An investigation into mothers’ experiences of their children’s functional tic-like behaviour and tic attacks

Amanda Ludlow, Seonaid Anderson, Sally Robinson, Tamsin Owen, Tammy Hedderly

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Objective: This is the first study to systematically explore the lived experiences of sudden and new onset of severe functional tics from the perspective of the mother’s experiences and describes their attempts to access support services in the United Kingdom.
Method: Twenty-One mothers of young people aged between 12 to 17 years with functional tic-like behaviour (FTLB) took part in semi-structured interviews. Thematic analysis of the transcribed interviews revealed gaps and inconsistencies within the process of gaining access to professional services and a lack of support for the management of tics and functional tic-like movements, in addition to highlighting the impact it had on daily family life.
Results: The themes generated included the occurrence and development of tics, the severity and intensity of symptoms, the psychological impact on the family and the need to make recommendations for a clear care pathway. Managing the impact of the FTLB and co-occurring conditions such as suicidal ideation and self-harm, as well as the physical and emotional trauma, commonly contributed to feelings of isolation and helplessness, which impacted negatively on the family’s ability to function and participate in society.
Conclusions: The findings emphasize the urgent need to create a clear management pathway for those experiencing FTLB, including the need for more professionals with relevant knowledge, to improve the dialogue with families during the referral process, whilst prioritising the treatment of anxiety and other identified mental health concerns.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0292742
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2024


  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety/therapy
  • Child
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mothers
  • Tic Disorders
  • Tics


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