Scarlett Moffatt opens up about developing sudden onset tics in Tourette's documentary

·5 min read
Scarlett Moffatt has opened up about developing sudden onset tics in a new Tourette's syndrome documentary, pictured in March 2019. (Getty Images)
Scarlett Moffatt has opened up about developing sudden onset tics in a new Tourette's syndrome documentary, pictured in March 2019. (Getty Images)

Scarlett Moffatt has opened up about developing sudden onset tics in a new documentary about Tourette's syndrome.

The TV presenter’s debut documentary on Channel 4, Britain’s Tourette’s Mystery, will see her travel around the country to uncover potential causes of the condition.

Moffatt, 31, knows something about the topic having developed sudden onset tics when she was younger.

The former I'm a Celebrity winner developed facial tics when she was just 12 years old and while her tics were as a result of Bell’s Palsy, many of those living with Tourette's syndrome also experience tics.

“I remember being a young teen and standing in front of the mirror for hours, just staring in the mirror and trying to get my face to go straight and trying to stop the tics," she said.

“It was just really scary. It’s scary as a teenager anyway, because your body’s changing, and you have all these hormones, but when you feel like you’re not in control of them, I just remember feeling like, ‘God, is this ever gonna stop? Am I ever gonna be in control again?’"

Read more: 'My son has Tourette’s syndrome': Heartache caused by a missed diagnosis

The former Gogglebox star says she was surprised to learn how widespread suffering from tics seems to be.

Over the course of the pandemic, doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital and Guy’s and St Thomas’ have seen a significant rise in the number of teenagers presenting with Tourette’s syndrome or tic disorders.

Experts believe that anxiety is one of the main causes of the rise of tics.

“When I started seeing all of these articles about young girls getting sudden onset tics, and my algorithm on TikTok was loads of young girls with tics, I was like why is no one talking about this because it sounds like it’s a bit of a pandemic in itself," the TV presenter continued.

Moffatt hopes that by making the documentary she will help those experiencing tics and living with Tourette's feel supported.

“The big thing when I had tics was that I felt alone, I didn’t really know any other young girls with it so I just thought, at least if other parents and families and people can watch this, and realise that they’re not alone, then that can only be a good thing.”

Scarlett Moffatt has made a documentary about Tourette's syndrome, pictured in 2020. (Photo by David Parry/PA Images via Getty Images)
Scarlett Moffatt has made a documentary about Tourette's syndrome, pictured in 2020. (Photo by David Parry/PA Images via Getty Images)

Moffatt isn't the only celebrity who has experience of tics. Earlier this year Billie Eilish opened up about living with Tourette's syndrome from a young age.

The Grammy award-winning singer, 20, was prompted to discuss her condition when she experienced a tic on camera, brought on by the lights, during an interview on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman for Netflix.

"If you film me for long enough, you're going to see lots of tics," she said. "I don't care. It's really weird, I haven't talked about it all.

"The most common way people react is they laugh, [think] that I'm trying to be funny... and I'm always left incredibly offended by that."

Watch: Billie Eilish has said that living with Tourette's syndrome is 'very exhausting'

Commenting on how it can often go unnoticed, or misunderstood, she said, "What's funny is so many people have it that you would never know," adding that she knew of other artists who did, but that she wasn't going to "out them".

When Letterman expressed he hoped the interview hadn't exacerbated her condition, Eilish replied, "Not at all.

"I actually really love answering questions about it, because it's very, very interesting. And I am incredibly confused by it. I don't get it."

Eilish was diagnosed with Tourette's at 11, having experienced minor tics when she was a child.

The types of tics she described now include ear wiggling, raising her eyebrow, clicking her jaw and flexing her arm.

Billie Eilish has also opened up about living with Tourette's syndrome, pictured in May 2022. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
Billie Eilish has also opened up about living with Tourette's syndrome, pictured in May 2022. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)

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What is Tourette's syndrome?

Tourette's syndrome is a condition that causes a person to make involuntary sounds and movements called tics, according to the NHS.

While it usually starts during childhood, tics and other symptoms often improve over the years, sometimes going away entirely. There is no cure for the condition, but treatment – which can include behavioural therapy and medicine – can help manage symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of Tourette's syndrome

Symptoms can be both physical and vocal, and can be worse on some days than others, particularly during periods of stress, anxiety or tiredness.

Example of physical tics, as listed by the NHS, include:

  • blinking

  • eye rolling

  • grimacing

  • shoulder shrugging

  • jerking of the head or limbs

  • jumping

  • twirling

  • touching objects and other people

Examples of vocal tics include

  • grunting

  • throat clearing

  • whistling

  • coughing

  • tongue clicking

  • animal sounds

  • saying random words and phrases

  • repeating a sound, word or phrase

  • swearing (this is rare and only affects about one in 10 people)

Tics are not usually harmful to overall health, but can be painful, tiring or embarrassing.

Read more: Aphasia explained: The truth about Bruce Willis' health condition

When to seek medical advice

The NHS advises that you should contact your GP if you or your child starts having tics. As many children have tics for several months before growing out of them, it's important to remember their symptoms may not necessarily mean they have Tourette's syndrome.

While there's no single test for the condition, tests and scans can rule out other health problems. A diagnosis can be given to those who have had several tics for at least a year, which can help ensure they get access to the right kind of treatment and support.

You can also find support from charity Tourette's action.

Britain’s Tourette’s Mystery will be broadcast on July 19.

Additional reporting PA.

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