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Transient tic disorder

Transient tic disorder is a condition in which a person makes 1 or many brief, repeated, movements or noises (tics). These movements or noises are involuntary (not on purpose).


Transient tic disorder is common in children.

The cause of transient tic disorder can be physical or mental (psychological). It may be a mild form of Tourette syndrome.


The child may have facial tics or tics involving movement of the arms, legs, or other areas.

Tics may involve:

  • Movements that occur again and again and do not have a rhythm
  • An overwhelming urge to make the movement
  • Brief and jerky movements that include blinking, clenching the fists, jerking the arms, kicking, raising the eyebrows, sticking out the tongue.

The tics often look like nervous behavior. Tics appear to get worse with stress. They do not occur during sleep.

Sounds may also occur, such as:

  • Clicking
  • Grunting
  • Hissing
  • Moaning
  • Sniffing
  • Snorting
  • Squealing
  • Throat clearing

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will consider physical causes of transient tic disorder before making a diagnosis.

In order to be diagnosed with transient tic disorder, the child must have had tics almost every day for at least 4 weeks, but less than a year.

Other disorders such as anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), uncontrollable movement (myoclonus), obsessive-compulsive disorder, and epilepsy may need to be ruled out.


Doctors recommend that family members do not call attention to the tics at first. This is because unwanted attention may make the tics worse. If the tics are severe enough to cause problems at school or work, behavioral techniques and medicines may help.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Simple childhood tics usually disappear over a period of months.

Possible Complications

There are usually no complications. A chronic motor tic disorder can develop.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Talk to your child's provider if you are concerned about a transient tic disorder, especially if it continues or disrupts your child's life. If you are not sure whether the movements are a tic or a seizure, call the provider right away.

Alternative Names

Tic - transient tic disorder


Ryan CA, Trieu ML, DeMaso DR, Walter HR. Motor disorders and habits. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 139.

Singer HS. Tics and Tourette's syndrome. In: Swaiman K, Ashwal S, Ferriero DM, Ferriero D, eds. Swaiman's Pediatric Neurology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2012:chap 70.

Review Date 2/27/2016

Updated by: Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, Attending Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, SUNY Stony Brook, School of Medicine, Stony Brook, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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