Motor Disorders

5 Common Myths About Tourette Syndrome Debunked

woman shouting next to chalkboard swearing with symbols on chalkboard in a cloud

Last Updated on

May 2nd, 2024 12:29 pm

“If we could just stop the tic, then that girl could read her homework without interruption, the boy could watch his favorite movie at the cinema without getting dirty looks, and the man who hits himself wouldn’t get as many bruises.”

Unfortunately it’s a sad truth that there are many Tourette Syndrome myths circulating, mostly negative. Yet there are ways to live a normal life and deal with vocal and motor tic disorders with or without medication and intervention.

But first, we must dispel some common myths about Tourette Syndrome to better understand how the condition affects the daily lives of those who live with such debilitating tics and involuntary movements.

Myth #1: Tourettes Is a Hereditary Condition from Birth

Many studies have shown there is a genetic component to neurodevelopmental conditions such as Tourette Syndrome. However, in the case of Tourettes, you’re not always born with it. Signs of tics can occur at any age, and the types of tics that show can come and go throughout your entire life.

What is universally accepted, however, is that Tourettes is caused by alterations to the brain structure in the Basal Ganglia, a part of the brain that controls movement.

These changes cause the basal ganglia to become hyperactive, which leads to the development of tics. Its also the reason that tics don’t solely exist in Tourettes but also conditions such as Huntingdons and Cerebral Palsy.

Myth #2: Bad Parenting and an Unhappy Childhood Cause Tourette’s

Some people are still convinced that tics are a sign of parental neglect or childhood trauma. However, despite the widespread myth that tics are solely caused by psychological trauma and poor parenting, Tourettes can develop at any age and can also be caused by physical trauma such as brain injury.

Similarly, not everyone who had a difficult childhood develops Tourettes. These emotional reactions have stigmatized many people along the way, whilst devaluing the experiences of those with neurodevelopmental conditions and learning disabilities that have had a stable upbringing.

Myth #3: People With Tourettes Can’t Control Their Anger Management Issues

The stereotype that accompanies the occurrence of coprolalia (inappropriate language) is that all people with Tourette’s syndrome have uncontrollable swearing and make obscene gestures. While this is true in some cases, it is far from the norm.

Tourette Syndrome is not an intellectual disability or mental illness, nor proves existence of comorbid mental health disorders. Nonetheless, the media has distorted this misconception and made it a source of negative attention for sufferers of complex motor tics, simple motor tics, and vocal tics.

It is estimated that only a small portion of people with Tourettes, around 10 percent of people, exhibit coprolalia. In addition, coprolalia is not specific to tic disorders. It can occur in other neurological conditions, psychiatric conditions and neurodevelopmental disorders as well. However, the more vocal tics a person has, the higher their chances of being diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome.

Myth #4: Medication Cures Tourette Syndrome

There are no cures for neurological disorders such as Tourette Syndrome. But in some cases a number of medications exist that can help with comorbid conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), rather than the Tourettes itself.

For example, alleviating anxiety and depression can reduce the presence of a vocal tic disorder to a more manageable level, whether that’s in someone with an involuntary stammer or Tourettes itself.

Myth #5: Behavioral Therapy is Bad for Tic Disorders

Behavior therapy for Tourette syndrome is recommended as the first line of treatment for this disorder. It’s true that not every patient shows a positive response to treatment. However, to increase the success rate of treatment, it is essential to understand the mechanisms that trigger treatment effects in the first place.

A recent review of the mechanisms of tic disorders in children and adults found that the best evidence for these treatments relates to interactions between cognitive control and associative learning. Habituation may also be a mechanism, particularly for children who experience tic disorder.

When medical treatment for TS was initially developed, it was the only option. Although medication was effective at controlling tics, it had side effects and may have even led to other health issues.

Fortunately, researchers with the Tourette Association of America have developed an alternative treatment option – a non-medication treatment called Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT) . This technique targets environmental factors that may trigger the tic disorder.

Getting a Diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome

If you suspect your child is suffering from Tourette’s syndrome, your first step should be getting a diagnosis. This condition causes repeated tics that usually begin in childhood, usually between the ages of five and ten.

The symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome vary in severity according to gender, with boys generally having more severe tics than girls. While there are several treatment options available for the disorder, some children may be fine without any treatment, while others may require special classes or psychotherapy and medicines to control their symptoms. Genetic counseling and genetic testing may be necessary for your child, so it is important to know what you want for them.

The consultant will likely write to your GP and ask him or her to schedule an appointment with you. If your child has a diagnosis of TS, your GP should write to you to arrange an appointment. When you meet with your GP, you can discuss treatment options and local services. You can also contact the Tourette Association of America, which offers information and support for people affected by TS. You can also reach out to other parents who have been through the same experiences.

Tourettes Myths are Caused by a Lack of Understanding

Clearing up these myths about Tourette Syndrome is the first step to a better understanding and social acceptance of the condition as a whole

Many successful people in popular culture have gone on to have successful careers in their notable professions, including successful musicians like Billie Eilish, Michael Wolff, and soccer player Tim Howard.

Knowing that not everyone with Tourettes swears, and knowing that not everyone who has tics can easily supress them, is vital in ensuring your loved ones get the support they truly deserve to lead happy, active lives. Tourette syndrome awareness is important, and something we can all get behind in our own way!

Keep reading to find out more about Tourette Syndrome and neurodiversity!

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Rob Butler
30-Something Millennial with ADHD and suspected Autistic and Dyspraxic. Thought leader behind this website. Big visions of a better future for everyone, but forgets where he is half the time.Loves Rugby, his kids, and anything silly. Hates U2 and Marmite.

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