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Vocal Tics in Adults: Exploring Symptoms and Treatment Approaches

Sandeep Dhanyamraju
Medically reviewed by Chaitanya Bonda
Sandeep Dhanyamraju
Medically reviewed by Chaitanya Bonda

A vocal tic is an involuntary utterance of repetitive sounds of different nature. It can be coughing, snorting, screaming, hissing, or sniffling.

Vocal tics can significantly impact the daily lives of adults. Involuntary and repetitive vocalizations usually characterize them. Vocal tics can cause embarrassment and social difficulties by:

  • sudden outbursts;
  • throat-clearing;
  • repetitive sounds. 

It can even interfere with work or relationships. Understanding the symptoms and treatment approaches for vocal tics is essential. So a person can get support and improve the quality of life. In this article, we delve into the problem of vocal tics in adults. We will explore the various manifestations of these involuntary vocalizations. We examine the common symptoms associated with vocal tics, including their:

  • frequency;
  • duration;
  • triggers.

Additionally, we explore the potential underlying causes and contributing factors. As they may lead to the development of vocal tics. Finally, we discuss the available vocal tics treatment  approaches:

  • from behavioral therapies;
  • to medication options.

All of them can help manage the impact of vocal tics on daily functioning. By shedding light on vocal tics in adults, we aim to increase awareness and understanding. Read to get support if you are experiencing these challenging symptoms. 

Understanding Vocal Tics     

Speech tics are one of the types of nervous tics that occur for various reasons. They are often characterized as an irresistible desire to perform a specific sound. The child may be aware of the problem but cannot suppress it.

According to our observations:

  • transient tic disorders are usually found in adolescents with a frequency of 5 to 24%;
  • chronic tic disorders – from 1.6 to 3-10%.

Tourette’s syndrome is significantly less common, with a rate of 1 per 1000 cases. A meta-analysis of 13 clinical studies demonstrated that tic disorders are more common:

  • in children than in adults;
  • in boys than in girls;
  • in special education populations.

This pathology does not threaten health in general, and very often, in 8 children out of 10, it goes away on its own. But in some cases, verbal tics can cause serious inconvenience. It can have a very negative impact on the mental and physical condition of a child or adolescent. And then the help of a specialist is necessary.

Causes of Vocal Tics

Vocal tics in adults can be primary and secondary. Primary tics are a single disorder of the nervous system when no other present signs. Secondary disorders are only a manifestation of an underlying CNS disease. Both types have almost the same symptoms.

Primary vocal tics can develop as a result of:

  • Nervous stress, which is the most common cause of tics. Patients are mainly children aged 7-12 years who have problems:
  • in the family, school;
  • communication with peers;
  • have experienced severe fright or shock. 

Involuntary speech occurs due to a lack or, conversely:

  • an excess of attention;
  • demanding parenting;
  • strictness of upbringing.
  • Overwork and lack of sleep.
  • Genetic predisposition. Scientists have found that tics are occasionally inherited in an autosomal recessive manner. If one of the parents has a defective gene, the risk of transmitting it to his or her daughter or son is 50%. But, even with a faulty gene, there is no guarantee that a child will necessarily develop speech tics.
  • Anxiety about starting school leads to tics in 10% of cases. It can be due to a new environment, a radical change in daily routine, unusual rules, and restrictions.
  • Excessive consumption of stimulants. It can be tea, coffee, or energy drinks – activates the nervous system and makes it work to the limit. This results in irritability, mood swings, and uncontrolled speech.

In terms of its duration, a primary nervous tic can be transient and chronic. The transient lasts from two weeks to a year, then disappears but may return after a while. Chronic vocal tics in adults last more than a year and are difficult to treat.

In children, tics can appear at 2 to 18 years, but the peak incidence occurs at 3-9 years.

The secondary form occurs in:

  • congenital nervous system diseases;
  • poisoning with toxic substances;
  • after traumatic brain injuries;
  • against the background of trigeminal neuralgia, brain tumors, and encephalitis

It can also be because of taking antidepressants and anticonvulsants.

