Doctors from multiple countries have reported a surge in cases of young girls exhibiting nervous tics after watching large amounts of TikTok videos featuring people with Tourette’s syndrome
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Teenage girls are developing nervous tics from watching too many TikTok videos featuring people with Tourette’s syndrome, experts claim.
Doctors in multiple countries, including the UK and US, have reported a rise in cases beginning at the start of the pandemic, according to several medical journal entries.
After months of study and consultation specialists found most of their patients were avid users of the social media platform, particularly of videos featuring people with the syndrome.
Tourette’s is a genetic nervous system disorder and can cause repetitive, involuntary movements or sounds, and usually emerges in childhood.
Donald Gilbert, a neurologist at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center, has seen around 10 new teens a month since March last year – almost 10 times the norm, reports The Wall Street Journal.
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Other major institutions have seen similar surges.
Doctors in the UK said videos containing #tourettes had around 1.25 billion views in January, but have since grown to 4.8 billion, according to a recent study.
Dr Kirsten Müller-Vahl said she had seen a major rise in young adult girls coming to see her at her practice in Hanover, Germany, after displaying such tics.
Having studied Tourette’s for 25 years, the doctor said they usually have unique tics but these patients all had the same ones, she told the Jerusalem Post.
She later learned they had the same tics as a German YouTuber who vlogs about the disorder.
One popular British Tiktoker often blurts out the word “beans” during videos.
Caroline Olvera – a movement-disorders fellow at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago – told the Journal many of her patients have the same “beans” tic, speaking in a British accent even if they don’t know English.
Experts note such patients don’t have Tourette’s but a functional movement disorder.
Many of the children to have developed tics have previously been diagnosed with anxiety or depression which worsened during the pandemic, they add.
Dr Gilbert said physical symptoms of psychological stress often manifest in ways familiar to the person – including non-epileptic seizures if a family member has epilepsy.
Mariam Hull, a child neurologist at Texas Children’s Hospital, found psychological disorders are able to spread globally due to social media.
In the past, such cases would be confined to a smaller geographical location, she explained during a recent paper.
She added that tics wouldn’t develop from just being exposed to one video but TikTok’s algorithm means users will see similar clips regularly being recommended to them.
“Some kids have pulled out their phones and showed me their TikTok, and it’s full of these Tourette cooking and alphabet challenges,” Ms Hull said.
Children are being encouraged to take a social media break with parents to ask them what types of videos they’re watching.
If they exhibit tics a specialist should be sought.
A TikTok spokesperson told WJS: “The safety and well-being of our community is our priority, and we’re consulting with industry experts to better understand this specific experience.”