Nervous Tics & Blinking in Children

When your child blinks excessively for no apparent reason, she may be experiencing a nervous tic. If you find your child is displaying erratic movements or voicing inappropriate garble, have her evaluated for a tic disorder, because early intervention can help her thrive despite unwanted behavior.

Description

The Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders reports a presence of abrupt, repetitive involuntary movements and sounds indicates a tic disorder. Tics are temporary, rapid, purposeless, repetitive, and in most children, resolve without therapy. If tics continue over time, they may become severe and complicated. Blinking, facial grimacing, head jerks or shoulder shrugs are examples of tics that your child may exhibit, and these movements usually last less than one second.

Tourettes Syndrome

According to Merck, the most common tic disorder is Tourette's syndrome, which is linked to heredity, and typically begins in early childhood. This syndrome affects as many as one out of 100 births and is three times more prominent in men than women. Most afflicted people have such mild symptoms that the disorder goes undiagnosed. Seventy-five percent of Tourette's syndrome patients present with symptoms by 11 years old. This disorder is diagnosed when tics last for at least one year, and it begins with blinking, grimacing, head jerking, hitting or kicking movements as well as vocal outbursts. Many children with this disorder do not take medication, but drugs such as clonidine , mild sedatives, anti-psychotics or botulinum toxin may be used as therapy for Tourette's syndrome.

Causes

Children appear to have both functional and structural abnormalities in their brains when they have tic disorders. The exact cause for these disorders is unknown, but according to Merck, research shows that chemical messengers called neurotransmitters are abnormal and contribute to the tics. A child experiencing tics will often have changes in the area of his brain in charge of movement--the basal ganglia--and the part of his brain responsible for regulating blood pressure, heart rate, reward anticipation, decision-making, empathy and emotion--anterior cingulate cortex.

Treatment

The Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders promotes children with tic disorders receive treatment for psychological, physical, social and mental issues associated with the disorder. Treatment includes educating the patient and family about the disorder and performing diagnostic testing. A comprehensive assessment of your child's perception, motor skills, behavior and adaptive functioning will be performed to determine whether he needs behavioral or cognitive therapy. Your child's physician will determine if medication is needed based on all of the therapies and testing performed.

Considerations

According to The Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, children of all races, ethnic and socioeconomic groups are susceptible to tic disorders, but these disorders occur more frequently in Caucasian children than African-American children. Anxiety, stress, boredom, fatigue and excitement are known to trigger motor and vocal tics. Tics may also intensify from premenstrual syndrome, food additives and stimulants. Encouraging your child to relax, play sports and concentrate on tasks she enjoys, may reduce the severity and frequency of her tics.

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