Tic Disorders

Patients with chronic motor tic disorder display quick, uncontrollable movements or vocal outbursts—but not both.

Tics usually begin around age five or six and get worse until age 12. They often improve during adulthood. More common than Tourette syndrome, chronic tics may be forms of Tourette syndrome.

Children who develop this disorder between the ages of six and eight usually respond very well to therapy. Symptoms often last four to six years and then stop in the early teens without treatment.

If the disorder begins in older children and continues into their 20s, it may become a life-long condition.


A tic is a sudden, fast, repeated movement or sound that has no reason or goal. Some persons have many kinds of tics, but the more common tics are:

  • Excessive blinking
  • Grimaces of the face
  • Quick movements of the arms, legs, or other areas
  • Sounds (grunts, throat clearing, contractions of the abdomen or diaphragm)

A person with this condition can often hold off the symptoms for a short time. But they feel relief when they carry out these movements or sounds.

Patients describe their tics as a response to an inner urge, and that they have abnormal sensations in the tic area before it occurs. Tics also may occur during all stages of sleep.

Tics may get worse or be aggravated by:

  • Excitement
  • Fatigue
  • Heat
  • Stress


There is usually no need to see the health care provider unless the tic is severe or disrupts your life. But if the tic is severe, a physician can diagnose the issue during a simple physical examination. He or she will then assess the severity and discuss various treatment options.

To be diagnosed with the disorder:

  • You must have had the tics nearly every day for more than a year
  • You have not had a tic-free period longer than three months

If you cannot tell whether your movements are a tic or something more serious (such as a seizure), contact us at Semmes Murphey. They have experience in all sorts and phases of tics.


Treatment depends on the severity of the tics and how the condition affects the patient.

When tics greatly affect daily activities, such as school and job performance, a physician may prescribe certain medications or perhaps refer the patient for talk therapy (psychotherapy).

Medicines can help control or reduce tics. But they have side effects, such as movement and thinking problems.

This information was provided by the specialists at Semmes Murphey Clinic. Readers are encouraged to research trustworthy organizations for information. Please talk with your physician for websites and sources that will enhance your knowledge and understanding of this issue and its treatment.

If you, a friend, or a family member has or is developing a tic, contact us at Semmes Murphey Clinic. We can help with advice and treatments.

request an appointment