The prevalence of tic disorders and clinical characteristics in children

Lawrence Scahill, Matthew Specht, Christopher Page

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Background: Prevalence is a simple statement about the frequency of a disease in the population. For many medical conditions, including Tourette syndrome, there are true cases that have not been previously diagnosed due to problems of access to appropriate clinical services. Therefore, to obtain a trustworthy estimate of prevalence, it is necessary to go beyond cases identified in clinical settings and evaluate community samples. Method: We reviewed 11 community surveys in children with Tourette syndrome (TS) published since 2000. We also examined the frequency of co-occurring psychiatric conditions in community samples and large clinically-ascertained samples. Results: Transient tics are relatively common affecting as many as 20% of school-age children. The 11 studies reviewed here offer a wide range of estimates from 2.6 to 38 per 1000 children for TS. Six studies provide estimates in a narrower range from 4.3 to 7.6 per 1000 but the confidence interval around this narrower range remains wide. Six studies provided results on chronic tic disorders ranging from 3 to 50 per 1000 for Chronic Motor Tic Disorder and 2.5 to 9.4 per 1000 for Chronic Vocal Tic Disorder. Community samples and large clinically-ascertained samples consistently show high rates of ADHD, disruptive behavior and anxiety disorders in children with TS. Conclusions: The wide range of prevalence estimates for TS and chronic tic disorders is likely due to differences in sample size and assessment methods. The best estimate of prevalence for TS in school-age children is likely to fall between 4 and 8 cases per 1000. Clinical assessment of children with chronic tic disorders warrants examination of other problems such as ADHD, disruptive behavior and anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)394-400
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014


  • Ascertainment bias
  • Prevalence
  • Tourette syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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