Symptoms: PTSD & Facial Tics

Q: Dear Frank, A Facebook member asked about about PTSD & Facial Tics. Is there a correlation between PTSD and facial tics?

A: Dear reader, Tics are famously associated with stress and anxiety – think of Herbert Lom in the Pink Panther, contending with Inspector Clouseau. One recent case of treatment for PTSD relieved an ocular tic that dated from combat exposure:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19407733

The term “conversion reaction” refers to any somatic change that is generated by a psychological stressor, and tics often fall into a similar category. So, yes, tics can be initiated by the same traumas that initiate PTSD. Often, that trauma will not meet the threshold (paragraph A) for the PTSD diagnosis. The trauma could be less dramatic and drastic. But it is a source of stress or shame nevertheless. It could be a situation that interferes with sleep. Insomnia is linked with tics. Tics usually arise in childhood and vanish on their own.

When PTSD and tics go together, the treatment for PTSD should help with the tic. But particular tics deserve their own evaluations and approaches. Tics may have nothing to do with emotional causes and be a result of infection or medication. A nerve “habit” may be triggered and can be relieved, although some tics are quite persistent. Here are some helpful links:

https://www.webmd.com/brain/tic-disorders-and_twitches
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17032567/