Vocal tics in adults: symptoms

Symptoms of Vocal Tics in Adults

The symptoms of tics can be simple and complex. Examples of vocal tics include repeating sounds resembling coughing, humming, and sniffling. Sometimes a vocal tic manifests itself as a screech or whistle.

Symptoms can occur periodically or in series. The clinical picture becomes brighter by the evening of a hard day when a person is very tired or nervous. Sound pronunciation, coughing, and sniffling are often combined with shuddering.

We can divide complex vocal tics into several types:

  • coprolalia – the endless repetition of swear words
  • echolalia is an involuntary automatic repetition of words heard in a foreign language.
  • palilalia – an obsessive need to pronounce certain words or sentences. In this case, as a rule, the speech becomes hurried, and the voice becomes quiet.

Mainly motor tics can usually be observed in Tourette syndrome. But at least one of the speech tics is always present. More than half of the patients have coprolalia. Echolalia and palilalia are less common. In some cases, patients copy the movements of people around them (echopraxia).

Impact of Vocal Tics on Daily Life

Vocal tics can significantly impact the daily life of individuals who experience them. These involuntary and repetitive vocalizations can affect various aspects of functioning, including:

  • social interactions;
  • work or school performance;
  • emotional well-being;
  • quality of life.

One of the primary challenges individuals face with verbal tics is social interaction. Vocal tics may lead to:

  • embarrassment;
  • self-consciousness;
  • feelings that others will judge you. 

These concerns can result in:

  • social withdrawal;
  • avoidance of certain situations;
  • difficulty forming and maintaining relationships. 

The unpredictable nature of vocal tics may also cause discomfort or misunderstanding among peers. It can further contribute to social isolation.

Work or school performance can be significantly harmed by vocal tics as well. In professional settings, vocal tics may disrupt meetings, presentations, or phone conversations. So it is challenging to communicate or concentrate on tasks effectively. Similarly, speech tics can interfere with:

  • classroom participation;
  • note-taking;
  • oral examinations in educational settings.  

So it potentially affects academic achievement and self-esteem.

The emotional well-being of individuals with vocal tics can also be often affected. Constantly experiencing tics can lead to:

  • frustration;
  • stress;
  • a sense of loss of control. 

Feelings of embarrassment or shame may contribute to anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem. Moreover, suppressing or hiding tics can be mentally and physically exhausting.

The impact of vocal tics on daily life extends beyond social and emotional aspects. Simple tasks such as eating, drinking, or speaking may become more challenging. Sleep disturbances can occur, affecting restfulness and leading to daytime fatigue.

Vocal tics in adults can profoundly impact various aspects of an individual’s daily life. It affects:

  • social interactions;
  • work or school performance;
  • emotional well-being, and quality of life. 

Seeking appropriate support from healthcare professionals can greatly help. So a person can manage the impact of vocal tics and improve daily functioning.

Vocal tics in adults: treatment

Treatment Approaches for Vocal Tics in Adults

Medications and non-drug methods are useful to treat vocal tics of various origins. Herbal infusions and decoctions of chamomile, motherwort, and valerian are also quite effective.

Non-medicinal methods are a priority in treatment. They are excellent both as:

  • an independent therapy for primary tics;
  • in the complex treatment of secondary tics. 

Non-drug methods help to restore:

  • the nervous system and normalize metabolic processes;
  • the psycho-emotional and mental state.

All this is possible with the following vocal tics treatment:

  • psychotherapy sessions.
  • creating a favorable atmosphere at home.
  • a balanced diet.
  • properly planned daily routine.
  • good sleep.
  • avoiding nervous overload.

Psychotherapy is a tried, tested, and effective treatment method for primary tics. As nervous stress and shifts in psycho-emotional perception most often cause it. A psychotherapist will help you understand the causes of increased excitability. The doctor can teach you how to treat tics correctly, improving your mood and sleep. The result of the psychotherapeutic course will be the decrease or disappearance of vocal tics. Read more about the various methods of vocal tics treatment.

