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Does anyone else find other people's tics "contagious"?

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  • Does anyone else find other people's tics "contagious"?

    Hi everyone,

    I am TS/ADD/OCD, and my 9 year old son is TS/ADHD. We sometimes find ourselves "catching" each other's tics. We laugh about it regularly, but it is definitely very frustrating at times.

    If I see him doing something, I have to try it out, and then it becomes part of my repertiore. Ugh! He says the same thing happens to him. We have kind of a deal that we don't talk about our particular tics unless we have to, in order to save each other as much grief as possible.

    Lately, I've been having a very irritating and distressing breathing tic where I have to breathe in and get that "feeling" of catching my breath...like the feeling you get when you yawn...and of course it leads to gasping and hyperventilating, which makes it all worse.

    I always share my frustrations about my tics with my husband, but I've made him promise not to mention this breathing one out loud in front of my son because I know as soon as he starts to consciously examine his breathing, he'll start doing it too.

    I also notice that we share *a lot* of the same tics. I sometimes wonder if particular tics are genetic along with TS in general....or if we subconsciously copy each other. Many of his tics are the same as my "lifelong" tics - the ones that have been with me since childhood.

    The last thought I'll share is that I have a hard time reading about other people's tics in forums like these because I end up trying them out. My tics are *always* worse when I'm reading a TS board, or article, or anything. Understandable, but funny. Grrrrr. I love you all, but I don't want your tics.

    Anyone else notice these things??

    -Christine

  • #2
    Re: Does anyone else find other people's tics "contagious"?

    It would be interesting to hear the input of others on this question.

    My opinion is that tics are generated from within and are not learned behaviour.

    Over the years I have met others with Tourette and though I found myself sometimes trying out their tic, it never became one of my own.

    However my tics have changed and evelved over the years while some have been part of my repertoire ever since childhood.

    It's a good question and I'm eager to hear from others.

    Thanks Christine!
    Steve
    TouretteLinks Forum

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    • #3
      Re: Does anyone else find other people's tics "contagious"?

      When I was in the second grade, I heard a story about another kid whose [DEF]achilles tendon[/DEF](back of ankle) had been severed. I had never really thought about it much, but soon the thought of the same thing happening to me was horrifying. My tics began to make me start kicking the tendon with the other foot, trying to break it. Of course, it's a very strong tendon, and it would be almost impossible for me to have actually succeeded but it didn't stop me from trying. That tic lasted a couple of months then went away never to come back again. :Big Grin:
      Last edited by Steve; March 16, 2007, 07:31 PM. Reason: spell/def

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      • #4
        Re: Does anyone else find other people's tics "contagious"?

        Kablu,

        soon the thought of the same thing happening to me was horrifying. My tics began to make me start kicking the tendon with the other foot, trying to break it.
        I am not a Psychologist and I stand to be corrected, but what you describe sounds more like a compulsion, behaviour associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder ([DEF]OCD[/DEF]).

        Of course we know that compulsive behaviour can be associated with Tourette and the distinction between tics and compulsions is sometimes difficult to tell apart except by a medical specialist.

        Some examples of compulsive behaviour I have heard from people with Tourette are placing one's foot on a train track as a train approaches, and this particularly dangerous one...licking the mouthpiece of a public telephone.
        Steve
        TouretteLinks Forum

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Does anyone else find other people's tics "contagious"?

          I have always said that tics are contagious, but agree with Steve that they generally don't stick around. At each annual conference, I know that I am going to tic more than normal being around other ticcers...and being in such a comfortable welcoming environment. If you can't tic at a TS conference, where can you tic?

          Anyways, I do pick up other peoples tics to "try them out for size" but after a couple of days of returning from the conference, I am back to my regular tics. Which as Steve said, some change and evolve over time.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Does anyone else find other people's tics "contagious"?

            This is quite common at national conferences that we adopt the tics of others. From what has been shared by many who have experienced this, within 2-3 weeks things settle and the newly adopted tics disappear. The interesting thing is that regardless of how severe or mild your TS is, this happens to most of us so it is obviously involuntary and not a conscious decision to try the tic someone else displays... but as Tall Ticer said we really do "try them on for size" unconsciously
            Janet

            TSFC Homepage

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Does anyone else find other people's tics "contagious"?

              Hello Christine!

