Young women across Australia are afflicted with a mysterious neurological disease – experts fear social media addiction and pandemic stress are fueling the problem.
Tourette syndrome-like disorder is seeing teenagers have uncontrollable ‘tics’. – which includes seizures, trembling, pops, noises, swearing, kicking and hitting.
Physicians are also witnessing this phenomenon all over the world where previously healthy young women have reported falling suddenly with violent physical and verbal impulses.
But the reason for the rapid increase in the number of cases baffled parents and medical authorities.
One possible explanation is that the anxiety and stress caused by long periods of isolation, along with obsessions with apps like TikTok, may have been the catalyst.
“This bright, brave, fiercely independent little girl is stuck in her body, in her head. Melissa told 60 Minutes about her daughter Metallica – really hard to watch – before the teen slapped her mom.
Metallica slaps her mother Melissa – one of many teenage tics as a result of the new condition affecting young Australian girls.
Metallica said that “lockdowns and not seeing my friends as much” exacerbated her tics. During the pandemic, her older sister Charlie also had the same condition.
“When she has her tics, I’ll go away, so it doesn’t bother me and make it worse for her,” Charlie said.
Their families chose to view the two disorders positively, saying that some of their tics are so ridiculous ‘You can’t help but laugh’ – but the reality is sadder.
Metallyka and Charlie both need constant care, as they both suffer from extreme forms of the condition.
There has been a sharp increase in similarly reported cases through the epidemic, largely in teenage girls who can notice symptoms appearing as quickly as they appear overnight.
Doctors remain unknown about its cause – but many believe it is directly linked to the social consequences of lockdowns and social media reliance.
Michaela began suffering from severe tics when she was 14, and her parents immediately took her to the hospital.
I was serving dinner, and I heard some voices and screams and saw her lying on the floor. “I thought she was having a severe anxiety attack,” her mother said, “and the next thing an arm and then a leg fly.
She said she didn’t mean to do that. It was really scary, really scary.
Michaela was one of the first girls to suffer from this new disorder – which terrified her parents and doctors when she was first taken to hospital after developing her tics overnight.
Michaela, now 16, was one of the first to appear to have experienced the new condition – she admitted doctors were shocked and fearful of her disorder.
The teen would practice standing on her hands, rolling on the floor and even opening hatches – her school was constantly calling her parents to report her new tics.
“I was always on edge,” she said.
Nicole, a 15-year-old Briton, began experiencing her tics shortly before her thirteenth birthday – with slight facial tics turning into violent physical and verbal outbursts.
Her mother said the most common tics she encounters is that she usually yells “I’m Madeleine McCann, I’ve been kidnapped” in public.
Like many other cases, Nicole’s convulsions emerged during Covid when she was admittedly ‘too lonely’.
I didn’t know what to do with myself. ‘You can’t see friends or family,’ she told 60 Minutes, ‘It wasn’t a very nice thing to be in’.
Professor Russell Dale – a pediatric neurologist at Westmead Hospital – said he had heard of girls all over the world with conditions similar to the young women being brought to him.
He said the first case he saw of the disease was in Michaela two years ago and that it was “something different” from anything he had seen before.
There were very violent movements striking itself, but the sounds were also different. Instead of simple noises, there were complex sentences—which is very strange, I’ve never seen that before,” he told the program.
Experts believe it is the ‘perfect storm’ of the pandemic, prolonged isolation and reliance on social media that has caused the new phenomenon.
Professor Dale ruled out Tourette as the cause of the epidemic because it is found four times more in boys and appears slowly from an early age.
He said the main factor appeared to be the pressures of the pandemic as well as the overt use of TikTok and other apps – forcing young women’s bodies to ‘fail’.
“Girls all over the world are using similar phrases – which made us believe that social media was a link to what was happening,” he said.
The professor noted the tradition of TikTok videos showing tics being broadcast around the world – with 16-year-old Michaela admitting seeing the clips that triggered her behavior and seeing it reflect it.
She has now made a full recovery, with Professor Dale saying the disorder is “definitely” something to be overcome, but he admitted that only 20 per cent of his patients have outgrown the condition.
It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of girls around the world could suffer from the same disease as a result of the “perfect storm” of the global pandemic.