Pediatr Neurol. 2024 Apr 5;155:182-186. doi: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2024.03.027. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Functional tic disorders are among the least common functional movement disorders, but their prevalence rose during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Although female adolescents develop functional neurological disorders at higher rates than males, investigations into sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) status of these patients are limited.

METHODS: We completed a retrospective, cross-sectional time series examining the incidence of new-onset functional tic disorders in youth presenting to the Massachusetts General Hospital Movement Disorder clinics before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data were collected by searching for relevant International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-10 diagnostic codes in youth aged nine to 26 years using a hospital-wide data repository. Individual cases were reviewed for inclusion based on clinical criteria and expert consensus.

RESULTS: The prevalence of functional tic presentations in youth rose 8.6-fold from pre- to postpandemic levels (Fisher exact test P < 0.001), whereas the prevalence of developmental tic presentations pre- and postpandemic remained stable (114 vs 112). SOGI minority youth comprised 37% of those with functional tics (total n = 19). Ninety five percent of patients with functional tics identified as female, with 10% of these identifying as transgender.

CONCLUSIONS: Our data confirm previously demonstrated dramatic rises in functional tic presentations during the COVID-19 pandemic and, more notably, reveal a strong association with SOGI minority status. We highlight the potential link between functional tic disorders and SOGI minority status. Providing a safe and supportive clinical environment and addressing stress linked to SOGI minority status may help to improve patient prognosis.

PMID:38677240 | DOI:10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2024.03.027