Behavioral Therapies for Vocal Tics

Behavioral therapies offer effective treatment approaches for managing vocal tics in adults. One such therapy is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  It aims to identify and change the:

  • thoughts;
  • feelings;
  • behaviors associated with tics. 

CBT techniques such as habit reversal training (HRT) help individuals to:

  • recognize premonitory sensations;
  • learn alternative responses to suppress or redirect the tic impulses. 

Additionally, Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT) combines various behavioral strategies, including:

  • awareness training;
  • competing response training;
  • social support.

So it helps individuals gain better control over their verbal tics.

Medication Options for Vocal Tics

Medication can be an effective treatment option for adults with vocal tics. Particularly when tics significantly impair daily functioning. Certain medications can help reduce the frequency and intensity of vocal tics. It can be antipsychotics, dopamine antagonists, or alpha-2 agonists. These medications affect neurotransmitters in the brain. So they modulate the neural circuits involved in tic expression. It’s essential to consult a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable medication. Doctors will consider individual needs, potential side effects, and health.

Alternative and Complementary Treatments

In addition to traditional therapies, alternative and complementary vocal tics treatment may be explored. They can be adjunctive approaches for managing vocal tics. These can include techniques like:

  • acupuncture;
  • biofeedback;
  • relaxation exercises, which aim to reduce stress levels and promote overall well-being.

Evidence supporting the effectiveness of these treatments may be limited. But some individuals report experiencing symptom relief and improved quality of life. Discussing these options with a healthcare professional is crucial. As they can be useful in conjunction with evidence-based therapies to ensure comprehensive care.

Conclusion

In today’s megacities, stress and nervous tension are almost inevitable. People are at risk because their nervous system is still immature and sensitive to excess tension. The likelihood of a tic at a young age increases if there is a hereditary predisposition. But today, nervous tics are successfully treated. And if you follow certain rules and observe restrictions, you can forget about vocal tics in adults for many years.

To prevent a relapse of tics, you must maintain a calm and friendly atmosphere in the family, provide good nutrition and sleeping conditions, exercise regularly, walk outdoors for at least an hour daily, and ventilate the room before bed. And if you decide to turn to real professionals, contact Lone Star Neurology. We will provide you with the most reliable treatment options known today.

FAQ

What are vocal tics in adults?

Vocal tics in adults are involuntary and repetitive vocalizations, such as throat-clearing, grunting, or sudden outbursts, which individuals cannot control.

How do vocal tics differ from verbal tics?

Vocal tics involve vocalizations, such as sounds or words, while verbal tics encompass both vocalizations and spoken words or phrases.

How are vocal tics diagnosed in adults?

Vocal tics in adults are diagnosed through a comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare professional, who assesses the presence and characteristics of tics, duration, and impact on daily functioning and rules out other possible medical conditions or underlying causes.

Can doctors manage vocal tics in adults effectively?

Yes, vocal tics in adults can be managed and treated effectively. Treatment approaches for vocal tics may include behavioral therapies and improving daily routines.

