They blink, make smirks with their lips, raise their eyebrows suddenly… Some children develop nervous tics: small compulsive movements exacerbated by stress or anger. At what age do they appear? When to consult? We take stock with psychologist Cécile Viénot.
Involuntary, sudden and repetitive movements, ticks can appear in some children around the age of 4-5 years and are often linked to a state of nervousness. They can, for example, blink their eyes, clear their throats, shrug their shoulders, shake their heads or repeat the actions and words of their interlocutor. If the tics are recurrent, unpredictable and amplified in case of stress, they diminish over time until generally disappear completely after a few weeks (this is called transient tics) or years (chronic tics). However, are some children more likely to develop nervous tics? How to recognize a tic? How to react and when to consult? Answers from Cecile Viénot, psychologist.
These children who have tics …
“Tics often appear in children who have a more anxious than normal temperament, who are more easily stressed and who need things to be more ritualized“Cécile Viénot immediately declares. Sometimes tics develop in children where one of the two parents is anxious or anxious in nature.”The child will then feel the anxiety of his parent and take it over“. And his tics, he can neither predict nor control them. At certain times, tics are nonexistent while at others, they are very frequent. The fact that tics are irregular and impulsive is entirely makes sense because “the child is not permanently stressede “. But how to recognize a tic? Unlike OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), tic is spontaneous, random, it is not a frozen gesture that is done at a specific time of the day and can change over time: the child can start with blink your eyes repeatedly, then, a few weeks later, lick the edges of your lips… OCD is “a routine that should never change: this can be, for example, turning the light on and off three times before sleeping, checking five times that the front door is closed, for example“Be careful, the tic, whether flagrant or not, should not be confused with Gilles de la Tourette syndrome:”these two mental disorders are not in the same clinical picture” : the Gilles de la Tourette syndrome is marked by the association of multiple tics, motors and especially vocal, which do not disappear after several months or even several years and which change nature regularly. Sometimes the child is affected in addition to coprolalia – he can not help saying dirty words or scatophiles – or copropraxia, the fact of making rude gestures.
How to explain the development of nervous tics?
“My 6 year old son keeps making faces with his eyes and his face. It becomes a habit he can’t seem to control. I’m afraid it’s a lasting tic. How to solve this problem ? Where can it come from ? Could it have something to do with being on your tablet often?“(Brahis donkeys)
First of all, tic reveals anxiety. It is often linked to a change in the child’s life or to a conflict he may have encountered at school or at home. The child has failed to express this stressful conflict in words, and will do so through spontaneous and repeated movements. Indeed, “the only way to get rid of your stress overflow will be to set up this kind of nervous and physical discharge“, confirms the specialist. In short, everything that the child cannot express in words, it will externalize it by its body language, here by movements which it reiterates indefinitely. The nervous tic therefore has a link with the anxiety-provoking atmosphere of the moment, when there are emotions heavy to cash in. On the other hand, tic is not going to be a reaction at a distance from an event experienced as a trauma (the loss of a loved one, the divorce of his parents, a move…) Finally, no study to date has shown a link between screens and nervous tics.
How to help him on a daily basis?
“Give the impression of being as detached as possible from your child’s tics”
“Do not raise your child’s tics and above all, do not ask him to stop“, advises the psychologist.”It’s tempting, but not only will it not be able to control them (the tics are controllable for a short time, at the cost of a big effort, but end up resurfacing involuntarily) and that would increase his internal distress and therefore his need to release tensions“, she justifies. Because talking about tic increases the frequency and intensity of tic, observe your child without making any comments to him. Favor dialogue, ask him how he feels at school, s ‘he has friends, ask his mistress … Then, don’t be dramatic and be patient : tics are mild behavioral disorders that naturally fade over time, when the child has managed to express his discomfort, when he has managed to digest a situation that stresses him, or even when he has taken sufficient distance from the “traumatic” event.
If the parents cannot identify the cause of the nervous tics and that these are more and more handicapping for the child, that they do not hesitate to ask the opinion of a psychologist. Often, “a few sessions are enough to help the child verbalize his emotions. Once the child has put words on his suffering and he will see that his parents understand it, his body will naturally have less need to express himself“, specifies Cécile Viénot. Finally, favor relaxing and artistic activities, such as painting, drawing or singing which can help her release her stress.