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