Childhood Tics – Therapy Tips

Have you ever tried to stifle a tickle in your nose and wished you’d have just let it go rather than let it erupt into a powerful sneeze? That’s much what it feels like for an individual with childhood tics. Tics are involuntary movements or vocal sounds that come on suddenly and repeatedly. Children with anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) often acquire tics.

Tics are usually temporary and last less than three months. Kids whose tics last longer than three months may be diagnosed with Tourette syndrome when they have multiple motor and vocal tics that last for a year or longer. Up to 50% of of kids who are diagnosed with tics also have OCD symptoms.

Childhood tics can take on many forms including:

  • Eye blinking
  • Facial grimacing
  • Nose scrunching
  • Head twitching
  • Shoulder shrugging
  • Touching the body repeatedly
  • Clapping
  • Coughing or throat clearing

Complex motor tics are usually more noticeable than simple tics. Signs of complex motor tics are kicking, skipping, jumping, smelling objects, outlining objects or organizing them, and mirroring others’ movements.

Vocal tics have many sounds like humming, squeaking, or repeatedly clearing the throat. They can also take the form of coughing, grunting, sniffing, barking, or hissing. Some tics cause children to repeat words or entire phrases or to suddenly yell out words.

Researchers believe that a complex combination of genetics and environmental factors cause childhood tics, but to date, they are not sure of the direct cause. They do know that certain things can trigger tics like anxiety, food allergies, cleaning products, and even video games.

Treatment for Childhood Tics and Tourette’s Syndrome

Kids often feel embarrassed by tics, so there are a few things you can do to reduce the frequency and effects of tics. Habit Reversal Therapy, relaxation training and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and relaxation training are recommended interventions to reduce the frequency and intensity of tics.

One of the best things that you can do for all children is to help them understand that tics are involuntary. Teaching them tolerance and respect for children who have them is also key. If you notice that your child is anxious or easily stressed, you can also practice mindfulness based skills and ways of reducing worrisome thoughts.  

Paradox Psych Services is a child and teen therapy center with two Carlsbad locations: Bressi Ranch and Aviara Parkway. Our child therapists at Bressi Ranch are also near San Marcos. We offer an action and goal oriented approach to child and teen therapy. Additionally, our skilled therapists have earned the highest achievable degree in their field. To learn more about our services, contact us today for a free phone consultation. 

About Susan Gehrig, PhD

Susan Gehrig, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and founder of Paradox Psychological Services located in Carlsbad. She has a passion for supporting the wellbeing of children and teens. Her expertise is in child mindfulness and self-compassion, cognitive behavioral therapy, and child development. Dr. Gehrig provides psychoeducational testing and therapy services to help build a plan for success. Paradox provides services for families of San Diego North County and greater areas.

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