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The Motor Tic Disorder: Types, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Sandeep Dhanyamraju MD
Medically reviewed by Sandeep Dhanyamraju
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Sandeep Dhanyamraju MD
Medically reviewed by Sandeep Dhanyamraju

In our modern world, everyone is in constant motion. All aspects of our lives seem to revolve around the hum of engines and the rhythm of progress. And we have our attention drawn to an intriguing phenomenon. We are talking about motor tic disorder. It’s a mysterious condition akin to the mysterious dance of the nervous system. It manifests itself in a multitude of ways. And it’s a problem that fascinates medics and researchers alike.

You can see from subtle, almost imperceptible twitches. And, of course, you can see more pronounced and devastating spasms. The motor tic is an enduring fascination for those seeking to unravel the human brain’s complex workings. So, let’s delve into the depths of this fascinating subject. We will embark on a journey into the diversity of motor tic types. 

There’s no need to worry. Along with learning about this neurological mystery, you’ll discover treatment options. They will help sufferers regain control. And there, fasten your seat belts. We’re traveling the roads of nervous twitching

What is a Motor Tic Disorder?

A motor tic disorder is a neurological disorder. We can characterize it by the presence of motor tics. They are involuntary, repetitive, and sudden movements or gestures. You can experience these tics in different parts of the body. From your face to your feet. Anxiety tics can be simple or complex. And simple tics involve short and isolated movements. It could be blinking your eyes or twitching your nose. Complex tics involve a sequence of coordinated movements. It may be touching objects or making gestures.

The exact cause of nervous tics in adults has not been fully investigated. But some think it results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. They affect the brain’s circuitry and neurotransmitter function. As a rule, the disease is noticed in childhood. Symptoms peak in early adolescence.

In most cases, you can pass this disease in a mild form. However, some people may experience it in a more severe and chronic form. It, of course, harms their daily activities and quality of life.

Types of Tics

Tics are the hallmark of the motor-typical disorder. And we can categorize them into two main types: motor and vocal. Motor tics involve the involuntary movement of certain muscle groups. In comparison, vocal tics consist of involuntary localizations or sounds.

Motor nervous tics in adults and children can also classify as basic or complex. Simple motor tics are transient. They usually happen all of a sudden and involve only one muscle group. For example, it could be a blink of the eyes or a twitch of the head or nose. Complex motor tics, on the other hand, are more difficult to understand. We can also characterize them by a series of synchronized movements. Jumping, touching items, or certain motions are examples.

We can also divide vocal tics into simple and complex tics. Simple vocal tics involve short sounds or noises. For example, it is throat clearing or snorting. Complex vocal tics are more complicated. They may involve repeating words or phrases. You may also hear involuntary swearing (coprolalia) or other socially inappropriate sounds.

The combination of both types of anxiety tics can vary in severity and frequency. It accounts for the variety of manifestations of motor tic disorder.

Motor tic disorder: symptoms

Symptoms of Motor Tic Disorder 

All doctors characterize this disorder as having motor and/or vocal tics. You may notice symptoms that vary in intensity, duration, and complexity at points. It all depends on the individual and the specific type of tics.

Motor tics manifest themselves as sudden involuntary movements of certain muscle groups. As we have written above, it can be blinking or jerking of the head. But you may also encounter:

  • Shrugging
  • Facial grimaces
  • Twitching of the limbs

These tics range from mild and barely noticeable to more pronounced and disruptive.

Symptoms of vocal tics include involuntary vocalizations or sounds. Most commonly, you may hear sounds such as:

  • Clearing your throat
  • Grunting
  • Sniffing
  • Repetition of words or phrases

In some cases, you may observe complex vocalizations. These may include socially inappropriate or involuntary swearing.

Symptoms of motor tic disorder usually appear before the age of 18. Over time, these symptoms may become more, or conversely less. We must admit that many disorder cases are mild and go away independently. However, the symptoms can be more severe and chronic in some people. It requires medical evaluation and intervention.

Factors Contributing to Motor Tic Disorder

Doctors believe that anxiety tics result from genetic, environmental, and neurological factors. The exact cause is still unclear. However, doctors have recognized several contributing factors:

  • Genetic predisposition. Doctors say the disorder has a genetic component. Therefore, as a rule, you can inherit the disorder.
  • Neurological abnormalities. Abnormalities may be in brain pathways and communication networks. They may contribute to the manifestation of tics.
  • Environmental triggers. Environmental factors can affect nervous twitching, too. It could be exposure to toxins during intrauterine development, infections, or stress.
  • Immune system dysfunction. Some studies suggest that dysregulation of the immune system also plays a role in developing this disease.
  • Pre Existing medical conditions. Certain neurodevelopmental disorders are associated with an increased risk of tics. These can include ADHD and OCD.