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Edward Medina
Edward Medina
15:34 30 Jun 22
Just such an amazing staff that makes you feel like part of their family. I’ve been going there for over 5 years now... and each visit I get the very best care and treatments that I have ever received in the 20+ years that I’ve been dealing with severe debilitating migraines. Since i started seeing them the number of my migraines has dropped from 15-20 a month to 2-3 every 3 month. I highly recommend them …they will change your life!read more
Daneisha Johnson
Daneisha Johnson
22:20 19 May 22
Dr. Askari was very kind and explained everything so I could understand. The other staff were nice as well. I would... have gave 5 stars but I was a little taken aback when I checked in and had to pay 600.00 upfront. I think that should have been discussed in a appointment confirmation call or email just so I could have been prepared.read more
Jean Cooper
Jean Cooper
16:54 29 Apr 22
I love the office staff they are friendly and very helpful. Dr. JODIE is very caring and understanding to your needs... and wants to help you. I will go back. would recommend Dr. Dr. Jodie to other Patients in a heart beat. The team works well together.read more
Linda M
Linda M
19:40 02 Apr 22
I was obviously stressed, needing to see a neurologist. The staff was so patient and Dr. Ansari was so kind. At one... point he told me to relax, we have time, when I was relaying my history of my condition. That helped ease my stress. I have seen 3 other neurologists and he was the only one who performed any assessment tests on my cognitive and physical skills. At one point I couldn't complete two assessments and got upset and cried. I was told, it's OK. That's why you're here. I was truly impressed, and super pleased with the whole experience!read more
Leslie Durham
Leslie Durham
15:05 01 Apr 22
I've been coming here for about 5 years. The staff are ALWAYS friendly and knowledgeable. The Doctors are the absolute... best!! Jodie Moore is always in such a great mood which is a plus when you are already stressed. Highly recommendedread more
Monica Del Bosque
Monica Del Bosque
14:13 25 Mar 22
Since my first post my thoughts have changed here. It's unfortunate. My doctor and PA were great, but the office staff... is horrible. They never call you back when they say they will, they misinform you, they cause you too much stress wondering what's going on, they don't keep you posted. They never answer the phone. At this point I've left four messages in the last week, and I have sent three messages. Twice from their portal and one direct email. No response. My appointment is on Monday morning at 8:30am, no confirmation on my insurance and what's going on. What the heck is going on, this is ridiculous!I've given up... the stress her office staff has put me through is just not worth it. You can do so much better, please clean house, either change out your office staff, or find a way for them to be more efficient please. You have to do something. This is not how you want to run your practice. It leaves a very bad impression on your business.read more
Ron Buckholz
Ron Buckholz
23:32 23 Mar 22
I was actually pleasantly surprised with this visit! It took me a long time to get the appointment scheduled because no... one answers your phones EVER! After a month, I finally got in, and your staff was warm, friendly, and I was totally impressed! I feel like you will take care of my needs!read more
Steve Nabavi
Steve Nabavi
16:28 16 Mar 22
It was a nice visit. Happy staff doing all they can do to comfort the patients in a very calming environment. You ask... me they are earned a big gold star on the fridge. My only complaint they didn't give me any cookies.read more
Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis
16:10 10 Feb 22
Had very positive appointments with Jodie and Dr. Sheth for my migraine care. Jodie was so fast with the injections and... has so much valuable info. I started to feel light headed during checkout and the staff was SO helpful—giving me a chair, water, and taking me into a private room until I felt better. Highly recommend this practice for migraine patients, they know what they’re doing!!read more
Joshua Martinez
Joshua Martinez
16:02 10 Dec 21
I was scheduled to be checked and just want to say that the staff was fantastic. They were kind and helpful. I was... asked many questions related to what was going on and not once did I feel as though I was being brushed off. The front desk staff was especially great in assisting me. I'm scheduled to go back for a mri and am glad that I'll be going there.read more
Isabel Ivy
Isabel Ivy
21:42 03 Nov 21
I had such a good experience with Lone Star Neurology, Brent my MRI Tech was so awesome and made sure I was very... comfortable during the appointment. He gave me ear plugs, a pillow, leg support and blanket, easiest MRI ever lol 🤣 My 72 hour EEG nurse Amanda was also so awesome. She made sure I was take care of over the 3 days and took her time with the electrodes to make sure it was comfortable for me! Paige was also a huge help in answering all my questions when it came to my test results, and letting me know her honest opinions about how I should go forth with my treatment.read more
