Since the Chinese virus shutdowns began, the number of medical visits from teenagers worldwide due to the appearance of nervous tics (physical twitching and verbal outbursts) has increased drastically. And according to specialists, TikTok could be one of the contributing factors, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Pediatric hospitals have reported increasing numbers of teenagers admitted after developing tics, which are sudden spasms or noises, a common symptom of Tourette’s syndrome. It appears that anxiety and depression due to quarantines helped increase them.
Tourette syndrome (TS) is a nervous system disorder that causes people to make involuntary repetitive movements or verbal outbursts. As stated by the American Tourette Association, “that becomes evident in early childhood or adolescence. It is part of the spectrum of Tic Disorders and is characterized by motor and vocal tics.”
Although tics are unusual in girls, experts from pediatric hospitals in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the UK found a substantial increase in cases among them. Moreover, they discovered—that in most of them, the factor they had in common was—TikTok.
Doctors believe, and recent medical journal articles support the idea that girls have been watching videos of TikTok influencers claiming to have Tourette’s syndrome.
Donald Gilbert of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, a Neurologist, and specialist in these pediatric disorders and Tourette syndrome, says that since March 2020, he has seen approximately 10 adolescents with the condition per month. A strikingly higher number than he had ever seen before, which was—at most—1 case per month.
Another report from physicians at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago analyzed TikTok videos with the hashtag #tourettes and wrote that they “believe this is an example of mass sociogenic disease,” where people are copying the behaviors they see in the videos.
The Medical Center also said it had seen 20 patients with these tics between March and June of this year alone, whereas it saw only 10 for the entire year last year.
One of Rush’s expert movement disorder researchers, Caroline Olvera, said that several teenage girls had a tic that made them say “beans,” and in some cases with a British accent even though they did not speak English.
So she discovered that one of the top ‘Tourette’s’ influencers was British and used to say “beans.”
Since January, UK doctors analyzing this phenomenon said that videos with the hashtag #tourettes have since increased their number of views from 1.25 billion to 4.8 billion.
Many doctors also point out that the behaviors exhibited in videos created by these mostly female influencers do not resemble Tourette’s syndrome, which generally affects many more boys than girls and usually develops gradually from an early age.
Doctors say the tics can be unlearned and recommend cognitive-behavioral therapy, as well as staying off TikTok for several weeks. They even advise that parents link their TikTok account to their child’s to enable content restrictions.
“I always encourage my patients to do a sport or yoga—something physical that involves their mind and body together,” Dr. Gilbert said, adding, “It’s not evidence-based, but it gives them something to do.”