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Sensory Tic Triggers

Some people with Tourette syndrome, tic disorders and PANDAS / PANS find that their tics can be exacerbated by certain sensory stimuli. Once the sensory triggers are detected and measures are put in place to address them, some people may see a reduction in tic severity and frequency in these environments.

Light sensitivity: Light sensitivity can be a huge issue for some people in Tourette’s, tic disorder and PANS / PANDAS community. Some people find that they tic more in environments with fluorescent lighting, and this can cause people to have severe tics in public places, where this type of lighting is common. People do not consciously notice it, but fluorescent lights flicker and this flickering can be enough to trigger a neurological reaction, but people may not feel discomfort under this type of lighting so they don’t always notice the sensitivity, it is just when the connection is made between tic severity and certain environments that people see that this is an issue. Some people find that wearing specially tinted glasses helps, but different colours are needed for each individual as it has to suit the persons neurotype.

In my personal experience, I did have an issue with fluorescent lighting which is why I ticced so much in school and in shops. I found out by chance that amber-rose tinted glasses helped me, and it felt as if the urge to tic melted away, which meant that my tics reduced, but normal grey or black sunglasses did not have this effect.

Irlen® syndrome is a condition which can co-occur with Tourette syndrome and tic disorders, it is where people have light sensitivity that leads to reading problems, visual distortions and symptoms such as hyperactivity, irritability, drowsiness, anxiety and other issues when under bright lighting. People who have both Irlen® and Tourette syndrome often see tic exacerbations when they are under bright lighting. People can see a reduction in these issues when the Irlen® syndrome is managed through the use of specially tinted lenses that filter out the wavelengths of light which the brain is having difficulty processing. People with this condition also often experience headaches under bright lights. Those who mainly struggle reading can use coloured overlays to make it easier to read and to reduce the contrast between black text on white paper.

Some people with Tourette’s and tic disorders see an exacerbation in symptoms when using technology, as some people can be sensitive to the flickering or lighting of electronic screens. This can sometimes be managed by taking regular technology breaks, wearing blue light blocking glasses or using an overlay app.

Scented products: Some people find that their tics are worse when they are around scented products such as candles, air fresheners, cleaning products and perfumes. An improvement in tic symptoms may be observed when overstimulating scented or chemical products are removed from the environment.

Tactile, texture and touch sensitivity: Some people find that wearing certain clothes could worsen certain tics. For example, someone may have a head nodding tic, but this could be made worse by wearing a tie due to the sensation causing discomfort.

Sound sensitivity: Some people in the Tourette’s and tic disorder community have sensory processing issues which can manifest as sound sensitivity. In environments where there are a lot of loud, conflicting or repetitive noises, people can become overstimulated and this can lead to sensory overload. In sensory overload people can get anxious and irritable, and may tic more. Some people could get shocked by sudden loud sounds which could make someone have a sudden severe tic.


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