What Types of Nervous Tics are There?

· 23rd February 2019
Nervous tics can seem amusing in the beginning, but they may also become an issue that interferes with daily life. Learn about the different types of nervous tics that exist.

Nervous tics are a common affliction that can affect anyone. In athletes, nervous tics are more likely to appear when their muscles tighten. Today we want to talk about some of the most common nervous tics so that you can identify them.

What are nervous tics?

A nervous tic is an involuntary contraction of a muscle or group of muscles. They are usually short, but sudden and repetitive. Although they are normally more common during childhood, nervous tics can affect many adults.

There are many types of tics that often disappear with time and some that can be controlled with concentration.

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Types of nervous tics

There are two types of nervous tics, such as motor and vocal. Within both groups there are simple and complex tics. Let’s see what they are about.

Motor tics

Within this type of nervous tic, you find the transitory tic which will only affect the person for a certain amount of time, before disappearing. In order to be recognized, it must repeat itself for at least one month but for less than twelve months.

It may be called a simple motor nervous tic. Usually, it’s the wink of an eye, head movements, or shoulder shrugging. A simple way of recognizing this type of tic is that generally, they affect the upper part of the body, head, neck or shoulders.

Among the motor tics, there is also the complex tic which can affect the whole body. It reacts with sudden, involuntary movements that will often embarrass and make a person feel awkward. These movements can be anything, from jumping, stamping the feet or even spinning oneself around. 

Simple vocal tics

Simple vocal tics usually affect vocal zones producing involuntary sounds such as clearing the throat, grunts, and snorts among others. They are difficult to control and normally disappear within a year.

However, you have to keep in mind that nervous tics usually affect children. This means that they have a better chance of disappearing with growth. On the other hand, in adults this is more difficult to achieve.

Nevertheless, simple vocal tics are among the easiest tics to control with some concentration, although only to a certain extent. There are treatments, however, and they do work.

Among vocal tics, there is a complex type in which a word is repeated. This may involve repeating a certain word or even obscene words. These are among the hardest type of nervous tics to treat.

Tourette syndrome

Tourette syndrome is easily explained as the combination of the two most common tics: vocal and motor. However, it’s considered a complex neurological disorder in which several different types of nervous tics combine.

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It’s unknown how many people suffer from Tourette syndrome, however, it’s the least common and the one that fewer people suffer from. The longer the tic or tics occur, (in Tourette Syndrome you may see several at a time), the illness becomes more serious and the odds of successful treatment are less.

This is why it’s important to seek treatment at the earliest indication.

Now, it’s very likely that you’ll easily recognize if you have a nervous tic. Remember, the speed at which you seek treatment will play a major role in recovery.

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  • Azrin, N. H., & Nunn, R. G. (1973). Habit-reversal: A Method of Eliminating Nervous Habits and Tics. Behaviour Research and Therapy. https://doi.org/10.1016/0005-7967(73)90119-8
  • Miltenberger, R. G., Fuqua, R. W., Woods, D. W. (1998). Applying Behavior Analysis to Clinical Problems: review and analysis of habit reversal. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. https://doi.org/10.1901/jaba.1998.31-447