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touching people

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  • touching people

    My 11 year old son Jacob has a habit that we just figured out may be a tic. He loves to whack his 8 year old sister on the butt. She used to think it was funny and would do it back to him. We thought it was a game, except that Jacob would always smell his hand after, which we laughed off as an ocd thing. Now, however, sister wants the game to stop and Jacob doesn't seem to be able to stop. I asked him if he thought this was a tic and he said maybe. Has anyone ever had a tic where they had to touch people? Should we look into tic reduction for this? I'm kind of afraid he'll try it on a classmate or something.

  • #2
    Re: touching people

    Should we look into tic reduction for this?
    I suspect you mean tic re-direction which involves trying to satisfy the urge for a particular tic by doing something else.

    There may be a fine line between trying to re-direct tics and feeling pressure to abandon a given tic.

    Tic re-direction comes from within, IMO and if the technique happens to work for that individual, then it's to their benefit. I don't believe everyone with Tourette can practice tic re-direction, and when one feels pressure, either from within or from others, the stress level increases, thereby decreasing any hope of tic suppression.

    Also the line between tics and OCD behaviour is sometimes blurry, so Jacob may benefit by discussing the butt whacks with his therapist who may want to explore the basis for the bahviour.
    TouretteLinks Forum


    • #3
      Re: touching people

      Hi Kristin

      People with TS have reported the need to touch others. Some may reach out to tap a shoulder or other body part just as others have reported the need to tap a wall or a door. Tic redirection is something that is often difficult for the younger kids because it takes a lot of self-management and awareness that the tic is about to present. I'm sure those who have success with this strategy would share it took a while to be able to manipulate their tics.

      I agree with Steve in that you may want to find out what the root cause or need is with this behavior. If it is the need to hit them it could be a motor tic but if the need is ultimately wanting to hit so he can smell his hand it could be something else such as a sensory issue.

      I have a need to smell everything before I eat or drink it or I can't eat or drink it. Tics are not usually due to cause and effect like a compulsion would be. EX a tic could be present and the person have no awareness they are doing it, where as I am very aware I have to smell everything or else I can't try it.

      I would share this concern with your doctor on your next visit but in the mean time you may want to start discussing it further with Jacob from the perspective of not being appropriate to touch others or even from a perspective or personal space. That has worked for my kids.

      Let me know how it goes.

      TSFC Homepage


      • #4
        Re: touching people

        My son who is 13 also has the need to touch people or squeeze them. For him it is OCD related.

        Most often he will touch people who are wearing soft sweaters as it is really the sweater he needs to touch not the person. I have also seen him touch bags that people are carrying if they are made of something soft like leather or suede.

        So far he has not been very successful at trying to stop this compulsion. ERP(Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy) has been tried however he is not yet ready for it so we had to abandon it for now. He is still too immature to realize the benefits he can gain from ERP. At this time he does not see the need to stop.

        He has been somewhat successful in trying to hide what he is doing by hugging instead of squeezing. He also rubs the dog and squeezes the dog a lot as well. We have a very understanding dog! :Big Grin:


        • #5
          Re: touching people

          Thanks everybody for your helpful (as usual) responses. I will definitely bring it up at our next psychologist appointment. So often it is hard to know if something is ocd or ts related. With Jacob, it looks like a tic, except that smelling the hand seems like an ocd thing, like he wants to make sure he didn't contaminate himself. Jacob has had some success with e.r.p. with some other ocd symptoms, but it is hard to keep it up long term. It is like it just becomes too much work for such a young person. I suspect that tic re-direction would be similar - kind of tough for this age, as you say, Steve.
          Anyway, it is good to know that others have seen this or experienced it. I'll let you know how it goes.


          • #6
            Re: touching people

            I have always had this "thing" where I have to lightly blow into my cup before I pour liquid in it. Almost like Im trying to "clean" it that way. (Same with straws).
            Now, I never really determined if it was OCD or TS cause I gigured it wasnt hurting myself or others. But I have noticed that even though I have that idea that Im cleaning the cup from blowing into it, I dont need to do it or I go nutz. I have many times noticed I didnt do it and was able to just move on.

