Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Provisional Tic Disorder

Reviewed by Psychology Today Staff

Tics take the form of abnormal, repetitive, and unintentional movements or vocalizations that do not follow any rhythm or pattern.

Provisional tic disorder, previously known as transient tic disorder, is a motor disorder in which the person experiences seemingly involuntary motor and/or verbal tics for under one year. Tics are often described as being preceded by a strong, uncontrollable urge to tic, followed by a release of tension. Some people also report feeling that their tic must be done in a certain way, and they will repeat the tic until it has been done “just right.”

Tic disorders generally surface in childhood, and symptoms usually begin before a child reaches puberty, with an average onset between the ages of 4 and 7. Symptoms tend to be most severe between the ages of 10 and 12 and improve as the child moves into adolescence. Tic disorders are at least twice as common in boys as in girls.

In recent years, a significant uptick of teenagers has experienced something like provisional tic disorder. Some researchers believe this is due to the consuming and sharing of videos of people with tics, particularly on the platform TikTok, and so has been dubbed by some the "TikTok Tics."


To be diagnosed with provisional tic disorder, a person must have at least one motor or vocal tic that has been present for less than a year. The behavior also must have emerged before age 18 and not be attributable to Tourette's disorder, persistent (chronic) motor or vocal tic disorder, substance use disorder, or another medical condition.

Tics can be either simple or complex. Simple motor tics are quick (milliseconds) and can include:

  • Eye blinking
  • Facial grimaces
  • Shoulder shrugging
  • Repetitive touching
  • Straightening of the arms or legs

Simple vocal tics include:

  • Throat clearing
  • Sniffing
  • Grunting

Complex tics often involve a combination of simple tics, such as simultaneous eye blinking and head-turning. They tend to last for a longer period of multiple seconds. Tics can worsen when a person is anxious, excited, or exhausted. Similarly, they may diminish when a person is calm and focused on a particular activity, such as schoolwork.

How long does a provisional tic disorder last?

In most cases, tics last only a few months before resolving on their own. Provisional tic disorder, by definition, lasts for at most a year. If tics continue past a year, then a diagnosis of persistent motor or vocal tic disorder or Tourette’s syndrome may be applicable.

What’s the difference between provisional tic disorder and Tourette’s syndrome?

With Tourette’s disorder, or Tourette’s syndrome, tics occur for more than one year and a patient must experience both multiple motor and one or more vocal tics. In contrast, those with provisional tic disorder have experienced symptoms for less than a year and symptoms may only include single vocal or motor tics, though they may experience multiple versions of each, as well. If the tics continue, provisional tic disorder may be reassessed and the patient may be diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome or persistent motor or vocal tic disorder.

article continues after advertisement

The specific cause of provisional tic disorder is unknown. It is thought to be influenced by a combination of several factors, including genetic and brain abnormalities and a person’s environment. Tic disorders can run in families and may also be caused or worsened by environmental factors such as older paternal age and maternal smoking during pregnancy. Anxiety, stress, and exhaustion can exacerbate symptoms.

Can tics be caused by anxiety?

There is no evidence that tics are caused by anxiety but there is evidence that anxiety can exacerbate tic symptoms. It is common for tics to become more intense or frequent when children are anxious, nervous, or excited.

Are tics becoming more prevalent?

The number of parents seeking medical help for their children’s tics increased significantly during the coronavirus pandemic. It is unclear why this happened, and research is needed to explain the change, although there are several hypotheses that are being taken seriously. 

One idea is that the disruption of normal routines during the pandemic facilitated the increase in the presentation of patients with tics. The additional stress that much of the population experienced during the disruption to normal life brought on by the pandemic could be another mitigating factor. 

There are some very important distinctions, however, between the presentation of tics during the pandemic and those seen previously. For one, the surge in tics has come largely from a population that previously did not experience tics in high numbers: teenagers, and, specifically, teenage girls.

Typically, the onset of tics begins between ages 4 and 7, and are most pronounced in the period before puberty, at around 10 to 12. Additionally, tics have previously been diagnosed among boys at a rate two to four times as often as in girls.


Treatment for a tic disorder is only necessary when the symptoms are severe enough to cause distress in a child or adolescent and interfere with their school functioning or social development. Treatment might include medication or behavioral therapy to reduce the presence and severity of symptoms, as well as improve any distress a person might experience as a result of their tics. Additionally, relaxation techniques can help decrease the frequency of tics.

Does provisional tic disorder go away?

In most cases, a tic appears, lasts for a few months, and then goes away on its own. Some experts recommend going to a doctor only if the tic becomes a hindrance to the child’s life.

How do you diagnose a tic disorder?

Parents or caregivers can share any concerns about their child’s motor or vocal tics with their pediatrician. They will be asked questions about what the tic or tics look like, when the symptoms started, and how often they occur. The patient may be referred to a neurologist to rule out any medical conditions that could be causing or contributing to their child’s tics. If a tic disorder is diagnosed, the provider can help the family determine the best course of treatment.

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th edition). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Black, K. J., Black, E. R., Greene, D. J., & Schlaggar, B. L. (2016). Provisional Tic Disorder: What to tell parents when their child first starts ticcing. F1000Research, 5.
Heyman, I., Liang, H., & Hedderly, T. (2021). COVID-19 related increase in childhood tics and tic-like attacks. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 106(5), 420–421.
Kim, S., Greene, D.J., Bihun, E.C. et al. Provisional Tic Disorder is not so transient. Sci Rep 9, 3951 (2019).
Last updated: 05/17/2022