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Strategies for Coping with Tics & Compulsions in the Winter

This blog article, by RuthieP, was originally posted on New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome’s Teens4TS Blog and is republished here with kind permission. So I was hoping to put off having to implement my usual winter strategies for a little bit longer, but it’s really getting cold outside where I live, and my usual compulsion/tic combo that gets bad in the winter is on a rampage. Every year in the winter since I was 4 or 5 years old, I’ve have a lot of issues with my lips and with picking. Every winter is when my tics with my lips get really bad. Some of the things I do with my lips edge more toward the compulsion side of the spectrum, and some edge more toward the tic side of the spectrum. In the winter time, I bite skin off my lips, I lick my lips, I rub my hands against my lips, I rub my shirt sleeve against my lips, and I pick skin off my lips. I also pick on my skin on my ears more in the winter as well. I’m not exactly sure why this particular combo of tics and compulsions gets so bad in the winter time, but its probably a combination of the fact that it’s cold outside and I’m more stressed in the winter time because I have more homework and tests. So in the winter, I usually have to implement two important strategies to try keep my lips from constantly chapping and bleeding and to try keep the skin on my ears healthy. The first strategy is that I try to keep the Bert’s Bees chapstick with peppermint on my lips almost 24/7. Bert’s Bees chapstick with peppermint is actually the only chapstick that I am able to use, because all other chapsticks really bother my Sensory Processing Disorder and are just intolerable. The Bert’s Bees helps keep my lips moist, helps me keep my hands off my lips, and helps me keep from biting and licking my lips. Sometimes though the tic/compulsion is too strong for the Bert’s Bees to keep me from doing my lip tics/compulsions so that’s where strategy No. 2 comes in. Strategy No. 2 is to keep at least two rubber bands on my wrist at all times. When the urge to pick, bite, lick, or rub my lips is too strong, and I notice myself starting to do these things, I pull the rubber band on my wrist back and snap it against my skin. It doesn’t hurt too much, but over time it helps me associate the tic/compulsion with negative pain. Also the rubber bands on my wrist can help keep my hands busy if I fidget with the rubber bands. While this doesn’t completely stop the tics/compulsions associated with my lips and with picking my skin, it does help reduce them. In the past, though, these strategies haven’t been completely effective and many times during the winter i’ve given up with them and just stopped using them because of frustration that they don’t help as much as I’d hoped. So today is the first day this year that I’ve started to implement these strategies. Hopefully they will be more effective this year than they have been in the past. Wish me luck! And maybe if you have similar tics/compulsions to these that I just mentioned, you can try out these strategies and see if they help for you.


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