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Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder characterized by tics -- involuntary, rapid, sudden movements or vocalizations that occur repeatedly in the same way. Diagnostic criteria include:
Both multiple motor and one or more vocal tics present at some time, although not necessarily simultaneously;
The occurrence of tics many times a day (usually in bouts) nearly every day or intermittently throughout the span of more than one year;
Periodic changes in the number, frequency, type and location of the tics, and in the waxing and waning of their severity. Symptoms can sometimes disappear for weeks or months at a time;
Onset before the age of 18.
Although the word "involuntary" is used to describe the nature of the tics, this is not entirely accurate. It would not be true to say that people with TS have absolutely no control over their tics, as though it was some type of spasm; rather, a more appropriate term would be "compelling." People with TS feel an irresistable urge to perform their tics, much like the need to scratch a mosquito bite. Some people with TS are able to hold back their tics for up to hours at a time, but this only leads to a stronger outburst of tics once they are finally allowed to be expressed.
Although the DSM-IV has recently changed the upper age of onset from 21 down to 18, the Tourette Syndrome Association Medical Advisory Board is working to have it reverted back to 21, as is listed in the DSM-III-R.
Coprolalia (see below) does not have to be exclusively swear words. Many times coprolalia manifests itself as socially inappropriate or unacceptable words or phrases, such as the overwhelming urge to use a racial epithet, even though that is the last thing you want to do. Something about the "forbiddenness" of it impells a person with coprolalia to say it, seemingly against their will.
Another important thing to remember about coprolalia is that although this symptom has been sensationalized by the media, it is actually rare, occuring in less than 30% of people who have a severe case.
Simple tics are movements or vocalizations which are completely meaningless, whereas complex tics are movements or vocalizations which make use of more than one muscle group or apear to be meaningful.
The range of tics or tic-like symptoms that can be seen in TS is very broad. The complexity of some symptoms is often perplexing to family members, friends, teachers and employers who may find it hard to believe that the actions or vocal utterances are not deliberate.
For a list of symptoms organized in their respective categories, please click here.
Research is ongoing, but it is believed that an abnormal metabolism of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin are involved with the disorder. It is genetically transmitted; parents having a 50% chance of passing the gene on to their children. Girls with the gene have a 70% chance of displaying symptoms, boys with the gene have a 99% chance of displaying symptoms.
Yes. People with TS are more likely to have any combination of the following problems:
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Difficulties with Impulse Control (disinhibition)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Various Learning Disabilities (such as dyslexia)
Back once again to the DSM-IV, Tourette Syndrome is an Axis I disorder. People with TS do tend to present with more other Axis I disorders than the rest of the general population.
Various Sleep Disorders
alt.support.tourette - a newsgroup dedicated to discussions of Tourette Syndrome
MAILING LIST - put "subscribe sunrise-tourette" (without the quotes) in the body and nothing else.
Pieter Nagel (in South Africa)
Chapter Webring Site
owned by Raenna Peiss
Links2Go Key Resource
Tourette Syndrome Topic