Movement Disorders Clinical Practice
RESEARCH ARTICLE

TikTok Tics: A Pandemic Within a Pandemic

Caroline Olvera MD,

Corresponding Author

Caroline Olvera MD

Department of Neurological Sciences, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Correspondence to: Dr. Caroline E. Olvera, Rush University Medical Center, Department of Neurological Sciences, 1725 W. Harrison Street Suite 755, Chicago, IL 60612, USA; E-mail: caroline_e_olvera@rush.edu

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Glenn T. Stebbins PhD,

Glenn T. Stebbins PhD

Department of Neurological Sciences, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, USA

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Christopher G. Goetz MD,

Christopher G. Goetz MD

Department of Neurological Sciences, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, USA

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Katie Kompoliti MD,

Katie Kompoliti MD

Department of Neurological Sciences, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, USA

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First published: 28 July 2021
Citations: 2

Relevant disclosures and conflicts of interest are listed at the end of this article.

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ABSTRACT

Background

TikTok is a social media platform where users create and share videos. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of this site greatly expanded. Tic and Tourette syndrome content also increased dramatically along with the number of patients with tics in neurology clinics.

Objectives

We compared the phenomenology of “TikTok tics” to typical tic disorders. We chose to analyze the most widely viewed videos and therefore focused on the most popular content creators.

Methods

Videos with the keywords “tic,” “Tourette,” or “tourettes” were reviewed to identify content creators between March 11, 2020 and March 30, 2021. We performed a quantitative assessment of TikTok tics as well as a descriptive analysis of the entire series of videos of each content creator.

Results

The mean age of the cohort was 18.8 years old, and the majority were women. Unlike the predominance of facial movements in typical tics, arm movements were most frequent. Average tics per minute was 29, and almost all recorded TikTok tics were severe, causing significant disability. Whereas coprolalia and self-injurious behavior are only infrequently encountered in typical tic disorders, they were present in the overwhelming majority of TikTok subjects.

Conclusions

TikTok tics are distinct from what is typically seen in patients with Tourette syndrome, although share many characteristics with functional tics. We believe this to be an example of mass sociogenic illness, which involves behaviors, emotions, or conditions spreading spontaneously through a group. A modern clinician needs to remain abreast of social media sources as knowledge of media content is essential in managing patients in the current environment.