Frequently Asked Questions

Definitions

COPROLALIA

Saying inappropriate, obscene, or rude words or phrases.

COPROGRAPHIA

Drawing and/or writing inappropriate pictures or words.

COPROPRAXIA

Repeating or copying inappropriate, obscene, or rude gestures.

ECHOLALIA

Repeating sounds or words said by others.

ECHOPRAXIA

Imitating the actions of others.

PALILALIA

Repeating your own words or phrases.

TRICHOTILLOMANIA

Pulling your hair out and skin picking.

1. What causes Tourette Syndrome?

Tourette’s is a hereditary disorder passed down through families, although the link may not be obvious. It could be the quirky aunt who sniffed a lot or the grandad who always pulled funny faces. Research has also shown that if a parent has any of the coexisting conditions then their child could have a predisposition for TS. The cause is excess dopamine, a chemical found in the brain.

 

2. Is there a cure?

There is no cure for Tourette’s however there are treatments like CBiT, habit reversal, and medications which may help to ease symptoms. Interventions and medication for Tourette’s is not for everyone. The therapies can be exhausting, and the side effects of medication can be significant. Often getting treatment for coexisting conditions is beneficial in reducing tics. For many, tics will reduce significantly after adolescence.

3. Does everyone with Tourette's swear?

No. Coprolalia affects approximately 10% of the Tourette’s population. It can be one of the most challenging sides of Tourette’s and is by far the most portrayed feature in the media. As a result of the focus being on coprolalia some, or most of the other complexities that people with Tourette’s have to live with are often ignored and not acknowledged.

4. Is Tourette's a mental health disorder?

Tourette Syndrome is a neurological disorder, although anxiety and depression are extremely common coexisting conditions. When support and treatment for anxiety are used then there is usually a positive impact on tics. Anxiety is often a big trigger for an increase in tics.

5. How do I know if it's Tourette's or just naughtiness?

Of course, children with Tourette’s can be naughty, however, having TS is part of how you are made and influences everything you do, including misbehaving. Children with TS have poor impulse control so they may find it much more difficult to resist the urge to do things that they know they shouldn't, e.g., blurting out answers or comments in class even when they know they should put their hand up. When you have TS and a thought comes into your head, you have a compulsion just to say or do "it". This is important for parents and teachers to remember as people with Tourette’s can be extremely suggestible. For example, if you say to a child with TS "don't touch the fire", they may then feel compelled to do exactly that. Always tell a child with TS what you want them to do, not what you don't want them to do!

6. Why can people suppress their tics at some times but not at others?

Imagine trying to control a tickly cough during a wedding ceremony or try holding your breath - you will eventually have to cough or breathe! This is how some people with Tourette’s explain the need to tic. Many factors will influence who wins the "battle". Whether the tics occur or not may depend on what the person is doing. For example, when they are doing something they really enjoy or that requires a lot of concentration, like playing a musical instrument or on a PC, the tics may reduce or disappear for a while.  
If they are stressed, or relaxed but not doing much, e.g., watching TV, the tics may become worse.

7. What are the long term effects of having TS?

Many people with TS live very happy, successful lives. You have probably met many, even if you didn't know it! It is impossible to predict the outcome in any one individual. 
Symptoms can be particularly difficult in adolescence but may settle down as the person approaches adulthood, although, unfortunately this is not always the case. Outcome can be influenced by early diagnosis and positive intervention.

8. How common is Tourette's?

Research shows that 1 in 100 people have Tourette’s! Many of these will never know they have it or need any intervention. Boys and men show the symptoms of TS more frequently than girls and women. The ratio is about 4:1, however, females in the same family are more likely to show symptoms of OCD.