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What is Tourette Syndrome?

Twitching and throat clearing are perfectly normal in most human beings. They are just some of the many involuntary gestures and movements that we associate with anxiety or stage fright. However, there are some people out there that don’t have it the same way. These movements are frequent to them and they can’t control it. This condition is called Tourette Syndrome.

First and foremost, what is Tourette syndrome?

Nicknamed as TS, it is a neurological disorder often represented by repetitive, commonly done involuntary gesture and vocalizations referred to as tics. This was first discovered by a French neurologist, Gilles de la Tourette, in 1885.

TS can be detected as early as childhood about 3 to 9 years of age and can experience the worst of the symptoms around their teen years. However, though a chronic condition, this can diminish overtime but not entirely disappear. The causes of TS is not exactly known and research is still ongoing in an attempt to explain why. However, there are some researches that suggest that it could be from abnormalities within the part of the brain such as the frontal lobes and cortex, the neurotransmitters found in the brain or the chemicals associated with it such as dopamine and norepinephrine.

There are also two types of tics, simple and complex.

Simple tics are often sudden and brief, and comes in repetitive movements. Common movements include eye blinking, facial grimacing, shrugging or head and/or shoulder jerking. When it comes to vocalizations, these are repetitive throat-clearing, sniffing and grunting.

However, when it comes to complex tics, it becomes more distinct and coordinated compared to the random ones projected by simple tics. Such movements would include grimacing, head twists and shoulder shrugs. Some tics may look like it is being done on purpose like sniffing, hopping, jumping, and bending. In terms of vocalizations, these would still include some of the common ones like throat-clearing, sniffing, grunting or barking.

However, there are also tics that are seen to be disabling and could cause harm to others and to oneself such as punching oneself in the face, repetition of others’ words or phrases (echolalia) or swearing or usage of socially inappropriate words (coprolalia).

For those who are wondering if tics could get worse if one experiences a certain high or low in emotions such as anxiety and excitement, it does. But sometimes, tics can worsen or be triggered through certain experiences or daily habits like wearing tight neck collars or hearing someone clear their throat. However, tics do diminish when one is engrossed in calming and focus-oriented activities.

October 8th, 2017

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Tourette Syndrome: What It Is And How It Affects Us

The term, “Tourette” may sound like a small tower projecting from a medieval castle, however, this should not be confused with “turret”. Tourette is actually named after the French doctor in the 19th century, George Gilles de la Tourette, who was the first doctor to describe the syndrome in detail after observing the symptoms from an 86- year old French woman.

Oftentimes, the syndrome runs through families and is passed on through the genes. It begins early in childhood, and usually the symptoms do not subside, causing it to continue into adulthood. It’s best to have it diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

But what exactly is Tourette syndrome? It is a neurological disorder which causes an affected individual to perform involuntary movements, or sometimes even vocalizations. These involuntary gestures are called tics.
The intensity of the syndrome varies between each person, sometimes running through the entire adulthood and lasting a lifetime, and other times the symptoms only persist more strongly during the adolescent years only to subside in the late teen years.

However, even if symptoms do subside, they generally still need to be taken care of, since there is only a slight improvement in the condition but the movements will still continue, even if it is less frequently.
Tics, described in further detail, can be either simple or complex. Simple motor tics are usually brief, repetitive movements that don’t require a large number of muscles to perform. This includes eye-blinking, facial grimacing, or other small movements. Simple motor tics can also produce small vocal sounds, such as uttering a single sound and grunting.

Complex motor tics, however, are made up of an entire series of motor movements or vocal sounds. These movements require several muscle groups. An example of coordinated muscle movements are the combination of simple motor tics. First it will start with a facial grimace, then simultaneously the jerking of the head and shrugging of the shoulder.

In the most extreme and complex of motor tics, self-harm can actually be induced. An individual’s tics may include punching oneself repetitively, or other self-injury.
Unless one’s tics include self-injury practices, they are usually harmless and don’t pose any serious threat on the person’s health. The worst it can get is if the head-jerking or other sudden movements cause pain or aching due to the repetitive motion.

Although there is no definite cure for Tourette’s syndrome, there is a treatment regimen. This includes what is known as behavioral therapy. It either consists of habit reversal therapy or exposure with response prevention (ERP), both of which will help reduce the intensity of tics.

June 20th, 2017

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