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wildpotato's avatar

Can you help me think of an unnoticeable facial tic?

Asked by wildpotato (14903points) November 10th, 2009

I have Tourette Syndrome. One of my tics is tapping my teeth together. It’s like chattering, but counted and equalized for all areas of my bite (my teeth don’t all touch at once; I have to bite in different ways to put pressure on each of them in turn).

I deliberately cultivated this tic because it’s fairly unnoticeable, as compared to my old ones: raising my eyebrows, twitching my nose, flapping my tongue inside my open mouth. I need to stop chattering my teeth immediately because I just learned that I grind, and will wear down my teeth pretty quickly despite my new nightguard if I don’t stop the chattering.

Now, the only way I know of to stop a tic without using the dreaded brain meds is to transfer the impulse to tic onto a new twitch, using muscles in and around the same area that the original tic was focused. But I can’t think of a different facial tic that won’t be blatantly noticeable except for ear-wriggling, and I can’t do that.

I really don’t want to have to use brain meds again – they take away a part of myself that I like. I’ve been able to avoid them for years now because I don’t need to supress the impulse to tic if I’m able to transfer my obvious tics to unnoticeable tics – but now I’m worried that I can’t make another impulse-transfer, because I can’t think of anything appropriate to transfer the impulse to.

So, collective, here is my really weird question for you: is there a facial twitch you can think of, not involving teeth, that won’t make people look at me like, “My god, what’s wrong with your face?”

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35 Answers

gemiwing's avatar

Maybe something using the tongue? Flicking it against the roof of your mouth perhaps? (while your mouth is loosely closed, I mean)

oratio's avatar

Wtf, I do that too… the teeth thing.

tinyfaery's avatar


YARNLADY's avatar

My former husband had an involuntary, mild tic which consisted of a wink, with his face scrunched, similar to this

asmonet's avatar

Maybe instead of pushing your teeth together, you could use your tongue to tick them off individually? I do that when bored, or when I think. I push and explore the bottom of each tooth and just keep circling around. No one’s ever noticed as far as I know.

When I get bored of that I run my tongue along the grooves of all my molars.

Shuttle128's avatar

I have a similar problem with grinding and clenching (I too feel the need to press them all evenly together…..I also click them together when I count things).

I’ve recently been playing with my tongue rather then clenching but I’ve also formed a bit of a habit of still contracting my jaw muscles (which can cause TMJ problems). You might try some of the suggestions from my question, a few seemed fairly promising.

Allie's avatar

I was thinking about maybe twisting your tongue. Right twist, then left twist or something like that. Or maybe running the tip of your tongue along the back sides of your teeth?

dpworkin's avatar

Just tic. Your friends don’t care and the rest of the people don’t know you and are probably ignorant anyway.

augustlan's avatar

@asmonet I do that, too! Pretty sure no one has ever noticed.

asmonet's avatar

@pdworkin: Sadly, that’s just not how most of the world operates. People judge, and if s/he can minimize it to their benefit without harming their own sense of self then more power to them.

Friends and strangers aren’t the only people you interact with. Employers, clients, colleagues, teachers, students – tics can change very important parts of your life, and not necessarily for the better.

YARNLADY's avatar

@pdworkin In a perfect world, you might have a good point, however, in the world the rest of us live, a person’s very livelihood can depend on presenting a proper “face” to the world.

dpworkin's avatar

People judge the “little” tics, too. My friends who have Tourette’s have a love/hate relationship with their tics. To a person, though, they would rather tic and feel alive than be medicated and feel dead. My girlfriend can’t hide her blindness, and that’s stigmatized too. People feel “sorry” for us; they seem to imagine that I am “stuck” taking care of her. I’ve just learned not to give a shit.

asmonet's avatar

There’s a big difference between tapping your fingers as a tic and shaking your head violently. There are levels of disturbance and distraction. When minimized the less observant wouldn’t even notice. We’re here to give unnoticeable options, so that @wildpotato can avoid meds as they’ve stated they do not enjoy being on them. I don’t understand what point it is you’re trying to make. Do you have a suggestion?

SarasWhimsy's avatar

Before you try to change this tic, I would check with a dentist to see if you are doing any damage. Amazingly, you might not be doing damage at all. That way, you don’t have to fix what’s not broken!

Beta_Orionis's avatar

Flaring your nostrils, but that’s a little more noticeable.
How about wiggling your ears?

Something I do often involving my mouth is form a gentle vacuum with my teeth apart, and then close my teeth so that I “bite” down the side of my cheeks slowly and softly. It’s just enough pressure to constitute an activity, but not to do damage or inflame them to the point of accidental painful cheek biting.
Like others, I also run my tongue along my teeth.

asmonet's avatar

@Beta_Orionis: Try again, they said they can’t wiggle their ears. :P

Supacase's avatar

Tapping your tongue against the inside of your front teeth or flicking it against the inside of your teeth, alternating left & right.

Beta_Orionis's avatar

@asmonet Aw man! I did ready everything thoroughly before suggesting it. :/

asmonet's avatar

@Beta_Orionis: I know, baby. I do that too. :)

oratio's avatar

Does it really have to be facial? Why not wiggle your toes?

