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Teen girls around the world have begun reenacting tics after watching popular influencers with Tourette’s syndrome on TikTok. When the pandemic began in 2020, while many were shuttered indoors relying heavily on social media, neurologists began seeing droves of teen girls reporting the sudden onset of physical and verbal tics.
Omar Danoun, MD, a neurologist at Henry Ford Health, believes that it is induced by watching TikTok influencers with Tourette’s Syndrome. He explains that because they’re watching these videos so often, their brains start to mimic the tics.
“What these teen girls have are called functional tics—it’s a functional neurological disorder,” said Dr. Danoun. “We’ve seen this before in children who have parents or siblings with seizures. They’ll develop functional seizures. The brain imitates what it sees. It’s used as an escape mechanism.”
As additional evidence of a social contagion, Dr. Danoun notes that a lot of the American patients he sees are “talking in a British accent” and “saying British words,” something he has never encountered before in his Michigan practice.
15 million people follow British TikTok star Evie-Meg Field, 22, known by her handle ThisTrippyHippie. One of her most viral videos features the TikTok star struggling to build a sand castle while having tics, due to her Tourette’s syndrome.
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