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Leslie Luce
17:37 20 Oct 21
The professionalism and want to help attitude of this office was present from the moment I contacted them. The follow... up and follow through as well as their willingness to find a way to schedule my dad was above and beyond. We visited two offices in the same day with the same experience. I am appreciative of this—we spend a lot of time with doctors and this was top notch start to finish.read more
robert Parker
robert Parker
16:38 16 Apr 21
I love going to this office. The staff is friendly and helpful. The doctor is great. I am getting the best... neurological tests and treatment I have ever had. The only reason I did not give them a 5 star rating is because it is impossible to reach a live person at the office to reschedule appointments. Every time I have tried to get through to the office it says all people are busy and I am sent to a voicemail. If they could get their phone answering fixed, I would give them a strong 5 stars.read more
MaryAnn Hornbaker
MaryAnn Hornbaker
00:26 25 Feb 21
Dr. Harney is an excellent Dr. I found him friendly , personable and thorough. I evidently am an unusual case. ... Therefore he spent a Hugh amount of time educating me. He even gave me literature to further explain my condition and how to follow up. This is something you rarely get from your doctors. So I am more than please with my doctor and his staff.read more
Roger Arguello
Roger Arguello
03:05 29 Jan 21
Always courteous, professional. The staff is very friendly and always work with you to find the best appointment time.... The care team has been great. Always taking the time to listen to your concerns and to find the best treatment.read more
Margaret Rowland
Margaret Rowland
01:12 27 Jan 21
I have been a patient at Lone Star Neurology for several years. Now both my adult daughters also are patients there. I... love Jodie. She is always so prompt whether it is a teleamed call are a visit in the office. She takes the time to explain everything to me and answers all my questions. I am so blessed to have Jodie as my doctor.read more
Susan Miller
Susan Miller
03:01 13 Jan 21
My husband had an accident 5 years ago and Lone Star Neurology has been such a blessing to us with my husbands care.... Jodie Moore is his provider and she is amazing! Jodie is very knowledgeable, caring, and thorough. She takes her time with you, making sure your needs are met and she is happy to answer any questions you may have. Lone Star Neurology’s patients are very lucky to have Jodie providing their care. Thank you Lone Star Neurology and especially Jodie for everything you have done for us. Jodie, you are the best!read more
Windalyn C
Windalyn C
01:32 09 Jan 21
Jodie is wonderful. She is very caring and knowledgeable. I have been to over a dozen neurologists, and none were able... to help me as much as they have here. Thanks!read more
Katie Kordel
Katie Kordel
00:40 09 Jan 21
Jodi Moore, nurse practitioner, is amazing. I have suffered from frequent, debilitating headaches for almost 20 years.... She has provided the best proactive and responsive care I have ever received. My quality of life has been greatly improved by her caring approach and tenacity in finding solutions.read more
Ellie Natsis
Ellie Natsis
15:41 07 Jan 21
I have had the best experience at this neurologist's office! For over a year I have been receiving iv treatments here... each month and my nurse, Bobbie is beyond wonderful!! She's so attentive, knowledgeable, caring, and detail oriented. She makes an otherwise uncomfortable experience much more pleasant and definitely puts me at ease! She also helps me with my insurance,ordering this specialty medication and dealing with the ordering process which is no easy feat.Needless to say, she goes above a beyond in every way and I'm so grateful to this office and to Bobbie for all they do for me!read more
Matt Morris
Matt Morris
15:39 07 Jan 21
Let me start by saying that I have been coming here for years. Due to my autoimmune disease, I am in this office... once every three weeks for multiple hours at a time. The office is very clean and the staff very friendly. My only complaint would be there communication via phone. They aren't the best at responding if you leave a voicemail and expect a call back. I understand that this is prob just due to the sheer number of alls they receive daily. What I can say I like the best about the office are the people. Bobby who handles my infusions is great. I never have any issues with her setting up my infusions. She is very quick to reply to messages sent via text and if she were to leave then my whole opinion of the office may change. I also enjoy people like Matt, Lauren, and Jodi. I appreciate all that they do for me and without this team I'm not sure I would be as happy as I am to visit the office as frequently as I have to. Please ensure that these folks are recognized as they are what makes my visit to this office so tolerable :).read more
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