              Greetings from Nova Scotia. I have always shared your curiosity over whether or not certain tics may have a genetic connection. My 9yo son was diagnosed ts+ when he was 4, but any time I've brought up the possibility that I have tics of my own, his doctors always blew me off. Ever since I was small, I have twirled my hair & chewed my lip. Other tics have come & gone over the years, but these two have stuck with me for over 30 years. My son rarely twirls his hair (it's too short usually), but my sister has had the same two "habits" off & on for many years as well! (she's pretty normal otherwise)
              Go figure! Maybe there's a thesis in here somewhere...Anyone?

              Arlene

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Does anyone else find other people's tics "contagious"?

                Arlene,

                Welcome to the TSFC Forum! We're always happy to hear from folks from Nova Scotia. At present there is no TSFC Chapter in Nova Scotia, which is why we constantly hope for a group to be formed in your Province.

                any time I've brought up the possibility that I have tics of my own, his doctors always blew me off.
                Do you feel this response from the doctors is because of unfamiliarity with Tourette? One of the frustrations we see is the surprising lack of clinical interest among many physicians in the disorder and base their diagnosis on inaccurate or dated information.

                I don't know of data to support a genetic pattern of tics, but there may be. It's a subject worthy of some research.

                Perhaps others have some comment.

                Thanks for joining us and we hope you find the Forum helpful.

                Steve
                TouretteLinks Forum

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                • #9
                  Re: Does anyone else find other people's tics "contagious"?

                  Arlene:

                  Welcome to the forum!
                  PJK

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Does anyone else find other people's tics "contagious"?

                    Welcome to the forum Arlene!

                    You bring up a common issue. Many people who are now adults are self-diagnosed. It continually boggles my mind that entire generations of people grew up with TS and no one ever thought to say: hey maybe we should investigate why little Johnny is having constant and continual difficulties that others do not seem to have instead of punishing him repeatedly for the same "mistakes".

                    My husband struggled for years with family, peers, school and repeated appointments with doctors including a neurologist. Only now that my son is diagnosed have we come to the conclusion that he likely has TS himself.

                    I noticed my husband's tics the moment I met him but I never said a word about them for many years. I just thought it was something he did and it was no big deal to me.

                    Over the last couple of years his TS has gotten a bit worse and he decided to seek out a diagnosis. He was immediately told by the first doctor he saw that he COULD NOT have TS because he was an adult and TS was a childhood issue.

                    Just goes to show you how far we still need to go with education and advocacy.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Does anyone else find other people's tics "contagious"?

                      I believe what steve has said the tics come from within, but there is this symptom of tourette's where we copy others I think that is whats happening to and your son.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Does anyone else find other people's tics "contagious"?

                        The last thought I'll share is that I have a hard time reading about other people's tics in forums like these because I end up trying them out. My tics are *always* worse when I'm reading a TS board, or article, or anything.
                        This is true for me as well. As soon as I sign into the forum my face starts to dance! I catch myslef all the time when online or reading material about TS etc.
                        Janet

                        TSFC Homepage

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Does anyone else find other people's tics "contagious"?

                          Hi Arlene

                          I am glad you discovered us here on the forum. In the absence of a support group or chapter in your area we have found this to be the next best thing.

                          Have you made contact with the contact representative in your area?

                          I hope you make this a regular place to visit.
                          Janet

                          TSFC Homepage

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Does anyone else find other people's tics "contagious"?

                            My son went to a camp for kids with Tourette's. After one week everyone in the bunk had the same vocal tic which involved shouting out the same 3 words. It took about a month to go away. I was told that these type of tics are called transient tics.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Does anyone else find other people's tics "contagious"?

                              Originally posted by folk
                              After one week everyone in the bunk had the same vocal tic....It took about a month to go away
                              Neuroscientists tell us that this phenomenon occurs not only in people with Tourette but also in neurotypicals as well.

                              It's the action of "mirror neurons" in the brain.

                              Mirror neurons are our brain cells that cause us to yawn when we see someone else yawn, and to feel the pain when we see someone struck by an errant frisbee.

                              Mirror neurons in a Tourette brain will sometimes imitate or "mirror" the tics of others, and the part of the brain that is dysfunctional in a Tourette brain, in the basal ganglia that allows the involuntary release of movement resulting in tics, fails to inhibit the repeated expression of mirrored tic.

                              The reason it doesn't persist goes to our understanding of Tourette tics, in that each of our individual tics is generated within our own brain, and that tics are not learned.
                              Steve
                              TouretteLinks Forum

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