Tourette’s and Tics-Let’s erase Stigma

Hello again. Today I want to tackle another subject (I am on a roll!) I want to talk about Tourette’s. Similar to my “dating” post (!) I went out and asked for people’s views on Tourette’s and again I was disappointed! From disappointment comes challenge! This time, below comments are my feedback/reply!

I knew someone with Tourette’s and he won’t stop cursing period

(In reality, only a small percentage of those with Tourette’s syndrome have obscenity specific outbursts).

Tourette Syndrome (like most syndromes and conditions) stems from psychological trauma

(No! Imaging technology shows us that it is a neurological disorder, not a psychological disorder)

Those with TS can work and that’s super, but I am not sure I would employ someone with TS as I need employees with bang-on motor functions –

(There are no occupations with especially complex procedures that generally rule-out prospective employees with Tourette’s syndrome)

I think they can often be smart, but I would not see many in my field of athletics–

(Every person is different and every person with Tourette is unique, so plenty are capable of sports success. The two are not synced. Look at football goalkeeper Tim Howard, he’s exceptional, he has Tourette’s, his vision and pace of reflex are thought to perhaps be linked to having Tourette’s)!

My mother in law had it and it’s an up and down condition, but it’s unfortunate that it gets worse as you get older –

(This is in fact -incorrect. Sure, some neurological disorders get worse with age. Tourette’s typically does not. In fact, many who suffer from it go through the worst during adolescence.)

I have a lot of sympathy, it is definitely misunderstood. They are unfortunately mentally challenged –

(This is very stigmatizing Tourette’s syndrome is not linked to intelligence. This is actually quite defamatory. It is not an Intellectual Deficiency. It is a neurological disorder illustrated by involuntary movement/motor/speech tics).

I think we see less and less of it, at least I do. I know it is an extremely rare condition –

(It is estimated that every 1 in 100 adults and children suffers from Tourette syndrome) .

Tourette syndrome can be managed with concentration. There is hope with this approach –

(Because TS stems from a chemical imbalance in the brain, there is no voluntary aspect to it whatsoever)

I have never seen a black man with Tourette’s. I wonder why its only Caucasians

(Good grief! As with most disorders and diseases, TS does not discriminate)

TS is debilitating, they have my full sympathy, We need more awareness –

(Most people with Tourette Syndrome can go on to lead rich, fulfilling lives and take part in just about any activity as anyone else, so sympathy is typically not sought).

Tourette’s is one of the most stigmatizing conditions. For many, there is a completely uneducated opinion. In addition to the above, there is a feeling that people with Tourette’s may be immature or unable to handle themselves and thus become violent.

My Piece

As a child, I had mild tics for randomized very short periods of time (eye blinking in particular, a little nodding). The reaction from other kids was painful. I think there is a real misunderstanding of Tourette syndrome. It did not last long. After a specific severe period of stress a number of years ago, I developed a small grunt. It went away which was great, but at the time, I was trying to suppress it with a cough. A friend later told me that it had been evident. I felt embarrassment and then asked myself – “why was I feeling embarrassment” and again the answer was stigma and the stigma arising from other people’s misconceptions

What is Tourette’s really?

Tourette’s is an often heredity, childhood-onset, neurodevelopmental condition that causes sufferers to make sudden, uncontrollable movements and/ or sounds called tics. Tics can vary by person from mild to moderate to severe; examples of what we are talking about include head nodding, blinking, grunting, and shoulder shrugging.

Tourette’s is a common condition. It is a little hard to get Irish stats, but in the US today, it is estimated that nearly one in a hundred have Tourette’s or a form of a tic disorder. Largely misunderstood, many Tourette’s sufferers are ridiculed or questioned in a way that makes them uncomfortable.

The syndrome was named for Dr. Georges Gilles de la Tourette, a French neurologist who diagnosed it in 1885 and tried treating it with isolation, tonics, hydrotherapy and static electricity. Tourette’s usually appears before the age of 18 and is three to four times more common in boys than in girls. There is no laboratory test to confirm it; instead, diagnosis is made by observation over time.

Corprolalia is the name for the swearing side of the Tourette’s. Typically, a lower percentage or fraction has this particular symptom. 10-15%. We need to end this stigma that folk with Tourette’s spend hours a day roaring explicit obscenities. They don’t!

