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Mahler, M.S. (1949). A Psychoanalytic Evaluation of Tic in Psychopathology of Children—Symptomatic and Tic Syndrome. Psychoanal. St. Child, 4:279-310.

(1949). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 4:279-310

A Psychoanalytic Evaluation of Tic in Psychopathology of Children—Symptomatic and Tic Syndrome

Margaret Schoenberger Mahler, M.D.

Before we can study "tic" as a psychopathological manifestation we must describe the phenomenon of a tic, and attempt to define and delimit what we mean by this term, from those manifestations which are loosely and interchangeably designated as "tics", "antics", "mannerisms" and "nervous habits". A tic is an involuntary motor automatism. We use the term "tic" to designate those sudden, abrupt and quick repetitious involuntary movements of a physiologically interconnected group or groups of muscles. These are movements which have, at the time of their execution, lost any obvious connection with their original purpose, so that their motivation and meaning is no longer self-evident. In common parlance "tics" and habitual autoerotic manipulations are not distinguished from each other. Yet there is always a grain of truth in popular language habits (28). It is often difficult, if not impossible, to draw the line between transient autoerotic habits, repetitious manneristic movements which are devoid of any symbolic meaning, and the true motor automatism, which we call a "tic". In fact, tics in their true, "crystallized" form may be described as but condensations of the more slowly executed "nervous" motor mannerisms and gestures. In children who are fidgety, jittery and restless, in a word, hyperkinetic as small children, their inconstant and flighty nervous habit movements may develop later into swift, repetitious muscular jerks, which they are unable to control because they have become automatic, that is, involuntary.

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