            I was curious to think that maybe a way of deciding between TS and OCD is the mentality behind the action. Now, we all know we cant hold in out tics forever, but imagine if for some reason the urg for that specific twitch were to "magically" go away for that one moment, I would guess we would all sorta "move on" until the next tic comes by. Where as with OCD, it seems like the urge to do that certain action CANNOT just go away. It will bug you until you do the action, maybe even several times over.

            Now, I know TS has many mental tics to go with it, but am I wrong to think that TS tics are more drivin from the urge to satisfy that physical feeling where OCD "tics" are more to satisfy that mental urge? Sometimes I look at it as TS gets annoying to do over and over, but my OCD, well, I just have to do it. Its not annoying because I HAVE TO do it.

            Anyways, I guess my point is, does this sound like anything, or am I just rambling?????.........once again.........
            The other day at a local grocery store, I saw a rack with books on it and one of them said, "pregancy for dummies"............


            • #7
              Re: touching people

              Wow, as someone without TS and just a little OCD, this is way beyond my understanding, Adam. I read this article from an American TS website that looked at whether to treat TS and OCD as one entity or 2 separate entities. Its simplified explanation of the difference is that tics stem from a physical sensation and compulsions stem from anxiety (obsession). In watching my son, I have been using that definition to help me to tell the difference, but I'm sure it is a lot more complex than that. Did you ever try tic re-direction when you were a kid? Are TS actions annoying because they hurt or are uncomfortable, or is it something else?


              • #8
                Re: touching people


                When I was a kid, I hadnt really heard of tic-redirection before and I honestly never thought about it on my own. I dont know when I actually began trying it, but I know I was at an age where I understand myself and my tics more. I think that is a big part of it. Also part of tic-redirection, is the idea (I think I brought up this idea a long long time ago somewhere on here) that with alot of TS tics, its not always the actual movement or twitch that is "needed". Alot of times, the urge is actually to stimulate or move (or even hurt) a certain part of your body, and your body twitches because it thinks thats the best way to stimulate that part of you. I have done a version of tic-redirection where I still stimulate the same part of me, but I changed the tic entirely. (ex. I used to quickly extend my arm out and up to the point of pain, but realized that if I just shrug my shoulder(s), I can satisfy the same urge with less apin.)
                But to actually change one tic to another does take alot of "self control" and awareness.

                As for my TS tics getting annoying. Thats merely due to sometimes its hard to do the "basics" of life from them. I have a hard time typing sometimes cause I have a head/neck twitch that doesnt allow me to constantly look at the screen or keyboard. That same twitch makes it hard to focus on....anything really. But its not always bad either, I would say most of the time I have it "under control" (whatever that means, lol) But just sometimes its like I can get mad at myself because I just wanna preform a simple task but maybe Im super stressed out so Im twitching alot and it makes everything hard. (this is also where I personally think 90% of the "rage" TS people get comes from, but thats my opinion and a different topic)
                I also can get annoyed by it because I still have some small self concious issues with TS. I have told my friends/family about this, how when Im in public and I tic, I feel like everyone can see me and is watching and thinking "whats wrong with him". It doesnt happen all the time and my friends/family say that no one really is looking and if they are and are thinking Im weird, "forget them" (they actually use a different word but I cant say it here, lol). But Ive gotten alot better with this.
                The other day at a local grocery store, I saw a rack with books on it and one of them said, "pregancy for dummies"............


