Did the COVID-19 Pandemic Increase Tourette Syndrome Symptoms?

According to a story from express.co.uk, the COVID-19 pandemic was a shock to the world when it first struck over two years ago, and while we have a better understanding of the virus these days, there’s still a lot that we don’t understand. As the pandemic has continued, anecdotal reports from nurses and physicians have started trickling in of more severe tic symptoms in people with Tourette syndrome. 

About Tourette Syndrome

Tourette syndrome, often known simply as Tourette’s, is an unusual disorder of neurodevelopment that is defined by the appearance of tics, which are brief involuntary sounds or movements. Patients often present with multiple tics that can vary substantially in severity. Most cases are mild and barely noticeable by casual observers. The precise cause of Tourette syndrome remains unknown; the condition may be heritable in some cases, and it has been well established that both environmental and genetic factors play a role. Treatment may include cognitive behavioral therapy, education, and, in severe cases, certain medications. There is no cure for the condition. Symptoms resolve in many patients as they near adulthood. Severe cases of Tourette, such as those in which tics include outbursts of profanity, have occasionally gained attention over social media. Mental health problems may develop in patients with severe Tourette syndrome. To learn more about Tourette syndrome, click here.

Increased Symptoms Because of COVID?

A report from the Tourette Syndrome Association highlighted a ‘surge’ of tics—the primary symptom of the syndrome—in young patients. This document also mentioned reports of a similar movement disorder with tic-like symptoms. The authors speculated that anxiety and other mental health challenges brought on by the stress of the pandemic may be a contributing factor. 

Another study cast doubt on this theory, suggesting that the increased symptoms were the result of social influences, or a form of crowd psychology. However, future research focusing on the brains of patients may reveal more about the origin of the syndrome. COVID-19 can have significant impacts on the brain, and it may be that one of them is an exacerbation of Tourette syndrome symptoms, or even triggering symptoms in susceptible people that hadn’t developed them before.

Clearly more research is needed in this area to get a greater understanding of the relationship between Tourette syndrome and COVID-19.

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