Tics tend to occur in bursts or “bouts.” A child with an eye blinking tic, for example, will exhibit a bout of eye blinking, and not just one eye blink. Tics are often divided by whether they are “simple” or “complex.” A simple tic involves one muscle group or one simple sound. Many simple motor tics are associated with the face, head, and neck region, such as eye blinking, head jerking, shoulder shrugging etc. Simple vocal tics include throat-clearing sounds, grunting, sniffing, and coughing.

A complex tic involves a coordinated movement produced by a number of muscle groups (complex motor tic) or a meaningful utterance or phrase (complex vocal tic). As examples, complex motor tics can involve touching objects or other people, jumping up and down

A dreadful part of stigma is some believe that tics are performed on purpose (not the case) and that can lead to the person feeling misunderstood or angry or that their condition was not being treated seriously. Equally is as bad is that there are video bloggers on You Tube and films that have come out from Hollywood where Tourette’s is as seen as comedy gold. Particularly the Corprolalia. When Hollywood release a film where there is an element of Tourette’s mocking, we have something which reinforces the development of wildly incorrect societal perceptions.

The media looks for the most extreme examples of Tourette’s, as that’s what will gather the most viewers for the film or show. We have to move away from the stigma of “Tourette’s Guy” – a hugely successful You Tube Video where a man pretends to have Tourette’s by screaming out obscenities

For real clarify of education, I pulled out my copy of DSM V .

There are “Transient” and “Persistent” Tic Disorders and Tourette’s separately, as such

There are in fact very specific DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual) criteria

Lets get medical! (For the purpose of education defeating stigma, knowledge is power!)

Transient /Provisional Tic Disorder

1 Present for less than a year and do not recur, we might say that the child has a “transient” tic condition. The transient tic condition observed in children is generally benign and usually does not require treatment)

2 Have one or more motor tics (for example, blinking or shrugging the shoulders) or vocal tics (for example, humming, clearing the throat, or yelling out a word or phrase).

3 Have been present for no longer than 12 months in a row./ have tics that start before s/he is 18 years of age.

Persistent Tic Disorder

1 There is a history of a number of tics that have been present — even if not continuously — for more than a year, we then say that there is a “chronic” tic condition)

2 Have one or more motor tics (for example, blinking or shrugging the shoulders) or vocal tics (for example, humming, clearing the throat, or yelling out a word or phrase), but not both.

3 Have tics that occur many times a day nearly every day or on and off throughout a period of more than a year./ have tics that start before he or she is 18 years of age.


1 Officially, the individual has a history of a number of motor tics and at least one vocal tic, and tics have been present on and off for more than a year, then the individual may have Tourette’s Syndrome

2 Have two or more motor tics (for example, blinking or shrugging the shoulders) and at least one vocal tic (for example, humming, clearing the throat, or yelling out a word or phrase), although they might not always happen at the same time.

3 Have had tics for at least a year. The tics can occur many times a day (usually in bouts) nearly every day, or off and on./ have tics that begin before he or she is 18 years of age.

Beat the Stigma – Someone with Tourette’s can help End the Stigma by

Do not choose to remain at home instead of going out because you are scared.

You have the same right as everyone else to enjoy what the world offers.

Surround yourself with a support system. Spending time with family and friends who know about your condition and understand it can help reduce the stigma. If strangers see you with your Tourette’s interacting with people, it may help them be less discriminating.

Find other people with Tourette’s. It may be helpful for you to find other people who have Tourette’s Syndrome. By talking to others, learning how they deal with the condition, and making friends with people who understand you, you can start to accept yourself, remove the stigma from yourself.

Try and find support groups for Tourette’s Syndrome: You may also be able to talk to your doctor about finding other people with Tourette’s.

Look online for Tourette’s organizations or meet-ups in your area

Talk to people about your condition. One way you can help eliminate the stigma of Tourette’s is to talk to people about your condition. Fear and stigmas often come from a lack of knowledge and awareness.

Talk openly to people about your symptoms and what it is like living with Tourette’s. Sharing with people that your tics are a part of you and do not really bother you can help change their perception of Tourette’s.

Sharing your experience via social media can help you find others going through similar things. You might even be able to inspire others with Tourette’s to embrace themselves and celebrate their lives.

Don’t forget

Ask for help when you need it. Depending on the way your Tourette’s affects you, you may need help occasionally. Asking people for help is a good thing.

Tourette’s or a tic condition is just that. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about or poke fun at. It is a genuine condition and should be treated with respect and without any fear, shame or stigma.