Treatment options for tics 

Self help

Reducing stress and avoiding becoming tired or overexcited

  • May help to reduce frequency and severity of some tics
  •  None
Behavioural therapy

Psychological therapies that aim to teach you new ways to respond to your urge to tic, by performing a competing response or suppressing the tic until the urge goes away

  • Studies have shown that the severity of tics can be reduced in about 50% of people
  • Good results can be difficult to achieve as it requires treatment and practice over a number of sessions and perseverance 



Medication that blocks the effects of dopamine on the brain. Dopamine is thought to be partially responsible for tic-like behaviour

  • Currently the most effective medication available for preventing tics
  • Tics decrease in about 70% of cases
  • Possible side effects include weight gain, blurred vision, constipation, a dry mouth, drowsiness, shaking, trembling, muscle twitches, spasms and decreased sex drive
Alpha2-adrenergic agonists

Medication that reduces levels of norepinephrine in the brain. High levels of norepinephrine are thought to trigger tics

  • Reduces the frequency of both motor and phonic tics in about 50% of cases
  • Possible side effects include drowsiness, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, constipation, diarrhoea, dry mouth and sleeping difficulties

Medication that alters the way certain chemicals transmit messages in the brain

  • Can be a useful short-term treatment for tics
  • Some studies have shown improvement in tics in about 50% of cases
    • Possible side effects include drowsiness, dizziness and unsteadiness or stumbling
    • Possibility of addiction, so should not be used in the long-term

    Medication used to treat conditions that affect movement

    • Some studies have found 80% of people experience an improvement in their tics
    • Has been shown to have long-term benefits for some people
    • Possible side effects include drowsiness, depression, insomnia and feeling sick
    • May need to be used for a long time
    Botulinum toxin

    Medication that is injected into the muscles involved in a particular tic to relax them

    • Studies have shown more than 90% of people have improved tics after treatment and about half of people treated are tic-free for three months
    • Can also reduce the feeling of building tension before a tic
    • Best results achieved if used as a treatment for tics that are confined to a small area, such as vocal tics
    • Effect only lasts about three months, so repeated injections may be needed
    • Most people have a temporarily weak or soft voice afterwards if used to treat vocal tics


    Deep brain stimulation

    Surgery where electrodes are implanted in certain sections of the brain to help regulate the workings of the brain

    • Different studies have found that it can be effective in 20-90% of cases
    • Access is limited because it’s still at an experimental stage for the treatment of tics
    • Only recommended for adults with severe tics that have not responded to other treatments
    • Not clear whether the treatment is safe and effective in the long-term
    • Like all types of surgery there is a risk of infection