Docs warn that teen girls are developing tics as they IMITATE TikTokers with Tourette's
A number of medical journal articles have found that teen girls were watching TikTok videos of people who claimed to have Tourette Syndrome
Physicians across the globe are reporting a rise in teen girls developing tics, and some have listed anxiety, depression and TikTok as contributing factors. A recent report by The Wall Street Journal noted that the surge in such cases began around the start of the pandemic, alarming parents and doctors alike.
A number of medical journal articles have found that teen girls were watching TikTok videos of people who claimed to have Tourette Syndrome — a genetic nervous system disorder that can cause tics, repetitive, involuntary movements, or sounds, VOA News reported. Surprisingly, this has caused girls to develop tics, though the disorder is said to mostly impact boys and typically starts when a person is young and progresses over time. Dr Kirsten Müller-Vahl, of Hanover, Germany, told the Jerusalem Post that she's now seeing an increasing number of teen and young adult females coming in with tics.
While people suffering from the disorder usually have their own unique tics, Müller-Vahl said the girls she was seeing recently had the same ones. Having treated Tourette's for 25 years, the doctor quickly discovered that those patients were mimicking the tics of a German YouTuber who documented online how they live with the disorder.
According to the Journal, albeit there's no national or international data compiled to show the extent of the issue, some medical centers are reporting seeing as much as 10 times their usual cases of tics. By comparison, these centers would see one or two cases a month before the pandemic — but now are seeing between 10 or 20 a month.
Speaking to WSJ, Caroline Olvera, a movement-disorders fellow at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said she noticed many patients utter the word "beans" with a British accent, even a couple of patients who didn't speak English. She eventually learned that one top British TikToker would blurt out the word "beans" on a regular basis.
Doctors, however, explained that the patients weren't developing Tourette's, but a form of functional movement disorder. They told the newspaper that many of the kids who developed tics had previously been diagnosed with anxiety or depression that had been worsened due to pandemic restrictions. “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 McGuire, an associate professor at John Hopkins University’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, told The Journal. “I think there are a lot of contributing factors, including anxiety, depression and stress.”
Psychological disorders deemed contagious were mostly confined to geographical locations in the past, but social media has allowed them to spread globally, according to a recent paper by Mariam Hull, a child neurologist at Texas Children's Hospital. Speaking to WSJ, she said it's unlikely that a child would develop a tic by just watching one video. However, she explained that TikTok's algorithm was designed to make users watch similar videos repeatedly. "Some kids have pulled out their phones and showed me their TikTok, and it's full of these Tourette cooking and alphabet challenges," Hull said.
Doctors say these disorders can be treated. They have suggested kids take a social media break and parents monitor the type of videos their kids are watching. Should a child exhibit tics, parents are advised to immediately seek out specialists, according to WSJ.