Judi's avatar

I don’t do it so much any more, but I learned the sign language alphabet and used to spell out the words I was thinking when got nervous.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

What about swallowing hard, like you would to make your ears pop when pressure changes? I do this with my mouth closed.

dpworkin's avatar

@asmonet Sometimes in a discussion some people present a different point of view. This is called an “alternative” way of looking at the situation. It may or may not be helpful, but merely because it doesn’t correspond with what everyone else is saying doesn’t mean it is off-topic or doesn’t belong. It is also possible for you not to understand things that others find quite comprehensible.

asmonet's avatar

I am not a child, and I have no need to be spoken to as one. Keep the insults to yourself.

Your comments did nothing to further the conversation or to answer the OP’s question, and in case you’ve forgotten, that’s what this website is for. Questions and answers. I asked you if you had a suggestion that actually fit her question, and as far as I’ve seen – you don’t.

dpworkin's avatar

I see. When I disagree with you it’s an insult, when you denigrate my answer it’s just you helping out.

asmonet's avatar

Oh please, anyone can see what you were doing in that last comment. I see this over and over with you, I’m done. Good luck on the next thread. I have no wish to help derail the thread further.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] Flame off, folks.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

@wildpotato, I practiced facial movements in back-to-back meetings today, after asking a team mate to tell me which is the least noticeable. Her vote was for a lip quiver, which involved parting my teeth, keeping my lips shut and going through the same movement as teeth tapping, but using cheek muscles for the movement rather than the jaw. Would there be enough physical movement in that sort of facial gesture, or is it too subtle?

wildpotato's avatar

I’ve been trying the tongue-flicking and -ticking suggested by @gemiwing, @asmonet, @Shuttle128, @Allie, and @Supacase. It kind of works, but is not quite satisfying enough so far. Tics need to be fairly quick, and all one motion. I’ll keep playing with this to see if I can find something. Making a soft clicking noise at the back of my throat with my tongue might be the ticket.

@tinyfaery Blinking is extremely satisfying, but may be too noticeable. But I can probably explain it away as chronic dry-eye, so this may just be the ticket if I can manage to transfer the impulse away from mouth movements.

@YARNLADY This might be the best picture of Bush I’ve seen so far. Thanks for sharing!

@Beta_Orionis Cheek-biting is a good idea, but fairly noticeable. Same with nostil-flaring. Thanks for reading the details :)

@oratio It does need to be facial. I think that if I tried toe-wriggling, I would probably end up by adding a new tic rather than transferring the one I don’t want. It’s hard to make the transfer even in the local area, you see.

@Judi Interesting idea. But I think it would involve too much thought – tics need to be very close to involuntary, because otherwise they would take up too much brain-space. at least, that’s my un-educated take on the psychology of why the motions generally take no thought. I ought to research this more; thanks for intriguing me.

@PandoraBoxx Swallowing is an interesting one to throw out there. But when I try it, it feels unsatisfying, I think because it’s not a quick enough motion. Thanks for doing some empirical research for me! I can’t quite visualize the lip quiver you describe in order to copy it – I get hung up on the “using cheek muscles for the movement rather than the jaw.” Could you try to redescribe it?

On the pdworkin/asmonet debate – you guys gave me a lot to think about. I’ll get back to this later tonight, stay tuned.

tinyfaery's avatar

@wildpotato Glad to help. I do notice excessive blinking, but it’s one of those things that is easy to ignore once you get used to it.

dpworkin's avatar

@wildpotato I’m glad I didn’t upset you. I really was trying to be helpful.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

@wildpotato, keep your mouth closed, but part your teeth enough to fit the tip of your tongue between. Using your cheek muscles, tap your teeth up and down on your tongue, enough to apply pressure but not hard enough to hurt. Your lips stay closed.

I suppose it does use your jaw, but it feels more like cheek muscles. You can go as fast as you need to, but because of the control needed for the smallness of the movement, it takes a lot of concentrated effort. The physical result is a small quiver in your lower lip and chin.

Judi's avatar

@wildpotato ; for me it IS involuntary. I will be sitting quietly and one of my family members will say to me, “Judi, are you nervous?”
I will give them a puzzled look and they will say, “You were signing.” I didn’t even realize it.

Beta_Orionis's avatar

@PandoraBoxx OH! That was hard to process, but the secondary description helped me realize. My suggestion to you, @wildpotato, is to try causing your lower lip/chin to quiver. That makes the action @PandoraBoxx is suggesting instantly obvious and is sort of like cheek biting, but much less noticeable!

I thought of another action. Thrust the tip of your tongue between your front teeth in one short stroke, so it gets scraped gently by the top row of teeth. It’s quick and not very noticeable the way I’m doing it.

Also, I guess I just have very fleshy cheeks; my biting is nearly imperceptible!

Kayak8's avatar

Close your lips with teeth slightly apart. Put the very tip of your tongue between your front teeth and you can actually suck your own tongue—you can also do this rhythmically. Think as though you have a pacifier in your mouth. The action is all in your mouth (I just tried it in front of the mirror and it is less noticeable than sucking your checks in).

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