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Tic Disorders: What Are They?

We all have that thing that kind of makes people tilt their head and scrunch their eyebrows, that thing that people notice and people are generally confused by.

I’m going to tell you about one thing that’s like that for me, one of my weird little things that tends to be fairly noticeable: I have a tic disorder. If you’re not familiar with tic disorders, here’s a brief explanation: Tic disorders are a category of conditions that cause repetitive, involuntary movements and/or vocalizations.

My tic disorder is referred to as a Chronic Motor Tic Disorder. Chronic indicates that the tic disorder has persisted for at least one year with no tic-free periods lasting more than three months. Motor indicates that the tics are movement-based only.

My tics include full-body jerks that can resemble shivers, arm jerks that include hitting- and throwing-like motions (that often cause me to hit others or to throw objects that I am holding), shoulder shrug-like motions, and knee jerks (which often cause me to slam my knee into a table or desk above it or to kick anything in front of it).

The other type of tic that many have is a vocal tic. Though my own condition does not include vocal tics, many do. Vocal tics can range from involuntary throat-clearing or coughing to involuntary repetition of others’ words to blurting of one’s inner thoughts and feelings to random words that have no purpose or intelligible origin to involuntary swearing, the most commonly known symptom, which is generally associated with the most well-known tic disorder: Tourette’s Syndrome.
Tourette’s is similar to my condition but includes vocal tics in addition to motor tics. These tics do not have to be involuntary swearing and in over half of Tourette’s patients, vocal tics do not include involuntary swearing.

Before my diagnosis with a tic disorder, I knew virtually nothing about tics. I’d heard of Tourette’s but had no clue what it was and heard of it mostly in passing.

My tic disorder is unknown to most and affects all parts of my life. I know that lots of people don’t understand tic disorders and that many people don’t even know they exist.

That’s part of why I’m writing this—to inform people about tic disorders—but I’m also writing this for anyone who has a tic disorder. Because it can be hard on your own—living with a condition that you don’t understand, that most people don’t know about, and that doctors struggle to explain.

This is my first in a series of posts about tic disorders; I hope to also write about living with tic disorders and how to approach the topic with someone who has one, among other things. Tics can be confusing and hard to deal with, so I just hope to make things a little easier to deal with for those with tics and to make people a little more aware of tics for those without them.

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