Tics of TikTok

Tics of TikTok

Renee Darling, Staff Writer

Teenagers who developed “TikTok Tics” during the pandemic are finally recovering. In imitating people on TikTok videos with Tourette’s – which according to The Daily Wire have 7.7 million views – they’re developing functional tics. Often connected to depression, anxiety, and trauma, the tics are used as an outlet and a coping mechanism for teens to release their pain instead of finding proper treatments for their mental disorders.

Some teens were able to recover from the tics on their own. In an interview with the New York Times, a teenager said their tics stopped when they stopped looking for “definitive answers about their mental health and identity.”

“After a year of therapy, I came to the conclusion that labels are stupid,” the teen said.

But the tics are uncontrollable, not something they can simply turn off. So many others had to talk to therapists to learn how to communicate their emotions in a healthier way and limit their time on social media.

“Especially once you know you are susceptible to a functional neurological disorder, it’s important to use social media responsibly,” said neurologist Dr. Omar Danoun. “It’s addictive. And the more time you spend on it, the more the algorithm will keep feeding you the same types of videos to keep you watching for as long as possible.”

The tics can and have spread through large groups of teenagers at schools because of one person. They’re an example of a “mass psychogenic illness” or “mass social media-induced illness.” Science Line defines it as “an outbreak of symptoms that spread socially with no infectious agent responsible for contagion beyond heightened anxiety.”

“Adolescence is a period of rapid social and emotional development,” said neurologist Dr. Tamara Pringsheim. “They are like sponges, grabbing onto new skills to cope.”

The tics were also contracted by more girls than boys, and even though boys are more likely to have Tourette’s, girls are more vulnerable to psychogenic illnesses because they’re “more susceptible to anxiety and depression at this age.”

Regardless, all teens who consume hours of social media and are exposed to these tics, whether they’re functional or not, are not immune to developing them. The group of teens recovering now were not the last to acquire functional tics, especially as technology increasingly influences teenage lives.