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Tourette Syndrome Facts

Updated on August 22, 2019
Pamela99 profile image

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

Tourette Tic - Blinking


What is Tourette Syndrome?

Tourette syndrome (TS) disorder causes the individual to have repetitive movements and sounds (called tics), which cannot be easily controlled. Tics may include grunting, blinking eyes, darting eyes, mouth twitching, shoulder shrugging, head jerking, barking, coughing, throat clearing, nose twitching, or the individual may blurt out unusual sounds. Complex tics result in repeating words or phrases or using that are vulgar, obscene or saying swear words.

A tic is a sudden, often brief sound or movement. These are the hallmark signs of tourette syndrome. Some are mild and other severe. The severe symptoms may cause a problem with communication, quality of life or even daily functioning.

The more severe cases of this syndrome cause people to touch or smell objects. The may repeat observed movements, step in a particular pattern, use obscene gestures, or they may bend or twist.

When Does this Disorder Display Abnormalities?

Typically, tics begin in children between the ages of 2 to 15 years of age. The average age is about 6 year old. Male children are 3 to 4 times more likely to get tourette’s syndrome. If you observe your child with any type of tic, see your pediatrician. Not every tic indicates Tourette syndrome. Doctors typically do not diagnose a patient with Tourette syndrome until they have had both vocal and motor tics for a period of one year.

Several neuroimaging studies are typically ordered to rule out other conditions, which may be confused with Tourette syndrome. Neuroimaging studies include: MRI, CAT scan, EEG (electroencephalogram) or some blood tests.

Tourette Areas of Brain Differences


Samuel J. Comroe - AGT Contestant

Samuel J. Comroe recently appeared on America’s Got Talent as a comedian, and he has Tourette syndrome. He came in fourth in the final talent show, and he is very funny. This man has dealt with his TS symptoms, and he has made the best of his situation.

Samuel J. Comroe - America’s Got Talent

Cause of Tourette Syndrome

The cause of this disorder is unknown, but it does tend to run in families, so there is a genetic component. Researchers also believe there is an environmental component, but they do not have any specifics.

Types of Tics

Mayo Clinic defines the tics into simple tics or complex tics. Simple tics use a limited number of muscle groups. The complex tics are more coordinated patterns of movement involving several additional muscle groups.

Tics may involve movement or sounds, however, the spectrum of tics a patient may experience is diverse. Patients tend to get motor tics before vocal tics develop. Tics can vary in intensity and may worsen during stressful or excited times. They can occur during sleep. They often get worse during teen years and improve as the teen reaches adulthood. It is possible for a person with TS to hold back or stop a tic, but it takes great effort.

Tics and Tourette syndrome - Akron Children's Hospital

Tourette Syndrome Treatment

There is no cure for this disorder, but there are available treatments for some of the symptoms. However, many patients do not need treatment when their symptoms are not a problem. Tics frequently lessen as teens age, and the symptoms may be controlled much better for young adults.

Medications that are used with more severe cases include:

  • Haldol (haloperidol), Fluphenazine, Risperdal (risperidone) and (Orap) may control tics. Side effect may include weight gain or involuntary repetitive movements.
  • Botulinum (Botox) injections, which is injected into the most affected area.
  • ADHD medication includes stimulants, such as Metadate CD (methylphenidate) and Ritalin, however, sometimes ADHD medications may exacerbate the tics.
  • Catapres, Kapvay and Intuniv (guanfacine) are usually prescribed for hypertension but they are sometimes prescribed impulse control or rage attacks.
  • Medications for seizures or epilepsy, such as Topamax (topiramate) may also be used for TS.
  • Several types of antidepressants, such as Prozac or Sarafem may control symptoms of anxiety, sadness and OCD.

These medications along with psychotherapy or behavior therapy may be tried in order for the patients to live a fully functioning life. The most common side effects of these medications include: sedation, weight gain and cognitive dulling.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is being used at Mayo Clinic by neurosurgeons as a treatment for TS patients who do not respond to other treatments, yet have the more complex tics.

Georges Gilles de la Tourette (1857 - 1904), French Physician - namesake of Tourette's


Research on TS

Researchers have found some specific abnormalities in particular areas of the brain that include the basal ganglia, the frontal lobes and the brain’s cortex and the circuits that interconnect these areas. The NIH is currently studying the brain and nervous system of patient with TS.

This research also includes the neurotransmitters, which include serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. They are responsible for communication between these regions of the brain. TS has such a complex presentation, with varying types of tics that the cause is also complex. The epidemiological studies currently estimate the TS prevalence is higher than previously thought, and it has a wider range of clinical severities.