                • #9
                  Re: touching people

                  Thanks Adam. I think Jacob finds that stuff annoying too, like if he is trying to play a computer game he has to stop it to have a tic. Over the past couple of days I haven't noticed the butt-whacking. Maybe it has mysteriously disappeared. Actually, there is less ticcing overall - maybe because school is out for summer? I did discuss the inappropriateness of touching his sister's butt with Jacob and advised that he try really hard not to do it. If this is the reason I haven't seen the tic in a few days, maybe it wasn't a tic after all!
                  Last edited by kristin; July 7, 2007, 10:52 PM.


                  • #10
                    Re: touching people

                    Originally posted by Adam View Post

                    I also can get annoyed by it because I still have some small self concious issues with TS. I have told my friends/family about this, how when Im in public and I tic, I feel like everyone can see me and is watching and thinking "whats wrong with him". It doesnt happen all the time and my friends/family say that no one really is looking
                    I agree with your friends and family Adam. My son has the most tics when he is waiting for something to happen. Waiting for food in restaurants and for shows to start in theatres is probably the time he tics the loudest.

                    My son and husband get embarrassed and anxious about this which only increases them. I am not embarrassed but I have often wondered what the others are thinking.

                    A few weeks ago we went out for dinner and it just happened that a family we knew was sitting at a table fairly close to us. As usual my son was ticcing quite loudly. Since we knew them I went over and asked them if my son's tics were noticeable to them. Their son has TS as well so they know what tics are and they did not even hear or notice him. Even after I had made them aware they still didn't hear him at their table.

                    I think everyone is always more self concious than they need to be.


                    • #11
                      Re: touching people

                      Yea, I am getting better at the idea, but Im not quite where I want to be on the "self concious" issue. The funny thing is, sometimes I will tic and I have this mentality of, "I dont care who sees!". It seems to be on my mood. I think.
                      The other day at a local grocery store, I saw a rack with books on it and one of them said, "pregancy for dummies"............


                      • #12
                        Re: touching people

                        Hi Kristin -

                        I'm 28 with TS and also have an 'urge' to touch, hit, etc. certain people. It's never a stranger or someone I am not completely comfortable with. This is probably why your son chooses your daughter to do it to. I know for me, it was first my husband, then sister, and now at times my parents. That is the order in which I became more comfortable with my TS - and it's only those people I 'touch'. I can 're-direct' these tics if I really need to but the satisfaction is just not the same as when I follow through with the initial tic. My sister has recently expressed that it hurts her feelings (she's younger than me but still an adult) when I hit her so I refrain. When I try to refrain I usually have a vocal tic saying that I want to do the particular touching tic. Example: "I want to kick your foot, I want to kick your foot - I'm going to kick you in the foot...." and so on. At least this way it gives the recipient ample notice to get out of the way! HA!

                        Good luck with your son. Re-direction is really the only thing that helps me. Maybe your husband could lend his arm for your son to hit instead of his sister. That way he still gets the satisfaction but it doesn't hurt anyone.



                        • #13
                          Re: touching people

                          Thanks for the insight, Kelly. Jacob has actually stopped doing the butt whacking, maybe because it is summer and there is less stress. What you said about the vocal tic has made me think that maybe a lot of Jacob's little "ramblings" are vocal tics. Very interesting.


                          • #14
                            Re: touching people


                            My 11 year old son likes to touch his 16 year old brother's leg. It drives his brother crazy. He also likes to lean on me and his 13 year old sister. Then he likes to almost 'pet' us; running his hand over our head, down our arm, etc.. His sister just kind of puts up with it. I will let him do it if it is giving him comfort but if we are in a situation where it appears to disturb other people I will try to re-direct him. I tell him that his brain is telling him to do it so he needs to tell his brain to do something else. It is so simplistic that it works. I began this re-direction when he would obsess over some 'injury' that he had and couldn't move to another thought. I told him that his brain was stuck on that thought and he needed to think of something else. I don't know what people think but... it works and it doesn't upset him.



                            • #15
                              Re: touching people

                              Redirecting is a good strategy Jenny. Figuring out a way to put it into simple terms that your child could work with is awesome!

                              Kudos to you for finding something that works so well for your situation.