Anyone with Tourettes can tell you that tics come in waves. Sometimes they’re better, and sometimes they’re worse. If one pays enough attention, however, it’s possible to start noticing events or stimuli in the environment that make tics worse. No two people with Tourettes will respond exactly the same way to the exact same stimuli. Still, from what I’ve seen and heard, people with tics often have shared responses to this or that stimulus. I’ve decided to list mine, and I’d love to hear at the end of this blog if you or someone you love also has worsening tics from these factors.
6 Factors that Make My Tics Worse
Honestly, this is probably the most common of the “tic aggravators.” According to the Center of Disease Control article, “Tourette Syndrome (TS): Other Concerns and Conditions,” 49% of children with Tourettes also have anxiety struggles. Worry Wise Kids says in its article, “Taking Charge of Tics and Tourette’s,” that “stress…can exacerbate tics.” TSA-USA.org’s article, “Understanding Behavioral Symptoms in Tourette Syndrome,” says, “However, TS symptoms…change periodically, wax and wane and are increased by stress.”
I’ve actually learned that I can use my tic levels to assess my anxiety levels. My tics generally jump when I’m about to have an anxiety attack. Even when I’m not yet to that point, I’ll take a rise in tics as a sign that I need to lower my stress load. I also have tics that aren’t present all the time. There are a few that surface only when I’m really, really stressed.
Interesting Note: I recently experienced a huge jump in tics. It was bad enough that I was blinking so much it was nearly distracting to drive. I’d had a stressful week in the week prior, and I mentioned my tics to my mom. She told me that apparently, this isn’t new for me. She reminded me that I’ve often had delayed tic jumps, rises in tics that often happen after a really stressful event or time period.
2. Not Enough Exercise
As I’m currently 6 1/2 weeks postpartum, I’m finally getting back into a normal exercise routine. No, I’m not killing it at the gym, but I am getting about 20-25 minutes on my stationary bike, as well as 10+ minutes of basic arm exercises and physical therapy exercises about 4-5 times a week. It was really difficult earlier when I really needed to blow off some stress, but I hadn’t healed enough to do much exercise. I could really tell that my tics were worse. The blinking had increased, along with the squeaks, funny breathing, head shaking, and muscle tensing.
I’ve written before about how exercise can help relieve tics. This also goes along with the fact that exercise helps relieve anxiety by creating natural neurochemicals that lower anxiety, which in turn, lower more tics. Livestrong says in its article, “Does Exercise Affect the Severity & Frequency of Tics in a Person With Tourette’s Syndrome?“, “Physical activity can be a way for you to control or reduce your tics. Activity provides another outlet for your mind to concentrate on and it also relaxes your body. Both of these mechanisms may reduce the severity and frequency of your tics.”
3. A Questionable Diet
I have no hardcore scientific proof for this, just my own personal experience. Fried food makes me feel like crap. There are no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. It raises my anxiety and my tics. I’m not sure how much one has to do with the other (Are the tics raised because of the anxiety, or alongside it?), but either way, I feel horrid after I eat fried food. Even a half serving of french fries makes me feel bad.
My personal theory is that our brains only run as well as the fuel we give them. There are lots of foods that naturally reduce anxiety by producing more of those awesome neurochemicals, such as whole grains, fish, and foods high in protein. There are also lots of foods to avoid, such as caffeine (I discuss here how anxiety can makes Tourettes way worse), sugary candy, and fried foods. The way I see it, why not do what’s best for your body overall and just avoid these foods in general? Keeping a healthy diet sure can’t make your tics any worse.
There are a number of people who report that food allergies can cause tics. I honestly don’t know much about that, so until I research it a bit more, I’ll let you do the Googling. What I’m talking about here are the annoying types of allergies that make your eyes watery, your nose run, and cause those infernal sneezes. (I honestly get mad when I sneeze. It just drives me up the wall.)
Some of my earliest tics started when I had really bad allergies. It’s like my body got into a habit of going through the motions, but never got the memo to stop. I was about 7 when my throat clearing began. I distinctly remember having a bad bout of nose and throat allergies right before that particular tic showed up. What tipped my mom off to something being afoot was when the rest of my seasonal allergies went away, but the throat clearing continued. And went. And went. And went.
I’ve written before about how it’s sometimes possible to trick your Tourettes into accepting tics you would prefer to do over less desirable ones. I think allergies work this way, except you don’t really get to choose the allergy symptoms. They just take you along for the ride.
I’ve noticed that injuries that draw more attention to certain parts of the body can create tics I’ve never had before. For the most part, my tics are pretty unnoticeable to the trained eye. They’re tics that I can feel, but they’re not really big or loud, for the most part. That’s why it shocked me when, after a neck injury, I realized I had the sudden urge to jerk my head. To be honest, it scared me a bit. I’d never had that tic, and I really didn’t want it, considering my past history with neck injuries due to a car accident.
I’m really not sure why injuries have the power to create new tics that weren’t there before. My only guess is that I’m unconsciously moving in new ways to work around the injury, and that provides ample focus for my mind to make up tics I’d never thought of before without my permission.
6. Watching Other People Tic
I feel like a jerk sometimes, but I can’t watch those Youtube videos people post where they explain Tourettes to the world. I mean, kudos to them for being so brave and trying to break stereotypes! I can’t watch them, however, because they make me want to start ticcing, and the last thing I need is to “catch” new tics.
I can’t remember what show I saw it on (and I apologize for that), but I watched part of a documentary once, where they showed children at a summer camp for kiddos with Tourettes. They said it was amazing to watch tics “jump” from child to child. Children would pick up new tics just by watching one another. I’m not sure what causes this, but I can tell you there’s definitely something to it.
What Make You Tic?
Tics are funny things. They come and go as they please, and you don’t always have a say in it. Some people, such as myself, can manage Tourettes by watching out for factors like these; other people have to use medicine to manage the symptoms. What’s really important is knowing what you need. Although Tourette Syndrome is one disorder, everyone with the disorder manifests it in different ways. Being vigilant is the key, and taking care of and listening to your body will take you far.
What makes you tic? Did you have something that made your tics skyrocket? I’d love to hear your comments and questions, so please post them in the Comment Box below. Also, don’t forget that if you sign up for my weekly newsletter, you’ll get extra resources on neurological disorders, as well as a gift in thanks for signing up. Thanks for reading!