Social media influencer uses platform to raise awareness of Tourette's Syndrome after rise in cases

  • Video report by Ravneet Nandra

Research suggests there has been a big surge in cases of young people developing tics during lockdown - and predictions that the overall number could actually double by the end of the year.

Tics and Tourette's syndrome are fast and repetitive muscle movements that result in sudden and hard-to-control body jolts or sounds.

Their intensity can fluctuate from one day to the next.

Becca Braccialle uses her 635,000 followers on TikTok to raise awareness of her Tourtettes and tic attacks.

She was diagnosed last October during lockdown after something triggered her first attack. Though doctors suspect she has had it since she was 14. 

Becca said: " It's so unpredictable. One day I can have barely any tics, it can be really calm. The next day it could be a big explosion of tics. It's just kind of learning my body ands the triggers and knowing when to take time away from people or knowing when to be nearer to people. You learn to manage it and work with your body rather than work against it. "

Since the start of the covid-19 pandemic, paediatricians and child mental health experts say they've seen an increase in tic symptoms in some children and young people who are already diagnosed, and new to tic-like attacks.

Typically, childhood tics start around 5-7 years of age more commonly affecting boys in a ratio of 4 to 1. But there's been a surge in referrals of adolescent girls. 

From 2019 to 2020, Great Ormond Street and Evelina Children's Hospitals each received four to six referrals of teenage girls with tics. 

 But in the last three months of last year, they received three to four referrals each, per week. 

Research suggests if this continues, the UK could see double the number of children with tics by the end of the year. 

Experts at the Appletree Centre in Sheffield say tics come in waves but the last year and a half could have triggered this wave in tic attacks. 

Katie Lewis, child psychotherapist, said:" Children have experienced being in school and then out of school and backwards and forwards, and that has been really quite stressful so I think things like tics are becoming more apparent in those young people because stress is triggering them to need to do something to self-regulate and to have control over something so I think a sense of relief can come with that."

The neurological condition has no cure. So there is an urgency from doctors to make sure young people have confidence in living with it as much as possible. 

 Dr Uttom Chowdhury, consultant in child an adolescent psychiatry said: "Almost acceptance of it would be good and I found that in some of the girls, when you talk to them we say 'actually you're not going mad, you're not going crazy.' It's just a little quirk that's happening now. We think it's anxiety related.

A lot of them are reassured and surprisingly some of them feel confident about the tics as well- not as distressed as we'd normally expect which says that maybe there is a psychological element to it."