Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatry


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.



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