Tourette Syndrome

What is Tourette Syndrome (TS)

Someone who has TS will display sudden involuntary movements or sounds that are performed repeatedly; known as ‘tics’. Examples of these may include blinking, shrugging, humming, or shouting, and cannot be controlled by the person with TS. Symptoms usually begin around age 5 and commonly start with motor tics involving the head. Coprolalia is when someone with TS shouts out swear words as part of their tic, again, this is uncontrollable (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Who it affects?

In the United States, between the ages of 6-17, 1 out of 162 children have TS, but approximately half of the children that have the syndrome are not diagnosed (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009). An exact cause of the condition is not yet known; however, we are led to believe that genetics plays a huge role as those diagnosed with TS have a 50% chance of passing this down to their children (Marianthi et al., 2016). Boys with this dominant gene are more likely to display symptoms of TS than girls. Environmental factors are also suggested to play a role in the development of TS, and although they have not yet been researched fully, factors surrounding the pregnancy of a child including smoking during pregnancy, low birth weight, and any pregnancy complications are also thought to have an impact on whether a child develops TS or not (Ting-Kuang et al., 2014).

boy writing on printer paper near girl


Having TS puts an individual at greater risk at developing other conditions. Because of their TS, it can make these conditions more difficult to treat. ADHD is the most common disorder that individuals with TS have, but they can also develop behaviour issues such as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Those with ODD frequently show aggressive behaviour or argue with others, and they usually blame other people for their own mistakes (Kompoliti et al., 2006). Due to motor tics, there may also be some concern for children surrounding brain injury and concussion, as they will not be able to stop themselves if they go to hit their head during a tic. This combined with TS obviously raises concern regarding a child’s ability to learn and stay in education. There are programmes, however, that are targeted at those with TS to allow them to receive more help in school, and therapy is always useful for those with the condition.

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: , fifth edition: DSM-5. Washington, DC; 2013

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of diagnosed Tourette Syndrome in persons aged 6-17 years – United States, 2007. MMWRpdf icon Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2009; 58(21): 581-5

Marianthi G, Jeremy W, Mathews CA, Matthew S, Jeremiah S, Peristera, P. The genetic etiology of Tourette Syndrome: Large-scale collaborative efforts on the precipice of discovery. Frontiers In Neuroscience. 2016; 10(351)

Ting-Kuang C, Jing H, Pringsheim T. Prenatal risk factors for Tourette Syndrome: a systematic reviewBMC Pregnancy & Childbirth. 2014; 14(1): 1-27

Kompoliti K, Goetz CG, Morrissey M, Leurgans S. Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome: patient’s knowledge and concern of adverse effects. Mov Disord. 2006;21(2):248–52

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