What is TS?

Tourette Syndrome (“TS”) is a neurological disorder that was named for a French neuropsychiatrist who successfully assessed the disorder in the late 1800’s.  His name was George Gilles de la Tourette (1857-1904).

TS typically becomes evident in early childhood or adolescence between the ages of 2 and 15 and is defined by multiple motor and at least one vocal tics lasting for more than one year. Tics characteristically wax and wane and TS is defined as part of a spectrum of tic disorders, which includes transient and chronic tics.

Many people have both motor and vocal tics. The first symptoms usually are involuntary movements (called “tics”) of the face, arms, limbs or trunk. These tics are frequent, repetitive and rapid. The most common first symptom is a facial tic (eye blink, nose twitch, grimace), and is replaced or added to by other tics.

These involuntary tics (outside of the individual’s control) may also be complex, involving various parts of the entire body and motions such as kicking and stomping. Many people report what are described as premonitory urges — the urge to perform a motor activity. Other symptoms such as touching, repetitive thoughts and movements, and compulsions can occur.

There are also verbal tics. These verbal tics (vocalizations) usually occur with the movements; later they may replace one or more motor tics. These vocalizations include grunting, throat clearing, shouting and barking. The verbal tics may also be expressed as coprolalia (the involuntary use of obscene words or socially inappropriate words and phrases) or copropraxia (obscene gestures). Despite widespread publicity, coprolalia/copropraxia is uncommon with tic disorders. Echo phenomena are also reported, although less frequently. These may include repeating a word of others (echolalia), repeating one’s own words (palilalia), and repeating movements of others. Neither echolalia (echo speech) nor coprolalia/copropraxia is necessary for the diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome.

Although the symptoms of TS vary from person to person and range from very mild to severe, the majority of cases fall into the mild category. Quite often, individuals have additional disorders in conjunction with TS.  Often, these associated conditions can include attention problems (ADHD/ADD), impulsiveness, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and learning disabilities. There is usually a family history of tics and Tourette Syndrome, and the disorder occurs in all ethnic groups. Males appear to be affected 3 to 4 times more often than females.

Most people with TS and other tic disorders will lead productive lives. There are no barriers to achievement in their personal and professional lives. People with TS can be found in all professions. A goal of TSA is to educate both patients and the public of the many facets of tic disorders. Increased public understanding and tolerance of TS symptoms are of paramount importance to people with Tourette Syndrome.

Quote from Dr. Oliver Sacks

Dr. Sacks is a neurologist who has written extensively about Tourette Syndrome in several popular books and has looked at how Tourette Syndrome can enhance lives.  Dr. Sacks says the internal phenomena “tend to be vivid heightened impressions and impulses of many sorts,” often involving “a sort of playing with limits, socially, morally, intellectually, physically, a sort of risky adventurousness.”  The lack of inhibition can confer “a rich, surprising and sometimes associational freedom” upon those with Tourette Syndrome.