February 9, 2022
Anxiety disorders can range in breadth and scope and can be significantly varied in their presentation. They can include social anxieties, perfectionism, obsessive thoughts coupled with compulsive behaviors, cutting, eating disorders, phobias, and tics. It is common to have a cluster of anxiety symptoms and although we are going to look more deeply at nervous tics, it may be helpful to consider anxiety as a whole and in the larger context. Tics, also known as nervous tics, affect a wide range of people who live with an anxiety disorder or other anxiety-causing conditions. Approximately 15-20 percent will at some point in their life develop some sort of nervous tic. However, the majority of these are temporary and naturally dissipate as anxiety is better managed and stress reactions are better regulated. In this post from the Louis Laves-Webb blog, we’ll discuss many of the notions to consider when thinking about anxiety tics: what they are, how they happen, and possible treatment options.
Tics are movements or actions that are compulsive, repetitive, and often hard to control. There are a number of anxiety states that can cause general tics, sometimes they are combined with perfectionism or heightened pressure, sometimes they can occur with other illnesses or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD), and most notably they can be a symptom of Tourette’s syndrome. Tourette’s syndrome is a nervous system disorder that involves repetitive movements or intermittent sounds. A very small percentage of those with Tourette’s will develop an unyielding desire to say obscenities or vulgarities to alleviate their anxieties. Many of the more severe forms of nervous tics can be successfully treated with a combination of medications and psychotherapy. Another common anxiety condition that can result in tics is an obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD. In OCD, as the anxiety or tension mounts the person seeks a behavior to “release” the tension. This behavior can be varied and can include behaviors like: hand washing, counting, and nervous tics. Tics have also been known to be a genetic condition, with many tic sufferers having a parent or other family member that also has anxiety tics. These types of anxiety disorders as with many mental health issues are often associated with average to higher levels of intellectual functioning.
When it comes to what exactly causes anxiety tics, much is still unknown. Here are some examples of what we know about what causes anxiety tics. While many outsiders looking in think that tics are always involuntary, this is not always the case. Those suffering from a tic disorder will often make the conscious decision to fulfill their tic, which results in relief of discomfort. Some individuals can learn to suppress the sensation to perform a tic, but this can result In a loss of the ability to focus. Additionally, when the individual can no longer suppress the tic, it’s likely for it to be more severe than if they had to perform it when they had the first sensation.
Medication or treatment prescribed will largely be dependent upon the needs and willingness of the client and on what will bring the most short-term relief from suffering combined with stress management, mindfulness, and supportive psychotherapy. Because anxiety tics can relate to other conditions, mental health professionals will typically look to treat the underlying condition in addition to symptom reduction. Although in many instances the clinically indicated treatment approach is to utilize some combination of medication and psychotherapy, it is paramount that your mental health practitioner collaborates with you and prioritizes your needs and your voice in the course of your treatment. Nervous tics are very treatable and with some compassion and a skilled clinician please know that you do not have to continue to suffer. Mental health is NOT a “no pain, no gain scenario”.
We've helped many individuals overcome their struggles with anxiety tics. If you or a loved one is struggling with anxiety tics, please fill out our contact form. For those located in Central Texas, we have a number of offices conveniently located in the area; Or, feel free to sign up for one of our online therapy sessions to see how we can help you overcome your anxiety tics. Get help with your anxiety tics today with one of our therapists here at Louis Laves-Webb, LCSW, LPC-S & Associates. We don’t just hear, we listen.
What are some tics caused by anxiety?
Anxiety tics can range from mild to severe, depending on your levels of anxiety. Some anxiety tics include twitching eyes, legs, arms, or the throat muscle. In more severe cases, anxiety tics can lead to Tourettes, which is a nervous system disorder that ranges from repetitive movements like raising of the eyebrows or scratching of the neck to intermittent sounds like grunts, groans, or even nonsense words.
Can you develop Tourette's from anxiety?
Tourette’s is almost always the result of some sort of anxiety disorder, and the tics that those with Tourette’s display are a way for them to alleviate that anxiety. So yes, an individual can develop Tourette’s from anxiety.
Can anxiety tics be verbal?
Verbal anxiety tics can be classified as a symptom of Tourette’s syndrome. If you find yourself unable to stop your verbal anxiety tics, you may have some form of Tourette’s syndrome. Speaking with a therapist or counselor can help you overcome these symptoms and live a more anxiety-free and normal life.
Are anxiety tics a real thing?
Yes, anxiety tics are a real thing. These tics can vary in severity, but it is possible for an individual to develop tics as a result of general anxiety disorder.