Overview

Chronic motor or vocal tic disorder is characterized by what appear to be uncontrollable tics, which are sudden, rapid, recurrent movements or vocal sounds. If a child has both motor and vocal tics, he is diagnosed with Tourette’s disorder; if he has only motor tics or vocal tics, but not both, he is diagnosed with chronic motor or vocal tic disorder. A very small percentage of children have coprolalia, which involves involuntary cursing or making socially inappropriate remarks.

Symptoms of chronic motor or vocal tic disorder:

  • Shoulder shrugging
  • Eye blinking
  • Lip biting
  • Facial grimacing
  • Clearing of the throat
  • Humming, sniffing, snorting, or squealing

Child may report an uncomfortable feeling in his body before a tic occurs; this is called a “premonitory urge”

Treatment and Prognosis

Chronic motor or vocal tic disorder may be treated behaviorally and/or with medication.

Behavioral Therapy: The best-known behavioral treatment is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) called habit reversal training. If a child gets a premonitory urge before the oncoming tic, he’s taught to recognize it and identify the situations that may trigger it. The child and therapist develop a “competing” response-an action the child performs when he feels the urge-that is incompatible with the tic, and less noticeable to others. For example, a child whose tic involves sniffling his nose may do a breathing exercise instead. Children may also be taught relaxation techniques to decrease the frequency of the tics.

Pharmacological: There are a variety of medications commonly prescribed to help control the symptoms of tic disorder, and an experienced professional should closely monitor any course.

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