What is Tourette syndrome?

Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder, which most often begins between the ages of 2 and 21, and lasts throughout life. Between 0.4% and 3.8% of children ages 5 to 18 may have Tourette’s. Extreme Tourette’s in adulthood is a rarity. TS is NOT degenerative and doesn’t have an affect on the intelligence. The people with TS can expect to live a normal life span.

boy with Tourette Syndrome


– rapid, repetitive and involuntary muscle movements and vocalization called “tics” ;

– behavioral difficulties.

According to Tourette Syndrome Association of Australia  tics are experienced as a build up of tension, are irresistible and eventually must be performed. Typically tics increase as a result of tension or stress and decrease with relaxation or concentration on an absorbing task. TS symptoms have long been misconstrued as a sign of behavioral abnormality or “nervous habits”, which they are not.

Tics classification:

There are two categories of the tics of TS:


Motor – eye blinking, head jerking, shoulder shrugging, facial grimacing, nose twitching
Vocal – throat clearing, barking noises, squealing, grunting, gulping, sniffing, tongue clicking.


Motor – jumping, touching other people and things, twirling about, repetitive movements of the torso or limbs, pulling at clothing and self-injurious actions including hitting or biting oneself.

tics of Tourette Syndrome
Vocal – uttering words or phrases, coprolalia (the involuntary utterance of inappropriate or obscene words), echoalia (repeating a sound, word or phrase just heard) or palilalia (repeating one’s own words).
To see an example (video) of this syndrome scroll to the bottom.

The variety and complexity of tics or tic-like symptoms that can be seen in TS is enormous.


The exact cause of Tourette’s is unknown, but it is well established that both genetic and environmental factors are involved. In most cases, medication is unnecessary. 


There is no effective treatment for every case of tics, but certain medications and therapies can help when their use is warranted. 

Education is an important part of any treatment plan, and explanation and reassurance alone are often sufficient treatment. Comorbid conditions (co-occurring diagnoses other than Tourette’s) such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) are present in many patients seen in tertiary specialty clinics. These other conditions often cause more functional impairment to the individual than the tics that are the hallmark of Tourette’s; hence, it is important to correctly identify comorbid conditions and treat them.

Expect a new post soon on living with Tourette syndrome and famous people who have it.

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