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Is TikTok Causing Tourette-Like Symptoms in Teen Girls?

'Since the advent of social media... access to videos of various symptoms and behaviors, both functional and 'organic,' [is] readily available...'

Doctors across the globe have reported an increased number of young girls coming in with physical tics and have been pointing to TikTok as a possible cause, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The rise began around March of 2020. Many medical journals have mentioned that use of TikTok was prevalent among many of their patients, specifically those who watched videos of users with Tourette syndrome.

“Dr. Kirsten Müller–Vahl, a doctor based in Hanover, Germany said she has been seeing more and more teen and young adult girls coming in with tics,” Business Insider reported.

“Müller–Vahl, who has treated Tourette’s for 25 years, said while people who have the disorder usually have their own unique tics, the girls she was seeing recently had the same ones.”

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According to Müller-Vahl, many of her patients followed a German YouTuber who shares her experience with Tourette’s online. Müller–Vahl’s patients were mimicking her tics almost exactly.

Although there have been no officially sanctioned studies on this specific issue, some doctor’s offices have reported more than 10 times the amount cases of these symptoms since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Journal notes that this is not Tourette syndrome, and these kids are suffering from a functional movement disorder (FMD). Many of these cases have been coupled with prior diagnoses of anxiety or depression.

Child neurologist Miriam Hull wrote a paper suggesting that social media now allows these kinds of physical tics and disorders—which used to be contained within communities—to spread internationally.

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“Since the advent of social media… access to videos of various symptoms and behaviors, both functional and ‘organic,’ [is] readily available,” Hull wrote.

“In the context of describing a rise of new cases of FMD during the COVID-19 pandemic, the initial observation of abrupt development of tic-like movements and sounds while watching similar phenomenology on social media was described and given the alliterative term ‘TikTok tics.’”

The fix for these disorders is fairly simple—doctors have been recommending time away from social media and greater involvement on part of parents.

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