What is Tourette Syndrome?


Tourette syndrome is a disorder that becomes evident in childhood and continues for life. The prime symptom is to have repeated tics, which are motor (bodily movement) and vocal. A tic is a sudden movement or sound that is repeated over and over, has no purpose and, in general, you cannot help doing. For example, blinking, throat clearing, head nodding, etc. However, children with Tourette Syndrome have many types of tics, or sudden movements and noises, and the tics can be prevalent throughout their life, although they can wax and wane.


1 in 100 people in the UK have Tourette Syndrome.


What are the causes?


 Tourette Syndrome is a Neurological, and not a mental health condition. Minor anomalies in the structure and working of the brain in children with Tourette Syndrome. There seems to be a problem with a number of the brain chemicals, such as dopamine and serotonin.

Genetic. Most research adheres to the theory that the condition is inherited. It is generally believed that a factor in genes are responsible for most cases of Tourette Syndrome. Genes are passed onto a child from each parent and determine what we look like, how our body functions and even what diseases we may get. A child is more likely to develop Tourette Syndrome if they have a father, mother, brother or sister with the condition, or related conditions.

 It has been said that environmental factors can exacerbate the development of the condition, but this has not been proven.


What are the symptoms?


The main symptom is multiple (many) tics.  These are classified as either motor (bodily movement) or vocal tics.


*       Motor tics include things such as:

*       blinking, head turning, head nodding, kicking, facial grimacing, touching, licking, or smelling objects.


*       Vocal tics include things such as

*       throat clearing, coughing, sniffing, yelling, or making animal sounds.

There are several other symptoms that sometimes occur. These include:


*       Coprolalia - the involuntary use of obscenities and swear words. This only occurs in about 1 in 10 people with Tourette Syndrome. Note: if this occurs, the person cannot help swearing, and it is not a reflection on their moral character or upbringing.

*       Echophenomena - copying what others say and do.

*       Palilalia - repeating your own last word or syllable after the end of a sentence.

*       Non obscene socially inappropriate (NOSI) behaviours - such as saying inappropriate or rude personal comments.


If a person has Tourette Syndrome they are also likely to have one or more related conditions.  The most common conditions seen with Tourette Syndrome are listed below:


*       Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour (OCD/OCB).

*       Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD or ADD).

*       Learning difficulties. Mood disorders such as depression or anxiety.

*       Conduct disorders.

*       Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

*       Self harming behaviours such as head banging.





Psychological ('talking') treatments

There are various psychological treatments that are effective in helping to ease the symptoms and problems of Tourette Syndrome. These include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Habit Reversal Training (HRT), hypnotherapy and social skills group training.


Education and support

There is a lot of evidence that if people with Tourette’s are well informed about the condition, then the person will be able to better manage and accept their condition. . 


Further information:


Tourette Scotland

Inveralmond Business Centre

Auld Bond Road

Perth PH1 3FX

Tel:  01738 646742


Address:  info@tourettescotland.org

Website: www.tourettescotland.org



                Further reading:



Tourette Syndrome, The Facts  (2nd Edition) by Mary Robertson and Andrea Cavanna  (ISBN: 978-0-19-929819-8)

This book can be ordered through the Tourette Scotland website.




©Tourette Scotland 2010