According to the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, tics are sudden, painless, nonrhythmic behaviors that appear out of context. Simple motor tics are brief, meaningless movements like eye blinking, facial grimacing, head jerks or shoulder shrugs. They usually last less than one second, but can last longer, occur frequently and be more serious..
For those who have never witnessed this affliction, YouTube posted a video of a tic-stricken person watching TV. Tics are often related to a more severe related disorder called Tourette’s Syndrome.
Tics Related to TV Viewing and Video Games
A UK group called Tourette’s Action says that tics usually increase with stress, tiredness and boredom and are often prominent when watching television.
Many others note an association between tics and television watching. However, the cause is not fully understood. Some psychologists believe that tics can be suppressed through concentration; they attribute tic outbursts to relaxation while watching TV. Others see the flickering lights of TV and video games as the culprits. Still others see tics as a genetic disorder and believe that environmental factors may trigger them.
An article posted by The American Nutrition Association in Nutrition Digest notes several types of hypersensitivities associated with tics and says “Television and video games both have a high frequency flicker that doesn’t bother most of us, but often triggers tics. TV and computer video games watched by toddlers are linked to ADHD as well as tics.”
The Association for Comprehensive NeuroTherapy (ACN) which explores treatments for tics and other neurological disorders sponsors a forum for parents of children with tics. A review of the postings on the forum found that 20 of 27 (74 percent) of parents who eliminated screen viewing for at least a week saw a significant reduction in their children’s tics. Most children with screen sensitivity also had food sensitivities. Several parents noted that correcting food issues, such as hypersensitivity to yeast, eliminated the screen sensitivity.
A comprehensive book on the subject, Natural Treatments for Tics and Tourette’s: A Patient and Family Guide, by Sheila J. Rogers contains numerous stories from parents who found that eliminating or restricting television viewing for children with tics lessened the symptoms.
The book also refers to reports from Japan about eye twitching, muscle twitching and in rare cases, even seizures associated with playing video games. Rogers cites warnings printed in Nintendo manuals starting in 2004.
The good news: Rogers reports that tics were most frequently observed while subjects were viewing cathode ray tubes (CRTs) which have much more pronounced flicker than the LCD, plasma and LED screens being sold today.
“Since video games and computer use increase dopamine, and tics are dopamine-related, it’s understandable that electronic media worsen tics. For bothersome tics, I recommend a three week “electronic fast” to normalize brain chemistry and improve sleep (restful sleep improves tics in and of itself).”
We have all become dependent on electronic media; it’s hard to fathom life without screens. This is one more example of how media can impact life in surprising ways.