It is important to understand these factors of motor tic. Then doctors can develop more effective strategies for diagnosing, treating, and managing the disorder.

Diagnosis and Evaluation

Diagnosis of anxiety tics includes a comprehensive examination. And it is necessarily carried out by qualified specialists. As a rule, these are pediatricians if they work with children. And they are also neurologists or psychiatrists. The diagnostic process includes:

  • Clinical evaluation. Doctors study medical history and family history. They perform a physical examination. It helps them identify the presence and characteristics of motor and vocal tics.
  • Observation. The doctor then observes the clarity, duration, and characteristics of the type of tics. The doctor tries to test this in different settings for a more accurate diagnosis.
  • Differential diagnosis. To make an accurate diagnosis, the doctor must rule out other conditions.
  • DSM-5 criteria. Healthcare professionals refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) for specific criteria to confirm the diagnosis of Motor Tic Disorder.
  • Collaboration. Doctors try to collaborate with educators and caregivers. It can provide valuable information about the impact of ticks on daily life.

Remember that a comprehensive evaluation allows healthcare providers to develop treatment strategies for motor tic disorder. Each plan should be taught to give exactly what your individual needs are.

Treatment for motor tic disorder

Treatment Options for Motor Tic Disorder

The treatment of nervous twitching involves a multifaceted approach. Each approach must consider the specifics of the symptoms. And they need to consider their impact on daily life and the person’s general well-being. Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But therapists often combine several types of therapy.

Combining behavioral therapy, medication, and alternative or complementary therapies has shown promising results in reducing the severity and frequency of tics. 

In the following, we will review each of the treatment options. We want to shed light on their effectiveness and potential benefit in helping people. The following is particularly helpful if your loved one suffers from motor tics.

Behavioral Therapies 

Behavioral therapy plays a key role in managing nervous tics in adults. It aims to improve coping mechanisms.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is recognized as a valuable approach. It aims to identify and overcome negative thought patterns. It also works with the emotional reactions associated with tics.
  • Another effective technique is Habit Reversal Training (HRT). It encourages the individual to replace tics with more adaptive behaviors.
  • Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT) combines a variety of behavioral strategies. It aims to address the specific symptoms of tics. It also promotes long-term symptom control for anxiety tics.

These treatments give people practical tools. This way, they can effectively manage tics and regain control over their lives.

Medication Options

Most often, nervous tics in adults significantly affect daily activities. Then doctors recommend prescribing medication. The drug aims to regulate the imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. That’s what contributes to tics:

  • Dopamine antagonists. Doctors usually prescribe neuroleptic drugs to reduce dopamine levels in the brain. These can help suppress tics. However, they can have side effects and require careful monitoring.
  • Alpha-2-adrenergic agonists. These drugs regulate norepinephrine levels. They effectively control tics, especially when ADHD coexists with motor tic disorders.
  • Atypical antipsychotics. Risperidone and aripiprazole have been used to target dopamine and serotonin receptors. Both provided relief for all types of tics and their behavioral symptoms.

When prescribing medications, physicians must carefully assess the needs of patients. Working with each patient individually and considering possible side effects is imperative.

Alternative and Complementary Treatments

Alternative and complementary therapies have become quite popular in treating motor tics. Of course, these methods don’t have conclusive scientific evidence. But some people may find them helpful in alleviating symptoms.

  • Dietary changes. As you may know, nutrition affects many functions in our bodies. And with nervous twitching, it can be helpful too. Avoiding caffeine or supplements can reduce the severity of tics.
  • Techniques for working with the body and mind. We recommend that you try different relaxation techniques. You can practice yoga and mindfulness. It will help to reduce your stress and anxiety levels. It can potentially help relieve the symptoms of the types of tics.
  • Herbal supplements. Some herbal supplements have a calming effect. It could be magnesium or passionflower. They can help a person stay calm and reduce the likelihood of motor tic disorder.

Individual reactions to alternative therapies can vary. Therefore, consult your doctor before incorporating medication or an alternative method. We recommend that you visit our Lone Star Neurology clinic.

Our experienced specialists will provide you with a comprehensive approach. We combine evidence-based methods and alternative options. We can provide a more comprehensive approach to treating motor tic disorder.


What is motor tic disorder?

It is a neurological condition causing involuntary, repetitive muscle movements or vocalizations.

What are the symptoms of motor tic disorder?

Involuntary tics, such as blinking, head jerking, throat clearing, or vocal outbursts.

How is motor tic disorder diagnosed?

Physicians observe the presence and duration of tics. Often may require a medical examination for confirmation.

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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 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 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 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
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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 more
Katie Lewis
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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
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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 more
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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 more
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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 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 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 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 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 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 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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