5 Things to Know About Tourette Syndrome

One of the most misunderstood neurological disorders, Tourette Syndrome is a condition that causes people to have “tics” such as involuntary, sudden and repeated twitches, sounds or movements. 

Dr. George Gilles de la Tourette

The disorder is named for Dr. Georges Gilles de la Tourette, a pioneering French neurologist who in 1885 first described the condition in an 86-year-old French woman.

Tics can be both simple or complexed. When simple, it can be sudden and brief repetitive movements that trigger a limited number of muscle groups such as eye blinking, facial movements or head and shoulder jerking; when complexed, it can be a combination of the simple tics at the same time. However, there are still much more disabling tics that could result in the person engaging in self-harming actions such as punching one’s self in the face.

A disorder that’s still not widely understood, here’s 5 things to know about people who have Tourette Syndrome.

1) The cause of it is unknown

The exact cause of Tourette Syndrome remains unknown as of this day. A complex disorder by its own, experts can only suggest that it is caused by a combination of inherited (genetic) and environmental factors. It is also said that the chemicals in the brain that transmit nerve impulses, which also includes dopamine and serotonin, might play a role.

2) There is no cure

No cure for Tourette Syndrome has been discovered yet. So, instead of looking for a seemingly unknown solution, therapy options have been developed to reduce tics over time. “For more severe tics, medications are available, but they are not always effective or well tolerated,” said Dr. Shprecher, DO, a movement disorder neurologist with Banner Health in the U.S. “In very severe cases, a neurosurgical procedure called deep brain stimulation can be helpful, but it is still considered experimental.”

3) Having a tic doesn’t mean that you have Tourette

Tics, both vocal or motor, are part of the symptoms of Tourette, but there is more to it than that. A person can have single, temporary ticc that lasts for a few weeks or months to having long lasting complex tics. To have Tourette means to have at least two different motor tics and one vocal tic, all for over a year, multiple times a day for almost everyday.

4) People with Tourette cannot control their tics, even if they want to

Both motor and vocal tics that occur in a person are involuntary and completely out of their control, meaning that they are NOT doing it on purpose. Although still largely unknown to experts and the public, the tics are often compared to a sneeze or having an itch. One may try to stop it but the itch or sneeze will still occur either way. It is also said that holding back a tic may make the condition worse or even cause stress.

5) No they aren’t swearing at you

Vocal tics could result in the uttering of socially inappropriate words or swear words. This is often seen on TV but it is not the reality as most people with Tourette don’t frequently use inappropriate language, just like you and me. Known as Coprolalia, it is a complex tic that is hard to control or supress; it affects roughly 1 in 10 people with Tourette.


Want to learn more about Tourette Syndrome? Visit the Tics and Tourette Syndrome Malaysia Support Group today! The community on Facebook raises awareness and provides help while fostering social acceptance for people with tics or Tourette Syndrome.

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