You’ve heard of Tourette syndrome, but the media has sent many confused messages about this disorder. The more people are educated on the nature of TS the more likely it is that sufferers can have some normalcy in their lives. As human beings we tend to treat others with greater compassion when we have greater understanding. So how much do you really know about this condition? Answer these questions, true or false, and rate your knowledge:
1. It is estimated that in every school in America, at least one student has Tourette Syndrome (TS). (T/F)
2. Tourette Syndrome is diagnosed, on average, between the ages of seven and ten. (T/F)
3. Tourette Syndrome is a neurological disorder which causes motor tics, both simple and complex. (T/F)
4. Simple tics might include coughing, sniffing, blinking, shoulder shrugging, facial grimacing, etc. (T/F)
5. Complex tics might include actions which appear purposeful, bending over, touching things, using several muscles or body parts at once, a vocalization with a movement, etc. (T/F)
6. Individuals with Tourette Syndrome have no control over their tics. (T/F)
7. For a diagnosis of Tourette, the individual must have several bouts of tics daily, over the span of a year or more. (T/F)
8. There is such a thing as a tic where a person hits himself in the head. (T/F)
9. Vocal tics might include profanity, coughing, meaningless phrases, grunts, etc. (T/F)
10. Coprolalia, or vocal tics involving the use of profanity, is a common problem for most people with TS. (T/F)
11. In Tourette Syndrome, tics are likely to increase in severity gradually over time. (T/F)
12. Tics may disappear for months at a time, then reappear. (T/F)
13. Tourette Syndrome often accompanies other conditions like ADHD, OCD, and learning disabilities. (T/F)
14. TS is a genetic disorder, where the gene is passed from parent to child. (T/F)
15. TS occurs more frequently in boys than in girls. (T/F)
Answers: All of the above are true, except for three:
6. False – It is technically incorrect to say that people with Tourette Syndrome have no control over their tics. It is not as though their tics are an involuntary muscle spasm, completely outside of their command. The tics might better be described as an overwhelming compulsion. You could compare them to a terrible itch which you could put off scratching for a time, but eventually that “tickling sensation” and the need to scratch it would overwhelm you. Some people with Tourette Syndrome can delay their tics for a time, but the longer they put off the tic the more pronounced and exaggerated it will be when it manifests. Some individuals with TS have only a limited ability to delay their tics.
10. False – Although the media has drawn particular attention to this aspect of the disorder, in reality coprolalia, or vocal tics involving profanity, occur in less than 30% of TS cases.
11. False – Tourette Syndrome is not a progressive disease. It does not worsen over time as a rule. However, it does change, with symptoms increasing and decreasing, the nature and types of tics will change, and it can even mysteriously disappear for brief periods. Typically, most individuals experience the most frequent manifestations of the tics during early teen years, gradually seeing them decrease as they reach adulthood.
What hope is available for Tourette Syndrome sufferers?
There is no cure for TS. Many patients, up to 80%, have benefited from a medication called haloperidol, sometimes experiencing a complete remission of symptoms for a period of time. Unfortunately, haloperidol has many undesirable side effects which eventually cause people to discontinue its use. The best treatment for TS is a comprehensive approach, where family members are involved, dealing with Tourette Syndrome as part of an entire life-management strategy.
Individuals who do not have TS should be more tolerant, patient, and understanding about this condition so that people with TS can be out in society, living lives as normal and productive as possible.
For more information about Tourette Syndrome, or to find support, please visit the Tourette Syndrome Association website.