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the FAQs about
Tourette Syndrome

Part 1 - What is Tourette Syndrome?

Tourette Syndrome was first described over a hundred years ago by a French neurologist by the name of George Gilles de la Tourette. He described nine patients, primarily a Madame de D. who:

"...at the age of 7 was afflicted by convulsive movements of the hands and arms... She was felt to be suffering from overexcitement and mischief, and... she was subjected to reprimand and punishment. It soon became clear that these movements were indeed involuntary... involved the shoulders, the neck, and the face, and resulted in contortions and extraordinary grimaces."

The main facts about Tourette Syndrome as they are still accepted today are that TS is a neurological condition which:

* Is characterised by recurring, compelling impulses to make movements and sounds (called tics) which seem to serve no purpose
 *Usually has an onset early in childhood
* Is hereditary
 *Is neurological, and not psychological
* Affects more males than females
 *Does not get progessively worse
In the first decades of this century TS was all but forgotten and psychoanalysts approached the symptoms as suppressed aggression and the like. From the 1980s and onward there has been a striking increase in research into TS and it is now again recognised that Tourette Syndrome is not a psychological disorder or neurosis but that it is rooted in biology and neurology.

What has changed though, is that TS is now understood to present itself in a wide range of different ways. Where TS was first thought to be a rare, spectacular, debilitating disease, it is now seen to be relatively common and it is possible for the tics to be so unpronounced as to virtually pass by unnoticed.

It is for this reason that many researchers, and especially the Tourettic community, are calling for a shift of emphasis away from TS as a disease. TS is rather viewed as a uniquely human mode of being with its own challenges but also its advantages (more on that later).

It is now also recognised that there is a wide range of associated emotional and mental complaints, and that these are often the primary concern of Touretters. Some of these, such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are well known apart from TS. It remains an open question whether these are merely different presentations of the underlying TS gene or truly separate conditions to which Touretters are more susceptible than others.


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