woman-tic-surpriseA tic is an involuntary muscular contraction or vocalization. Muscular tics usually occur in small muscle groups. The movements are recurring and can occur due to psychological conditions, injury, or reactions to drugs.

Examples of Tics
There are various types of tics, for example:

  • Simple tics are random movements that have no apparent purpose such as eye-blinking or grimacing.
  • Complex tics involve a series of movements and appear to have a purpose. Repeating a word after reading it is an example of a complex tic.
  • Verbal tics are tics involving movement such as shrugging the shoulders or a twitching eye.
  • Phonic tics are tics that may involve speaking or making noise through the nose.

A hallmark of Tourette’s syndrome is the development of tics. While Tourette’s is commonly associated with coprolalic tics–the repeated uttering of offensive or vulgar words and phrases–most people with Tourette’s do not have this symptom. People who have Tourette’s may experience their tics as overwhelming desires to perform a specific movement or utterance.

A related condition—fasciculation—occurs due to a small twitch that does not affect an entire muscle. Eyelid twitches, which most people experience at some point, are a classic example of fasciculation.

Causes and Treatment for Tics
Most people exhibit tics periodically. Tics can be as mundane as eye-blinking due to nervousness or as noticeable as screaming random phrases. Anxiety, excitement, some medications, mental health conditions, and seizures can all cause tics. Treatment depends on the specific cause. When there is an underlying physical problem, clinicians treat this problem first. Tics caused by mental health problems typically go away when the underlying psychiatric condition is treated. People living with Tourette’s and other tic disorders can benefit from medication, but many have to learn coping strategies for dealing with their tics.


  1. American Psychological Association. APA concise dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2009. Print.

Last Updated: 08-28-2015

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