The Canadian Movement Disorder Group
Tics / Tourette's / Stereotypies


    A "Tic" is a stereotypic, repetitive movement, often in the past refereed to as a "habit spasm". Tics occur in a variety of conditions, most of which fall in a spectrum between a simple tic disorder, and Tourette's Syndrome.

    In adults and some children, a clear history of a urge preceding the movement, and relief after the movement can be obtained. Also the movements can be suppressed (at the expense of inner stress or increasing discomfort) for variable lengths of time. It is not unusual for children to inhibit or suppress the movements at school and then once home the tics "come out" in dramatic frequency. Although the movements can be suppressed they can't be stopped. It typically worsens the comfort of an individual if they are asked or forced into trying to stop them.

    Simple Tic

    Only a single body part is involved. These include eye blinks, shoulder shrugs, cheek twitches.

    Complex Tics

    These consist of tics involving a complex movement or series of movements often involving  more than one muscle group. One example would be jumping in the air and spinning around in the air.

    Chronic Tic Disorder

    By definition these last more than 6 months.

    Multifocal Tic Disorder

    Multiple simple and/or complex tics

    Simple Vocal Tics

    Brief noises including sniffing, grunting, throat clearing, coughing etc.

    Complex Vocal Tics

    These include more complex noises in the form of words (profanities), or phrases intruding into normal speech.


    The repetition of what is heard 


    The tendency to repeat phrases

    Tourette's Syndrome

    This by definition is a chronic multi-focal tic disorder, with vocalizations lasting 12 months or more.

    This most commonly starts at around age 6-10, progresses to often be most severe during puberty, and then stabilizes into adulthood. Exceptions to this typical pattern do occur and some cases begin in adulthood.

    Tourette's syndrome is frequently associated with obsessive-compulsive traits. At times this feature can be more problematic than the movements. Obsessive behavior can include a  variety of habits, rituals, or patterns of behavior. Some examples include repeatedly checking if a locked door is locked, having to have things arranged in a specific order or pattern, having  to spend an excess of time at a task to ensure it is perfect, as anything less can create stress or anxiety.


    This is a genetic (inherited) illness. It is autosomal dominant (1/2 of children of an affected parent will inherit the tendency) with variable penetrence (not all who get the gene get Tourette's).


    There is no cure. Treatment is not always needed if the movements are mild, and not socially distressing. If treatment is required the following medications are most often used. Surgical treatment in the form of Deep Brain Stimulator implantation remains an investigational treatment and should only be done in very experienced centers.

    To Control Movements

    Clonidine, Tetrabenazine, Clonazepam, Olanzepine, Risperidone, Valproic acid, and rarely and only if severe Pimozide and a variety of neuroleptics, and haloperidol

    To control Obsessive traits

    Chlormipramine, fluoxetine, and other Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).

Wesite resources on Tourette's Syndrome

Tourette's Syndrome

Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada

Tourette Syndrome Association

Tourette Syndrome "Plus"

Tourette's Syndrome Fact Sheet from NIH

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