Conditions Associated with Tourette Syndrome

Other neurobehavioral problems may occur with this condition. The worst effect may be motor tics that result in punching oneself in the face or perhaps some inappropriate words that are considered socially inappropriate. It may be coprolalia, which is saying swear words or other unacceptable phrases. Only 10% to 15% of people with TS have coprolalia.

Associated Conditions Include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Impulsivity - attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ACHD)
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Learning disabilities
  • Depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Pain related to tics, headaches are the most frequent complaints
  • Problems with managing anger

Reading, writing, and arithmetic may be a problem for children with this disorder. It is obviously difficult for some children as their tics are frequent when they are in school.


People with Tourette syndrome frequently lead normal, active lives; however, TS can lead to a harmful self-image due to the social and behavioral challenges that may occur. Numerous clinical studies are being completed by scientists to discover the cause of this disorder and the treatments.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2018 Pamela Oglesby


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Tim, Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. You are more familiar Tourettes syndrome than many people. I know it has to ba a challenging disorder for many people. I am glad you enjoyed reading this article.

  • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

    Tim Truzy 

    2 years ago from U.S.A.

    Hi, Pamela,

    This is a great article on Tourete Syndrome. I've worked with people who had this condition. One individual had "ticks" so bad that his driver's license was taken away. Another person I knew had to change from stimulants to other medications because of the impact TS had on her ability to work.

    You are right, though. Many people who have TS are able to function relatively successfully in their daily lives, but it can be a challenge.

    This is an excellent, interesting, and informative article.

    Thank you.

    Much respect and admiration,



  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda, That is exactly what I wanted to do after I saw the AGT show comedian. Thanks so much for your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Peggy, It is sad, and I would hateto have that problems. I appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Flourish, That is sad as this guy didn't have a choice. The urge is so great that most of the time they cannot control it, so if you run into that situation again you will have more understanding about the cause. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

    This is a very educational article, Pamela. Thank you for raising awareness about the disorder and the struggles that people with the condition face.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    2 years ago from Houston, Texas

    This is sad that anyone has to suffer from such a condition but it is also good to spread the word about it so that people may understand what is involved. Thanks for doing just that.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    2 years ago from USA

    My husband and I and some guests were patrons at a steakhouse, sitting in the back part of the restaurant near the kitchen. An employee kept passing us and making loud animal noises (pig grunts I perceived). I noticed that he did it repeatedly every time he got to OUR table. I thought it might have been because my husband is a fast eater and he was mocking him or maybe because another person in our party was fat. It got to be so frequent that when the manager came by for a cursory how are things tonight inquiry I mentioned it as odd, and she said he had Tourette’s. We were relieved and understood. We were the last table before the kitchen, he was stressed with it being a Friday night, and his frequent trips to the kitchen were a method of coping.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Patty, I cannot imagine living with the complex tics. This disease is heartbreaking. The comedian on AGT at least got the disease noticed as he had tics, but not the shouting out variety.

    The girl that shouted out at the grocery store I went to seemed accepted by the management, and people never left to my knowledge. She did not shout profanies and her outbursts were brief.

    I hope this article does give people information about this disease. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Bill, That is so sad, and people most do not understand the disease.

    I thought Samuel Comroe was so interesting since he became a comedian. He apparently doesn't have the shouting aspect of this disease or it is controlled, but he is able to make fun of himself in a funny way.

    Thanks for the comments.

  • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

    Patty Inglish MS 

    2 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

    A local bookstore I shopped in Central Ohio near a university had a full-time clerk with this disorder. His explosive and very frequent verbalizations included grunts, shouts, and nonsense syllables and he was unfortunately embarrassed sometimes, but no meds or other treatments worked. Most customers there understood, but a few were frightened and left.

    A student at the university suffered from the disorder to the extent that his frequent and deafening shouts and grunts included profanities and he was not able to hold a conversation. He completed a year on campus and transferred elsewhere. Unfortunately, he went to a coffee shop and tried to relax with a beverage, but his sounds caused patrons to exit quickly - I saw some actually run out. More information like yours should be broadcast to the public about this disorder.

    Thanks for the article.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Nell Rose, I am glad to see you and I appreciate your comments.

    The grocery store where I shopped had a girl with Tourettes a few years ago and every once in a while she would almost yell something (not swear words), but it would get your attention. That is the only person I have met with Tourettes.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    2 years ago from Olympia, WA

    It really is a fascinating syndrome. I've known two people with it...they endured years of bullying and mean comments....people can be so ignorant!

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 

    2 years ago from England

    Great article Pamela, I don't personally know anyone with this, but its certainly a debilitating affliction.


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