Types of tics related to Tourette's disorder

Vocal and motor tics can be simple or complex.

Types of vocal tics:

  • Simple vocal tics involve simple sounds made by moving air through the nose or mouth. Simple vocal tics include:
    • Grunting, barking, and hissing.
    • Sniffing, snorting, or throat-clearing.
  • Complex vocal tics involve more complex sounds, including words, phrases, and sentences. A person who has a complex motor tic may talk to him or herself, repeat his or her own words (palilalia) or other people's words (echolalia), or use obscene words (coprolalia). Complex vocal tics may interrupt the smooth flow of a normal conversation or occur at the beginning of a sentence, much like a stutter or a stammer. Complex vocal tics include statements such as:
    • "Yeah, that's right."
    • "Now you've got it."

Types of motor tics:

  • Simple motor tics involve only one muscle group. They can be embarrassing or painful (such as jaw snapping). Simple motor tics include:
    • Quick eye blinks or eye jerks.
    • Lip licking.
    • Head twitches or head jerks.
    • Shoulder shrugs.
    • Muscle tensing.
  • Complex motor tics can be a combination of many simple motor tics or a series of movements that involve more than one muscle group. Complex motor tics are slower and often appear as if the person is making the movements intentionally. Complex motor tics can interfere greatly with daily activities and may be self-destructive (such as head-banging or lip-biting). Examples include:
    • Obscene gesturing or gyrating movements.
    • Skipping, hopping, or twirling.

Last Updated: September 2, 2009

Author: Debby Golonka, MPH

Medical Review: Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics & Karin M. Lindholm, DO - Neurology

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