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Quick Facts on Chronic Motor or Vocal Tic Disorder

A brief overview of the signs and symptoms of chronic motor or vocal tic disorder and how it's treated in children and adolescents.

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 of Chronic Motor or Vocal Tic Disorder

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.

Medication: 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.