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Tourette’s Syndrome

Disclaimer: This post is not intended for readers to self-diagnose. If you feel you are displaying symptoms of Tourette’s Syndrome, please speak with your healthcare provider or qualified professionals for further action.

Trigger warnings: tics, mention of self-harm


INTRODUCTION


Tourette/Tourette’s Syndrome, or TS for short, is a neurological disorder that involves involuntary actions called “tics”, and is listed in the DSM-V as a category of tic disorders. It was discovered in 1894 by Gilles de la Tourette, when he noticed several patients exhibiting symptoms involving irregular and involuntary movement and sounds. It is estimated that about 0.3-0.6% of the population has TS, with prevalence being higher in males and adolescents. This often misunderstood and stigmatized disorder can severely affect Tourettics’ quality of life or even impact their ability to function.


TICS

  • A type of involuntary action that can involve motor movement and vocalisation

  • Often irregular and non-rhythmic

  • Although individuals may feel a premonitory urge to tic, it is difficult to suppress

  • Holding them in can cause discomfort

  • People without tic disorders can have them too - caused by stress, anxiety, or excitement


Certain complex tics can be sorted into different types. These types include:

  • Echopraxia: repeating someone else’s actions

  • Palipraxia: repeating your own actions

  • Copropraxia: performing socially unacceptable/obscene/sexual gestures

  • Echolalia repeating someone else’s speech

  • Palilalia: repeating your own speech

  • Coprolalia: saying socially unacceptable/obscene/sexual words/phrases

  • They have minimal control over their actions/speech when ticcing

  • Usually don’t intend any harm


What to do when tics occur:

  • Try to remove dangerous objects from the area (motor tics)

  • Hold their hand and try to calm them if they’re comfortable with physical contact


Points worth noting:

  • All situations differ with people: type of tics, frequencies, severities etc.

  • Understand that those who tic often also don’t want to, and offer them support and understanding


SYMPTOMS


The listed diagnostic criteria by the DSM-V simply put are as follows:

  • Individual displays more than 1 motor tic and at least 1 vocal tic

  • Tics can change in frequency

  • Tics have persisted for over 1 year

  • Tics began before the age of 18

  • Tics are not caused by other factors, such as medication or medical conditions


CAUSES AND DEVELOPMENT

No known cause, but can be attributed to:

  • Genetic factors

  • Environmental factors

  • Neurotransmitter activity

  • Other potential factors: family history, birth sex


While an individual’s emotional state cannot cause Tourette’s, it can affect the occurrence and/or severity of their tics.


Tics usually begin to appear in childhood (ages 4-6), and typically peak at ages 10-12. While most individuals report an improvement of their situation during adolescence, there are cases where individuals’ tics increase in severity into adulthood.


TREATMENT

  • No cure

  • Certain medications may help lessen or relieve tics

  • Varies from person to person

  • Therapy: help cope with tics as well as manage:

    • Accompanying problems such as comorbid conditions including ADHD and OCD

    • Or feelings of loneliness and frustration caused by living with the disorder

  • Some may require medical attention to handle any injuries or pain caused by tics


COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS/STIGMAS


TS is a disorder with rather apparent symptoms, which has given rise to a general stigma surrounding it, as well as a misunderstanding of the disorder.



REFERENCES/SOURCES

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).

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