difficult to control. They are quite common in children, they usually appear around the age of 3 to 9 and are more severe between the ages of 9 and 11. Boys are more likely to have tics than girls. Children with ticts are more likely to have additional mental health problems. Examples of these conditions are Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), anxiety, and depression. Tics can also start in adulthood, but such events are less common. Tics are usually not serious and get better over time. However, they can be frustrating and hamper the daily activities of a child or teenager.

A tic is a problem in which a part of the body moves uncontrollably, repeatedly, quickly, and suddenly. Tics can affect any area of ​​the body, including the face, shoulders, hands, and legs. They can be voluntarily stopped for short periods. The majority of tics are minor and barely detectable. However, in certain circumstances, they are frequent and severe, affecting the life of a child in various ways.

When a child develops a tic, it can be scary for parents, who wonder if the small repetitive coughs or blinks will ever go away, or if they are a sign of something more serious. The good news is that most tics will go away on their own and won’t come back. If you think your child has developed a tic, you should see a pediatrician, psychiatrist, or clinical psychologist to make sure what you are witnessing is a tic. However, in the vast majority of situations, parents will be advised to simply observe and wait before considering further intervention. Treatment is only necessary when the tics become persistent and disabling.

Causes of tics:

The absolute cause of tics is unknown to the scientific world. However, it is postulated that changes in areas of the brain that control movement are believed to be the cause. They can run in families, and in many cases, there is an inherited cause. They frequently occur in conjunction with other conditions, such as hyperactivity hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), etc.

Tics can also be triggered by illegal drugs like cocaine or amphetamines, and they can also be triggered by more serious health problems like cerebral palsy or Huntington’s disease.

Types of tics:

Tics are of several types. Some have an effect on the movement of the body (motor tics), while others result in a sound (vocal or phonic tics).

Tics include excessive blinking, nose folds or grimaces, head shaking or snapping, finger snapping, coughing, growling or snorting while repeating a sound or phrase – it can be anything vulgar or objectionable in a limited percentage of cases.

Patients experience an inner urge or local premonitory sensation which is attenuated when the tic is performed. Tics can happen at any time and are often associated with stress, anxiety, exhaustion, enthusiasm, or happiness. They tend to get worse when discussed or focused. Tics can be primary (hereditary) or secondary (caused by other diseases) (eg, head trauma, encephalitis).

What should you do if your child or a family member has been diagnosed with tic?

Taking an active role in your child’s care, learning about tics, and understanding symptom treatment and management can all help you make the best decisions for your child and family.

The majority of children with tics usually have at least one additional mental, behavioral, or developmental problem, which can add to the stress and make managing tics more difficult. Work with a mental health professional (psychiatrist / clinical psychologist) to treat any problems, including tics.

Parents’ anxiety about their children’s tics can unintentionally exacerbate them. Parents may inadvertently make a child embarrassed and concerned by calling attention to a tic that they are not worried about, which can make the tic worse. The best thing you can do for your child is to stay calm and avoid drawing attention to the tic. A big part of helping you and your child is dealing with your own anxiety.

How are chronic motor or vocal tics treated?

Treatment is not necessarily necessary if a tic disorder is of moderate severity and not producing any other problems. Self-help counseling, such as avoiding stress or burnout, is often very beneficial for the majority of people in managing their tics.

Some of the self-help tips to reduce the onset of tics are as follows:

  • Manage stress, anxiety, and boredom by finding something soothing and enjoyable to do (like a sport or a hobby). Learn more about stress reduction and how to help an anxious youth avoid becoming overly stressed.
  • If possible, get a good night’s sleep. Read on to learn more about sleep hygiene and techniques for combating exhaustion.
  • Avoid drawing attention to your child’s tic by ignoring it and not talking about it too much.
  • If your child has a tic, don’t scold him.
  • Assure your child that everything is okay and that he has no reason to be embarrassed.
  • Let the people you come into contact with regularly about your tics so that they are aware of them and know that they should not react when they occur.
  • If your child is having difficulty in school, ask their teacher how to help them. If their tics are extremely bad, children may benefit from being allowed to leave the classroom. Arrangements can be made with school staff for the child to take exams separately from the rest of the class, especially if the child has vocal tics. When scoring a child’s oral, written and practical assignments, the degree to which tics interfere with exam performance should be taken into account. Exam time pressure should be reduced and students should be allowed to take periodic breaks throughout testing to reduce the frequency of tics.
  • If a tic is more severe and interferes with daily activities, therapies (psychotherapy and / or pharmacotherapy) aimed at reducing the frequency of tics may be prescribed.

    Here are the most common treatments for tics:

    Habits reversal therapy seeks to teach you or your child intentional movements that “compete” with tics so that tic cannot occur at the same time.

    Habit reversal therapy involves:

    Teach the child to recognize the sensation that precedes a tic.

    Help the child understand what triggers his tics.

    Train them to do something different when they feel like they’re going to have a tic. The behaviors they adopt will be such that they will not be visible to others. A child with a sniffling tic, for example, can learn to do a breathing exercise instead.

    CBiT (Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics) is a series of behavioral approaches that can help people learn to control their tics. It incorporates CBT strategies such as the habit reversal technique (discussed above), tic psychoeducation, and relaxation techniques.

    Exposure with response prevention (ERP) seeks to help you or your child get used to the unpleasant sensations that often occur shortly before a tic, in order to prevent the tic from developing.

    If the above psychotherapeutic procedures do not help much, pharmacotherapy (use of drugs) in combination with psychotherapy should be a good option.

    They are usually prescribed by a pediatrician or psychiatrist and can be used in conjunction with psychological therapies or after unsuccessful attempts at these therapies.

    Children who have tics and are having difficulty in school should be assessed for learning disabilities and receive support if needed.

    • The author is a registered clinical psychologist (a former Govt. Medical College Srinagar) and currently works as a child and adolescent mental health therapist at the Institute’s Child Guidance and Welfare Center. of Mental Health and Neuroscience of Kashmir (IMHANS). Contact us at [email protected]

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