Published On: July 20, 2023
Reviewed On: September 28, 2023
Updated On: September 28, 2023
Anxiety is a common mental health condition affecting millions of people and can manifest in different forms and symptoms. While most are familiar with common anxiety symptoms such as racing thoughts, rapid heartbeat, or excessive worrying, there’s an aspect of anxiety that often goes unnoticed: anxiety tics. These involuntary, repetitive movements or vocalizations can be puzzling and distressing for those experiencing them and their loved ones.
To effectively handle anxiety tics, you must first learn more about them. What are anxiety tics, and what causes them? How can you manage simple vocal tics and complex motor tics so they don’t control your life? Keep reading to better understand why anxiety tics occur and how you can manage them.
Anxiety tics are involuntary movements or sounds triggered by stress, anxiety disorder, and other mental health conditions. Understanding examples of anxiety tics can help you learn to manage them effectively.
Physical tics are sudden, repetitive movements involving specific muscle groups. Simple tics often occur without warning and may become more frequent during heightened anxiety. Some common examples include:
Vocal tics are involuntary noises from the voice box, mouth, throat, or nose. Like physical tics, simple vocal tics tend to worsen during times of increased stress and anxiety. Common vocal tic examples include:
In some cases, people may experience both physical and vocal tics.
The triggers for any type of tic can vary, ranging from stress and emotional distress to physical discomfort.
One of the primary causes of anxiety tics is stress. When feeling intense pressure or emotional upset, the body may involuntarily contract muscles or vocalize to deal with strain and provide a brief respite from overpowering feelings. This response is a coping mechanism used to release tension and temporarily relieve overwhelming emotions.
A nervous system imbalance can also contribute to the development of anxiety tics. When the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems aren’t balanced, it can lead to heightened muscle tension and involuntary movements, triggering anxiety tics.
In some cases, hereditary factors may contribute to developing tic disorders. It’s important to note that anxiety twitches are not an actual chronic tic disorder. That said, people who have family members with tic disorders or other mental health conditions might be more susceptible to developing anxiety tics themselves.
Lifestyle habits can lead to heightened anxiety disorder, which might result in increased tics. Some unhealthy behaviors that may contribute to anxiety tics include:
It’s normal to wonder if anxiety tics will disappear on their own or if they’re a permanent part of life. The good news is that, in many cases, anxiety tics can be managed and reduced with the right tools and coping methods.
Expert Insight“Absolutely tics can go away. Research reflects that, in some individuals, tics go away completely. It is not unusual to see kids outgrow them or to see them fade away over time. Developmentally, they may peak pre-puberty and disappear as maturity sets in”
Though they can be challenging to manage, you can effectively reduce the frequency and impact anxiety tics have on your life — the following tips can help.
Reducing stress in your surroundings might help minimize the occurrence of anxiety tics. Organize and clear your living area and work spaces to make them pleasant, comfortable, free of clutter, and without unnecessary disturbances.
Incorporate relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation into your daily routine. These practices have been shown to alleviate symptoms of anxiety disorders.
If you’re experiencing difficulty with anxiety-related conditions, like severe tics, transient tic disorder, or OCD, consider seeking help with therapy for anxiety. Therapists and trained mental health professionals are experienced in treating these and other conditions. Online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found effective in managing a variety of mental health conditions, including symptoms of anxiety.
Expert Insight“Much like working with anxiety and stress, behavioral interventions can be positively effective for managing tics. In working with a therapist or clinician, the key can be in raising awareness of anxiety while incorporating positive calming, grounding techniques to counter tics. As well, instilling a feeling of confidence and control, can help diminish a stress response.”
Some medications might be effective in treating anxiety tics, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or other anxiety medications like benzodiazepines. Work with your doctor or healthcare provider to determine if medication should be considered.
Eating well, exercising regularly, and prioritizing sleep are all crucial components of managing anxiety tics. A healthy lifestyle can help reduce stress levels and improve overall mental health. Try implementing some of these natural remedies for anxiety first to see if there’s any improvement and if not, talk to a doctor or therapist.
Finding a community of people who understand what you’re going through can make it easier to cope with anxiety tics. Support groups allow people going through similar challenges to share their experiences, offer advice, and encourage one another in their journey toward better mental health.
Coping with anxiety issues can be hard to do on your own, but learning coping mechanisms can be a positive first step. Talkspace offers a convenient and accessible platform for online therapy, connecting you with licensed therapists specializing in anxiety disorders.
Talkspace provides several benefits that make it an ideal choice for people trying to cope with anxiety tics:
In addition to working with a therapist to manage anxiety tics, Talkspace also offers various resources to help you understand your anxiety. These additional tools can provide valuable insights into understanding and addressing the root causes of your anxiety-related symptoms. By engaging in online therapy through Talkspace, you take proactive steps towards better mental health and effectively manage your anxiety tics.
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Licensed Talkspace Therapist, Elizabeth Keohan has enjoyed working with clients in communities from Washington DC through rural Maine over the course of her career. While she has worked extensively with those experiencing anxiety and depression, she embodies a unique comfort working with the bereaved. Elizabeth combines a compassionate, holistic approach with Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT), to help clients counter their somatic response to stress, anxiety, mood, grief and loss.