When someone talks about what causes TS, they’re usually referring to the underlying genetic factors that lead a person to be born with it. But when a person talks about what triggers a tic, that’s entirely different. They want to know the proximate or immediate cause of a tic.
So what does trigger tics? Do any patterns exist, or is it different for everyone? Well, to start with, it’s helpful to divide tic triggers into three categories: environment, ingested or dietary items, and mood/feelings.
When the Association for Comprehensive NeuroTherapy surveyed people about what triggered their tics, it’s no surprise that stress was the most common response. In addition to stress, anxiety, excitement (good or bad) and feeling sick or hungry are also known triggers or factors that can contribute to increased ticcing.
In terms of dietary or ingested items, common tic triggers include: caffeine, alcohol, sweets, sodas, artificial colours and flavours, certain foods like dairy, oranges, gluten, preservatives, monosodium glutamate, and dust and pollen.
For some (not everyone), ADHD medications can worsen tics. The Canadian Guidelines for the Evidence-based Treatment of Tourette Syndrome states that when people first start taking Ritalin or Methylphenidate or their dosage increases, their tics may worsen. It also states that worsening of tics may occur with doses of Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine or Dextrostat) that are higher than or equal to 25 mg per day.
Video games, light (flashing, bright or fluorescent), cell phone use, smoke or smoking, scented products, computer use, stadium or amusement park lights, watching TV or movies (especially in the dark) are also triggers for tics in some people.
What are your tic triggers? Do you know what they are? Do you ever record them? Have you ever tried to eliminate them? If so, did this reduce your tics? Please leave a comment below.
Artwork by Owen Moxam