Saijo George

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monday15 Nov 2021

TikTok Tics Are A Symptom Of A Much Bigger Problem

ReportsReports of teens developing tic-like behaviors after watching TikTok videos highlight something most of us don’t consider about mental health: symptoms can be social.

Top TikTokers film themselves involuntarily cursing, slapping themselves, making clapping sounds, and more. Cumulatively, #tourettes videos have been viewed more than 5 billion times.

Since March 2020, specialists in the United States, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom have seen a dramatic spike in young patients seeking treatment for tics, according to The Wall Street Journal. Doctors say most of the young people watched content from TikTok creators who say they have Tourette syndrome, one type of tic disorder.

Many symptoms have a social component, but tics, in particular, happen to be very suggestible, Libby says. In 2011, for example, as many as 20 teenagers in upstate New York, almost all of them students in the same school, suddenly developed similar tremors.

Just 10 years ago, teens were most directly influenced by the handful of kids in their homeroom; today, thanks to platforms like TikTok, the whole world can feel like one big high school.

When it comes to the current spike in tic-like disorders, “blaming TikTok, it’s a cop-out,” Lester says. For these teens, the distress was probably already there. These symptoms just made it impossible to ignore. 

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