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Doctors have reported a surge in cases of young girls exhibiting nervous tics after watching TikTok videos featuring people with Tourette's syndrome, according to experts worldwide.
Tourette's is a genetic nervous system disorder and can cause repetitive, involuntary movements or sounds, and usually emerges in childhood.
TikTok's algorithm means users will see clips catered towards what they've already watched, and with videos containing the interactive tag #tourettes having around 4.8 billion tags, the problem is being compounded.
People usually develop tics personal to themselves but recent studies have suggested that the tics of some young girls mirror those of Tik Tok and YouTube creators.
Dr Kirsten Müller-Vahl said she had seen a major rise in young adult girls coming to see her at her practice in Hanover, Germany, after displaying such tics.
Having studied Tourette's for 25 years, the doctor highlighted that they usually have unique tics but these patients all had the same ones, she told the Jerusalem Post.
She later learned they had the same tics as a German YouTuber who vlogs about the disorder.
One popular British Tiktoker often blurts out the word "beans" during videos.
Caroline Olvera – a movement-disorders fellow at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago – told The Wall Street Journal that many of her patients have the same "beans" tic, speaking in a British accent even if they don't know English.
Donald Gilbert, a neurologist at Cincinnati Children's Medical Center, has seen around 10 new teens a month since March last year – almost 10 times the norm.
Experts note such patients don't have Tourette's but a functional movement disorder.
Many of the children appear to have developed tics have previously been diagnosed with anxiety or depression which worsened during the pandemic, they add.
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Children are being encouraged to take a social media break with parents to ask them what types of videos they're watching.
If they exhibit tics a specialist should be sought.
A TikTok spokesperson told WJS: "The safety and well-being of our community is our priority, and we're consulting with industry experts to better understand this specific experience."
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