The early warning signs of tics and Tourette Syndrome

This winter break, I have spent some time thinking about why I wasn’t diagnosed sooner and why my mom did not see the early warning signs as warning signs as part of the larger picture for a TS+ child.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term TS+, it stands for Tourette Syndrome in combination with the co-morbid conditions that commonly come along with Tourette. I myself have OCD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Panic Attack Disorder (although I haven’t had a major, full-fledged panic attack in about two years), and impulsivity issues also known as disinhibition.

Some other co-morbid disorders that can come along with TS are ADD, ADHD, mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, rage issues and other disorders as well.

In this post, I will outline and summarize two of the main types of tics that are warning signs for TS+ in a younger child anywhere from the ages of 2 years old to a middle school-aged child.

It is important to remember that in order for the types of things I describe to be tics, that they must be repetitive in the sense that you will see your child doing these things over and over again throughout the week, month or even day.

1) One of the first classic warning signs for the TS+ child is a simple tic, usually in the face. Simple facial tics like eye blinking, slight facial grimacing or slight facial twitching will usually be the first tic a child has. After a child’s first simple tic, other tics may develop in the trunk, arms and legs. A simple tic, however, is not always the first tic for a child, and each child with TS or TS+ will differ in the way they present with various symptoms.

TS is a very unique disorder as a result of the fact that every case is different, which includes the way the symptoms start. I think my first tic was a slight facial grimace; however, it was so subtle that neither myself nor my parents can be 100 percent sure.

I have seen videos and pictures of myself that make it look like this was my first tic, which started when I was about 3-4 years old and probably continued in the same way until a little after 1st or 2nd grade. I seem to find pictures of myself around this age all with a very similar positioning of my face, which also makes me think this may have been my first tic.

The tic looks like it was a slight facial grimace in some pictures but then looks like a much larger facial movement in other pictures. I really don’t think my parents even noticed it at the time. They probably thought I was just a “twitchy” or “nervous” kid.

2) For some kids, they have more complex tics as children, and for some these more complex tics can even come before the more simple tics. It is a little less typical for a child to get complex tics before simple tics, but it can certainly happen.

One type of complex tic that can be common in children is what I call a compulsion-like tic. These tics appear to be more like compulsions but are tics none the less. Complex compulsion-like tics are very common in children to show up at some point in childhood and more commonly show up after simple tics show up.

Some examples of compulsion-like tics that I had personally when I was younger are skipping, lip/skin picking, lip licking, lip biting, hair sucking, hand/finger smelling, sating off into space/doubling vision, grabbing at various parts of the body, putting hands down pants, and shirt or sleeve chewing.

Some other possible compulsion like tics are hand/finger licking, stomping, and other types of complex body movements. It is important to remember that although these tics look more purposeful in nature than something like a simple eye blink, they are tics nonetheless and the child has no more control over these tics than a simple tic. Asking your child to stop doing these kinds of tics will only make them worse.

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8 thoughts on “The early warning signs of tics and Tourette Syndrome

  1. I don’t know how old this blog is but, I was on YouTube watching random stuff and then a thing on Tourette Syndrome came up. I was fascinated and I clicked on the video. After I watched the video my head started twitching and I kept opening my mouth and this carried on for about an hour. I knew I was doing the stuff but I had to do it and I was like “what on earth is happening?”. Now everytime I watch a video of someone having tics, I like have a head twitch for an hour but I don’t have Tourette’s. Do you have any clue what it is?

    • Probably the mirror neurons. I read in Psychology that there are neurons in the brain that help us think and act like the people we watch.

  2. Reading this helped me to believe that my 9 year old son has TS and or TS+. He has a bad raw rash around his top and bottom lip. He constantly, every 5 seconds licks, bites, and opens his mouth wide like he is stretching it or trying to pop his hears. He can’t control it, and half the time doesn’t know he is doing it. It breaks my heart to watch him go through this, because everything burns his lips and it looks so horrible like he has clown make-up around his mouth. Is this so serious he needs a doctor asap!? Or is there a medicine that can help with TS and or TS+over the counter or prescribed by a specialist?

    • i think that you should seek treatment for the rash (if you haven’t already) and then decide if he has it. commonly in children, when they have chapped lips or bumps in there mouths, they try to relive the itch or burn by licking the area, widening your mouth also temporarily helps the pain. my brother has chapped lips quite frequently, and does the same thing, although, he isnt a very good example, he also has tourette! hopefully this helped! <3

      • Your absolutely right! My son Eugene also had rashes when he was younger, about 8 years old, we also found out he only had rashes. We found out it was actually impetigo. It scared the living hell out of me when I first saw it. We made the same mistake of seeing a specialist, but later found out what it actually was. I would advise you to see a doctor to get some medication.

      • i agree, my son was recently diagnosed with impetigo, im almost certian that is what your son has, The main symptom is red sores that form around the nose and mouth!

  3. I don’t know if this IS TS or something else entirely, but there are times when I feel like this weird shiver-like? feeling and a strong head twitch, my hands/fingers twitch fairly often, and my legs spasm a bit as well, shrug thing in one shoulder. There’s also this really strange noise that I’ve made a few times every day for the past 2-3 years, if I try to suppress it it becomes painful and it feels like my throat is closing up. I get asked constantly if I’m okay, or if I have to go to the hospital.

    I was watching some tourettes documentaries today and I suddenly had a fear that it might be what’s wrong with me.
    There’s not really one thing that happens constantly throughout the day, but it’s usually a mixture of several different things. Some answers to this would be greatly appreciated! I’ve been wondering about it for a long time.

  4. My mother always tells me that my tics are just nervous tics from my anxiety and never bothers to take me to the doctor about it, since I had a CAT scan a few years ago and they found nothing. I know that in order to have Tourett’s you have to have at least two motor tics and one vocal tic. I have at least four motor tics and one, if not two, vocal tics. Is there a way to determine whether or not I have nervous tics or Tourett’s?

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