What Is Chronic Motor Tic Disorder?
Chronic motor tic disorder is a
condition that involves brief, uncontrollable, spasm-like movements or vocal
outbursts, but not both. If both a physical tic and vocal outburst are present,
the condition is known as Tourette
Chronic motor tic disorder is more
common than Tourette syndrome, but less common than transient tic disorder. This
is a temporary and self-limited condition expressed by tics. Another type is
dystonic tics, which appear as abrupt bursts of movements followed by a sustained
Chronic motor tic disorder begins
before the age of 18, and typically resolves within four to six years.
Treatment can help lessen its effect on school or work life.
What Causes Chronic Motor Tic Disorder?
Doctors aren’t entirely sure what
causes motor tic disorder or why some children develop it earlier than others.
Some think chronic motor tic disorder may be the result of physical or chemical
abnormalities in the brain.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that
transmit signals throughout the brain. They may be misfiring or not communicating
correctly. This causes the same “message” to be sent over and over again. The
result is a physical tic.
Who Is at Risk for Chronic Motor Tic
Children with a family history of chronic
tics or twitches are more likely to develop chronic motor tic disorder. Boys
are more likely to have chronic motor tic disorder than girls are.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Chronic Motor
People with chronic motor tic disorder
may display the following symptoms:
- facial grimacing
- excessive blinking, twitching, jerking, or
- sudden, uncontrollable movements of the legs,
arms, or body
- sounds such as throat clearing, grunts, or
Some people have strange bodily
sensations before a tic occurs. They’re usually able to restrain their symptoms
for short periods of time, but this takes effort. Giving into a tic brings a
sense of relief.
Tics may be made worse by:
- excitement or stimulation
- fatigue or sleep deprivation
- extreme temperatures
Diagnosing Chronic Motor Tic Disorders
Tics are typically diagnosed during a
regular office appointment. Two of the following requirements must be met in
order for you or your child to receive a chronic motor tic disorder diagnosis:
- The tics must occur almost every day for more
than a year.
- The tics must be present without a tic-free
period of longer than three months.
- The tics must have started before the age of 18.
No test can diagnose the condition.
Treating a Chronic Motor Tic Disorder
The type of treatment you receive for
chronic motor tic disorder will depend on the severity of the condition and how
it affects your life.
Behavioral treatments can help a child
learn to restrain a tic for a short period of time. According to a 2010 study
published in the Journal of the American Medical Association,
a treatment approach called comprehensive behavioral intervention for tics
(CBIT) significantly improved symptoms in children. In CBIT, children with tics
are trained to recognize the urge to tic, and to use a replacement or competing
response instead of the tic.
Medication can help control or reduce tics.
Dopamine blockers are frequently used to control tics. They include:
Side effects can be serious and
include movement disorders and blunted thinking (e.g., sedation, confusion, or
Other Medical Treatments
Injections of botulinum
toxin (commonly known as “Botox” injections) can treat some dystonic tics.
Some people find relief with electrode implantations in the brain.
What Can Be Expected in the Long Term?
Children who develop chronic motor tic
disorder between ages 6 and 8 usually recover. Their symptoms typically stop without
treatment in four to six years.
Children who develop the condition
when they’re older and continue to experience symptoms in their 20s may not
outgrow the tic disorder. In those cases, it may become a lifelong condition.