Are Teens Developing Tics From TikTok?

Are Teens Developing Tics From TikTok?

From using lube as a makeup primer to breaking your neck trying to do the milk crate challenge, TikTok has promoted some truly strange trends among all its users. According to a new report, TikTok may also be the reason more and more teenage girls are showing up in doctors' offices with tic-like behaviors.

Experts from top pediatric hospitals across the US, Australia, Canada and UK have documented an increase in the number of teen girls with movement-disorders since the start of the pandemic. Tics are typically rare among girls, but researchers noticed that all new cases also watched videos by popular TikTok influencers who said they had Tourette syndrome, a nervous system disorder that causes people to make repetitive involuntary movements or verbal outbursts.

The rise in cases has yet to be tracked nationally, but there have been enough institutions across the country reporting similar surges that doctors were able to draw a connection between the two. Since doctors first began following the trend, they observed that videos with the #tourettes tag on TikTok have grown from 1.25 billion views at the start of the year to now 4.8 billion.

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center neurologist, Dr. Donald Gilbert, explained how the reason we may being seeing a rise in cases is thanks to the pandemic exacerbating physical symptoms of psychological stress in teens that had already been diagnosed with depression or anxiety. According to Gilbert, these physical symptoms can manifest in ways patients have seen in others.

A spokesperson for TikTok told the Wall Street Journal, "The safety and well-being of our community is our priority, and we're consulting with industry experts to better understand this specific experience."

Other doctors are less convinced there's a connection, though. "There are some kids who watch social media and develop tics and some who don't have any access to social media and develop tics," Dr. Gilbert said, with some skeptical of these self-professed Tourette TikTokers exhibiting "multiple complex motor and verbal tics" that aren't in line with a typical diagnosis.

Even then, he added that "the symptoms of the teens who have watched them are real, and likely represent functional neurological disorders, a class of afflictions that includes certain vocal tics and abnormal body movements that aren't tied to an underlying disease."

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