Nervous Tics and Anxious Behavior in Children
Recently, a mom wrote in asking for suggestions for her daughter who seemed to be showing some signs of anxiety. This particular child is seven years old, and had begun exhibiting a nervous tic, sniffing excessively, as well as having repeated instances of vomiting, even though she didn’t appear to be ill. The mom wrote that she suspected her child might be showing symptoms of anxiety, with end of school testing, an upcoming family trip and the excitement of a birthday party. While these events may not seem to be cause for alarm, the child’s vomiting seemed to happen at the same time of day (bedtime) in each instance, and the parents are worried that the child will associate bedtime with anxiety. The parents, rightfully so, would like to help their daughter work through her anxiety.
Regarding nervous tics, it’s not entirely uncommon for people, and even children, to have periods of time when they exhibit a nervous tic. Many times a nervous tic develops from a typical behavior, such as clearing your throat or even sniffing, and the behavior continues even though it is no longer purposeful.
“These short-lasting sudden movements (motor tics) or uttered sounds (vocal tics) occur suddenly during what is otherwise normal behavior. Tics are often repetitive with numerous successive occurrences of the same action. For instance, someone with a tic might blink his eyes multiple times or twitch her nose repeatedly. While people of all ages can experience tics, they are most prevalent in children. Experts say that around 25% of children experience tics.” **
Tics are most often caused by stress, or sleep deprivation. If a nervous tic lasts more than 4 weeks, it can be diagnosed as transient tic disorder. Many times, especially in childhood, these tics will go away on their own. If the tic persists, treatment from a pediatrician is recommended.
Regarding the vomiting, this is another childhood behavior that is more common than you might think. Many times, when children state they have a “tummy-ache”, it can be due to excitement, stress, anxiety or nervousness. When it turns into vomiting, it will certainly cause alarm, and when it is repeated, particularly over a series of days or weeks, it’s time to call the pediatrician. Checking in with a doctor is important to rule out bacteria, a virus, lactose intolerance or constipation.
Our bodies react to emotions, as we all know. When we are sad, we produce tears. When we are angry, our heart races and our blood pressure rises. When we are nervous, we feel “butterflies” in our stomachs. Anxiety causes stomach upset in children and adults. If you are seeing similar behaviors in your children, consider the following:
Parents should make time to discuss these behaviors with the child, and begin by giving gentle reminders to curb the behavior. Punishing the child for an unvoluntary behavior is not recommended. Remember, if the behavior lasts for more than 4 – 6 weeks, you should consult your pediatrician.
** “Tic Disorders and Twitches”, 2010 WebMD,LLC; http://www.webmd.com/brain/tic-disorders-and_twitches