Tics are unvoluntary, repetitive contractions of muscles. They can also be verbal. Tics can sometimes be suppressed, which is why they are called “unvoluntary” instead of “involuntary,” according to WebMD. However, suppressing a tic is difficult and very uncomfortable, especially for children. Tics often become more apparent and frequent when a child is nervous, which is why they are sometimes called “nervous” tics.
Nervous tics are common in children. As many as 25 percent of all school-aged children are affected with transient nervous tics at some point in their lives, according to WebMD. Tics are much more common in boys than girls, for reasons unknown. Motor tics are more common than verbal tics.
Tics are grouped into several different categories. Transient tics are those that come and go. Most nervous tics in children are transient tics, according to WebMD. Chronic tics last into adulthood. Motor tics are muscle spasms, while verbal tics are audible. Simple tics are one small movement (although it is often repeated). Complex tics combine more than one movement, such as a shoulder shrug, followed by a touch and a wink.
Tics range widely in how they present. Many simple tics are quite minor. These include shoulder shrugging, nose wrinkling, touching something over and over again or biting your lip. More obvious tics might include kicking and sticking out the tongue, according to Medline Plus. Verbal tics range from grunting to barking or hissing. Complex verbal tics sometimes present as long strings of nonsensical words.
No one knows exactly why some children have nervous tics. What they do know is that tics are often triggered by stressful situations. Children and teens who do not get enough sleep also often experience tics, according to TeensHealth. Worrying about or focusing on the tic can also make it worse.
There is no cure for nervous tics. Often, they go away on their own. If a doctor thinks that a tic is not serious (for example, it is infrequent and does not interfere with the child’s life), then he might not choose to treat it. Tics that occur several times a day and last for more than a month might be treated with behavior techniques (such as relaxation techniques) or treated with medication.
Tourette’s syndrome is the most serious type of nervous tic disorder. This disorder usually starts in childhood, at any time between the ages of 5 and 18, according to WebMD. Children with Tourette’s syndrome suffer from repeated, severe instances of both motor and verbal tics.