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;
- 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:
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.
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:
- 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;
- 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:
- 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.
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:
- 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:
- 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.
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.
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.