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TV: I suffered tics, reveals Scarlett Moffatt as she looks at rise of Tourette’s

© Gemma GravettScarlett Moffatt.
Scarlett Moffatt.

Since the start of the pandemic child mental health practitioners have recorded a stark increase in the prevalence of tic disorders among children and teenagers.

Some of those who were already diagnosed with a tic disorder, such as Tourette’s syndrome, noticed an increase in tic symptoms during lockdown, but a mystery which has gripped doctors is the marked increase in sudden onset tics in children who hadn’t previously experienced them – particularly in teenage girls.

In a new Channel 4 documentary, Britain’s Tourette’s Mystery: Scarlett Moffatt Investigates, the former Gogglebox star travels around the country to delve into the mystery, meeting some of those who have been recently diagnosed with the condition, scientists grappling with the new phenomenon, and a group of Tourette’s TikTok influencers.

This is a rather personal journey for 31-year-old Moffatt as she developed facial tics when she was 12 years old.

For two years she experienced tics that were a result of suffering from Bell’s palsy.

“It was actually quite a scary time, because I remember not feeling in control of my own body, because I had Bell’s palsy as well,” Moffatt says. “When I was at school and I had the facial tics, I’d try and suppress them so I didn’t stand out, which is basically like holding a hiccup in. As soon as I’d get home they’d just all come out.

“It’s scary as a teenager anyway, because your body’s changing, and you have all these hormones, I just remember feeling like: ‘God, will this ever stop?’”

One doctor Moffatt speaks to for the documentary tells her that, ordinarily, boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with Tourette’s.

However, he and his colleagues have seen an increase in young girls presenting with tic disorders.

“During lockdown, lots of young boys were gaming, so they were still socialising, still had a purpose to get up and still had a hobby,” Moffatt explains.

“Whereas young girls tend to be more social butterflies, and then they, all of a sudden, were confined in the house.

“During lockdown, rightly so, everyone’s attention was on the vulnerable and elderly, because at that time that was who needed our support.

“But I think in doing that, the children and teenagers sort of were left to their own devices, and I feel like, actually, we didn’t realise the impact that it would have on young people.”

Britain’s Tourette’s Mystery: Scarlett Moffatt Investigates, Channel 4, Tue, 10pm