Transient tic disorder

Alternative names
Tic - transient tic disorder


Transient tic disorder is characterized by single or multiple motor tics, which are brief, repetitive, difficult-to-control movements or vocalizations that often resemble nervous mannerisms.

To meet the criteria for this condition, these tics must have occurred almost every day for at least 4 weeks, but not have been present for more than a year.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Transient (short-lived, temporary) tic disorder is common in children: 5% to 24% of all school-age children have had tics.

The cause of transient tic disorder can be physical or psychological. It may be a mild variant of Tourette’s syndrome. The child may have facial tics or tics involving movement of the arms, legs, or other areas. Tics appear to get worse with emotional stress and do not occur during sleep.


  • Movements are recurrent and nonrythmic  
  • Patients experience an overwhelming inner urge to make the movement  
  • Movements are most often brief and jerky and include the following:       o Blinking       o Raising eyebrows       o Nostrils flaring       o Grimacing       o Opening the mouth       o Sticking out the tongue       o Shrugging shoulders       o Jerking arms       o Clenching the fists       o Kicking       o Curling of the toes

Vocalizations, such as grunts, sniffing, throat clearing, squealing, snorting, clicking, hissing, or moaning may also occur.

Signs and tests
Physical causes of transient tic disorder should be considered before a diagnosis is made.

Clinicians recommend that family members call no attention to the tics at first, since unwanted attention may make the tics worse. If tics are severe enough to cause problems in school or work, behavioral techniques are recommended and medications may be considered.

Expectations (prognosis)
Simple childhood tics usually disappear over a period of months.

There are usually no complications. A chronic motor or vocal tic disorder can develop.

Calling your health care provider
Consult with your health care provider if you are concerned about a transient tic disorder, particularly if it becomes persistent or disruptive to the child’s life. If you question whether the movements are a tic or a seizure, consult with your health care provider immediately.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 6, 2012
by Simon D. Mitin, M.D.

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