What are tics?

Tics are involuntary, brief, sudden, repetitive movements or sounds.  They can be motor tics e.g. blinking, shrugging shoulders, grimacing, or jerking or vocal e.g. throat clearing, sniffing, grunting, or speech.  Usually tics occur in bouts during the day.

Up to 20% of primary school age children are thought to have a transient tic disorder – this is where the tics last less than 1 year.

In the vast majority of cases, they are temporary conditions that resolve on their own.

Tics vary in their complexity.  Simple tics are meaningless and short whereas complex tics are longer and seem more purposeful.

The frequency and intensity of tics tends to wax and wane over time, with peaks at times of stress.

Older children are often able to suppress their tics for a short time, but younger children can often be unaware of their tics. Suppressing a tic is a bit like trying not to blink – after a while you have to do it.

Tics usually increase with stress, excitement, and anxiety.

Tics usually decrease when the child is occupied with something else.

Tics in children


Explaining tics to others