Teenage girls are going to doctors and health clinics after experiencing tics and other disorders that are believed to stem from prolonged use of the social media app TikTok.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, an increasing number of young girls have been diagnosed with “functional neurological disorders” including “vocal tics and abnormal body movements that aren’t tied to an underlying disease,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
Doctors reported that young girls from as far as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom came down with the unusual symptoms after watching TikTok videos featuring people suffering from Tourette syndrome.
Tourette syndrome is a disorder characterized by involuntary and repetitive movements and sounds.
According to the Journal, the number of videos posted to TikTok under the hashtag #tourettes numbers in excess of 5 billion since the start of the pandemic.
Researchers in Australia published a paper in a journal earlier this month suggesting that girls with underlying psychiatric conditions were more susceptible to developing functional tics, the Journal reported.
Experts from the University of Sydney concluded that the tics may have been caused by “a mix of cumulative stress, in addition to social-media influence.”
The Post has reached out to TikTok seeking comment.
A spokesperson for TikTok told the Journal that the app has reached out to experts “who have cautioned that correlation does not mean causation.”
The spokesperson said that those afflicted with Tourettes syndrome use the app to “express themselves authentically, find community and fight stigma.”
The onset of the coronavirus pandemic cut off people from face-to-face social interactions, which naturally led to a greater reliance on social media platforms.
But experts worry that prolonged exposure to sites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok could have negative effects on the mental health of young people.
A 2018 study conducted in Britain found that increased use of social media apps made people more susceptible to sleep disruptions, depression, memory loss, and poor academic performance.