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Tics in Children: Organic and Psychogenic Causes and Prevention Strategies

  • Post category:Disorders
  • Reading time:10 mins read

Tics are fast and sudden, forced twitches or movements, most often mimic muscles, then head and shoulder muscles, less often arms and legs. Such twitches are automatically repeated at greater or lesser intervals, but without a certain rhythm, always in the same part of the body and in the same form ”(Glavan).

Organic Causes of Tics

In some cases, tics are the result of an organic disease of the nervous system. They can, for example, lag behind after overcoming encephalitis or inflammation of peripheral nerves. Tick ​​is sometimes preceded by an organic disease in which tick occurs as an accompanying functional phenomenon.

Biological Meaning of Tics

Then it has some biological meaning, e.g., it serves as a defensive reflex. It is known that in some everyday illnesses, such as eyelid inflammation or uncorrected myopia, the child begins to squeeze the eyelids and blink. These phenomena are functionally understandable as long as the organic disease lasts, because they represent an attempt to compensate for the defect, ie an attempt by the organism to get rid of the unpleasant stimulus.

Psychogenic Nature of Tics

In most cases, tics occur without a previous organic disease, so they are psychogenic in nature from the beginning. Involuntary movements in chorea, a rheumatic brain disease in children, should be distinguished from them. In chorea, larger muscle groups twitch, all over the body, entire limbs, and not in such a stereotypical way as in tics.

Prevalence of Tics

Tics occur in older children, rarely before the age of five, and usually disappear spontaneously during puberty. Boys are more likely to get tics than girls. In our material, there were male children with tics 13.7% and female only 6.5%.

Factors Contributing to the Development of Tics

One way tics occur: parents or other people around the child show too much concern about tics as a side effect of a disease. Then they constantly warn the child of his blinking or some other reflexive movement, warn him to give up these “habits”, nag him with constant objections, possibly punish him or in any way constantly draw his attention to his flaw.

Parental Nagging as a Cause of Tics

Then the harmless side effect of an organic disease, which would sooner or later be lost along with the cessation of that disease, is suddenly fixed in a constant automatism: it develops tic. The nagging of the environment, its constant drawing of the child’s attention to this functional phenomenon has led the child to pay great attention to his twitches and cramps, to start constantly dealing with them and straining the will to prevent them.

But any conscious interference with automated processes will most certainly disrupt or aggravate those processes, and it will in no way fix them. The more the child consciously strains to get rid of the tic, the more likely the tic is to intensify.

Symptom of Mental Shock

Sometimes it is just a symptom of the mental shock that the child has experienced. If he felt shaken in his security, if fear and a sense of uncertainty appeared in him, there is a possibility that his inner restlessness would manifest itself in the form of a tic.

This tic motif is usually encountered in unsettled family circumstances, where the child attends severe conflicts between his parents, the incidents of an alcoholic father, or experiences other psychological traumas.

Spoiling as a Cause of Tics

And cuddling a child can be the cause of tics. In the case of a spoiled child, it can occur at a time when we burden him with demands that exceed the too modest ability of the mother’s pet to cope independently in life.

Such a stumbling block to which a spoiled child sometimes reacts with a tick is going to school, then the birth of a younger brother, or a sudden change in the upbringing regime, ie the transition to an authoritative procedure.

Examples of Emotional Conflicts that Can Cause Tics

Very different emotional conflicts in the child’s psyche, which can cause tics, will be shown by some of our cases.

Case 1: Liam

6-year-old Liam developed eyelid and nose tics when he returned from the hospital, where he stayed for three weeks due to dysentery. The child returned home with a changed, very ambivalent attitude towards his parents: he longed for them, but at the same time he was afraid that they would reject him by sending him to the hospital, he wanted their love, but at the same time he doubted it. The tics were an expression of that inner dichotomy. That severe psychic tension is indeed manifested in them is best proved by the fact that fear is associated with tics.

Case 2: Ava

Ava is 5 years old. He is a very spoiled and lonely child. She lives with 4 adult educators, with her parents, grandparents, who do not let her among other children. The girl is completely independent, and at the same time very egocentric, arbitrary and inflexible. Her parents have been fed up with her capriciousness lately, so they started beating her. Then Ava became defiant, and with that he appeared right next to her head and shoulders. It is an expression of Ava’s dissatisfaction with the new educational regime, but also a means of pressuring her parents to give up their violent actions.

Case 3: Oliver

6-year-old Oliver is also a spoiled child, and he is also intellectually less developed. Still wet in bed, he is disobedient, he gets a fit of rage when he is not satisfied with something. His father began to punish him severely for all this, forcing the boy to kneel and staring unblinkingly at the lighted light bulb. Then the boy got a close eyelid.

Case 5: James

James, 8, lives in the shadow of “his one-year-younger sister. She is livelier, clearer and more enterprising than him. That’s why everyone – both parents and teachers and kindergarten teachers – love her more than him. She quickly affirms herself everywhere, achieves praise and good grades in school, and James remains unnoticed and underestimated. The boy is passive towards his more successful sister, he does not compete with her, but he is bitten by envy. He seeks his affirmation in increasing independence, in employing the environment with his sensitivity, timidity and tics of the head and shoulders.

Case 6: Emma

Emma is 9 years old. He lives with his parents who divorced but stayed in the same apartment. Both father and mother fight for the child; they both fight for his affection by denigrating each other in front of the girl, insulting each other and settling for blows with the most vulgar expressions. Exposed to constant emotional turmoil, Emma suffers from night terrors, occasional nausea and tics.

Case 7: William

William is a bright and hard-working boy, but he lags behind in physical development. He is short and weak. He turned 12 years old. His companions began to grow rapidly, and some showed the first signs of puberty. William doesn’t have that, he is still a complete child, and his physical underdevelopment is now even more striking. This school year, the boy – so far a great duck – began to neglect learning, and with that he appeared right next to his head and eyelids. Obviously, it is the last moment for his educators to understand how much it takes to encourage William in order to find compensation for his physical inferiority in various activities that will bring him success.

These few examples show that there are no specific causes. It can occur when a child finds himself in a state of emotional tension, if he is in some way disposed to react to it with neurotic motor disorders. Kanner says spoiled, hypersensitive, irritable and ambitious children are particularly prone to tics.

Our cases confirm Kanner’s view that children suffering from psychogenic tics are mostly spoiled. In those few cases where we did not find significant errors in the educator’s procedure, tics – mostly blinking – were left behind after conjunctivitis.

Preventing Tics

In order to prevent tics, it is important not to pay attention to the symptom. The child should not be warned of the tic, should not be scolded or required to control his movements and not allow involuntary muscle twitches. If it has just caused an organic disease, it should be cured as soon as possible.

If the symptom of cd is of the beginning of psychogenic origin, it is necessary to look for the cause in the emotional life of the child, i.e. in the attitude of the environment towards him. When the negativities in the child’s life experiences are removed, and he calms down mentally, the tick will disappear. This requires professional counseling from his educators and psychotherapy.