Teen girls developing sudden severe tics and blurting out the word ‘beans’ - and it could be linked to TikTok

<p>The Senate Homeland Security Committee sent a letter to TikTok executives on Tuesday</p>

The Senate Homeland Security Committee sent a letter to TikTok executives on Tuesday

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Since around March last year, teenage girls all over the world have been developing tics, with some jerking sharply and blurting out words like ‘beans’.

Now doctors theorize that depression, anxiety, and even TikTok may have something to do with it.

A tic - a compulsive, repetitive sound or movement that can be difficult to control - is often attributed to Tourettes syndrome. While Tourettes syndrome, itself, which mostly affects boys is not rare, movement-doctors say that teen girls with tics are.

Since tics usually begin when a child is young and develop over time, doctors were puzzled when meeting patients who had developed a strangely high number of tics seemingly out of nowhere.

The Wall Street Journal reports that doctors in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the U.K have seen a dramatic increase in cases since March of 2020. Donald Gilbert, a pediatric neurologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center who specializes in movement disorders and Tourette syndrome, has seen about 10 new teens with tics a month since the pandemic began. Before the pandemic, he had seen at most one a month.

After months of consultation and research, medical professionals found the common thread among the girls: TikTok. Recent medical journal articles concluded that their patients had been watching TikTok videos of popular creators with Tourette syndrome.

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Dr. Kirsten Müller-Vahl, a doctor based in Hanover, Germany who has treated Tourette’s for over 25 years, told the Jerusalem Post that while those who have the disorder usually have their own unique tics, the girls she had been seeing recently had the same ones.

Her patients appeared to be mimicking the tics of a German YouTuber who frequently shares online how she lives with Tourette’s.

Caroline Olvera, a movement-disorders fellow at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, told The Journal she noticed many patients blurting out the word “beans” with a British accent, even non-English speaking patients. She learned that abruptly shouting the word “beans” is a tic from one particularly popular British TikToker.

When doctors in the U.K. began their research in January, the TikTok hashtag #tourettes had around 1.25 billion views. The number has since grown to 4.8 billion.

“The safety and well-being of our community is our priority, and we’re consulting with industry experts to better understand this specific experience,” said a TikTok spokeswoman.

According to Dr. Joseph McGuire, an associate professor in the university’s department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, the blame isn’t solely on TikTok.

“There are some kids who watch social media and develop tics and some who don’t have any access to social media and develop tics,” Dr. McGuire told The Wall Street Journal. “I think there are a lot of contributing factors, including anxiety, depression and stress.”

Doctors suggest taking a social media break and seeking professional help if the tics interfere with daily life.

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