Tics from TikTok? Researcher sees ties between teens and influencers’ behavior

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December 25 2021 12:00 am

(KTLA) – Chailyn Thorne, 18, suffers from tics, some of them so severe that she feels paralyzed.

The uncontrollable movements and sounds even put the Arkansas teen in a hospital bed.

“I couldn’t move,” she said. “I could see everything. I could hear everything. I just wasn’t able to get myself out of it until the tic was gone.”

It’s not something she was born with, however. Thorne may have developed the tics in response to TikTok.

Summer Hope, also known as @that_tourettes_girl on TikTok, has garnered more than 2.3 million likes on the platform.

Hope, a Florida resident, advocates for people with Tourette Syndrome and hopes her posts are a support system, though she’s worried about what’s happening.

“I do feel bad that if they are watching my videos and they are picking up my tics, there is definitely a sense of remorse there,” Hope said.

John Piacentini, director of the UCLA Child OCD, Anxiety, and Tic Disorders Clinic and Tourette Association Center of Excellence, recently co-published several papers on the topic, and he says the girls’ symptoms are real.

“They’re seeing all these influencers that appear to have very robust and happy lives, and Tourette’s becomes contagious in some ways,” Piacentini said.

He added that mimicking behaviors is “a natural phenomenon,” but “the scope and the scale is beyond anything we’ve ever seen before.”

Doctors are worried as well. In the past, UCLA experts would see a case or two each year of tics linked to social media, but that number is now 10 to 15 each month.

“That’s terrifying for any parent out there,” said Marc Berman, executive director of the Organization for Social Media Safety.

Berkman isn’t proposing that parents forbid their children to use social media, but they should talk about their concerns with their kids.

“Let’s be aware of this danger,” Berkman said. “How can we make this a safer activity?”

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