Ask Dr. Ticcy: Tics past age 30

Dr. Ticcy is a pseudonym for the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada National Office, which draws on information from experts across Canada and beyond to answer questions from the TS community. Please send your questions to admin@tourette.ca with the salutation “Dear Dr. Ticcy.”

Dear Dr. Ticcy,

I thought that my tics would decrease as I got older but I am 30 years old and my tics are worse than ever. Does this mean that I don’t actually have TS? Will my tics ever decrease or go away?

Sincerely,

Ticcing-at-30

Dear Ticcing-at-30,

Typically, when someone has TS, their tics usually begin early around age 5-7. They increase with time peaking between the ages of 10-12 and then after puberty, their tics start to decrease in intensity. There are some cases, however, that do not fit this pattern. Some people with TS have tics that are intense in both childhood and adulthood.

Others, like yourself, have tics that are mild in childhood and more intense or frequent in adulthood. While this is rare, it is possible though the reasons for this pattern are not well understood by scientists. Some possible explanations have been suggested such as cocaine abuse, use of anabolic steroids or extraordinary life stress.

Your question about whether your tics will ever decrease is difficult to answer. It is difficult to say how they will progress with time. On the plus side, since TS is not considered a progressive condition, we have no reason to assume that they will continue to become worse or more intense as you age.

If your tics are interfering with your daily functioning or if they are causing you any physical pain or discomfort, you may wish to visit a specialist to discuss potential treatment options. Possible treatments include behaviour therapy and/or medication. Keep in mind that stress, positive or negative excitement, tiredness, and illness are likely to increase your tics. In contrast, good sleep hygiene, exercise, healthy eating, and generally good mental and physical health have the opposite effect on tics.

If you would like some more information about treatment options, specialists, or tic triggers, please contact a local volunteer or the National Office of Tourette Canada.

Sincerely,

Dr. Ticcy

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