What is Tourette Syndrome? Its Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What is Tourette Syndrome?

Tourette syndrome is a disorder involving the central nervous system where a person experience repeated motor (movement) and phonic (vocal) tics. A person with Tourette syndrome may have uncontrollable repetitive movements that seem like twitches and may shout out unintentionally. Often mistakenly referred to as turrets syndrome, it is a neurological disease that usually starts in childhood and tends to affect boys more than girls.

Contrary to the way Tourette syndrome is portrayed in the media, most patients with the condition do not have symptoms that severely affect their level of functioning in life. The symptoms of Tourette syndrome may ease as a person gets older and may even resolve with age (1). Tourette syndrome may be accompanied by other more common psychological conditions like obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression.

History of Tourette Syndrome

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Tourette syndrome derives its name from the French neurologist who first identified this disorder, Dr. Georges Gilles de la Tourette. The condition was poorly understood for over a 100 years from the time Dr. Tourette first described the condition he noted in nine of his patients. However, medical advances by the 1960s assisted with better treatment protocols as medical science began to understand Tourette syndrome to a great degree.

Tourettes Syndrome Symptoms

Tourette syndrome is marked by motor and vocal tics. These symptoms are often viewed as peculiar and the patient is labeled as displaying odd behavior. However, the patient is unable to control these tics and does not do it intentionally. The tics seen in Tourette syndrome can be divided into simple and complex categories.

Motor tics

Once of the characteristic features of Tourette syndrome are involuntary muscular movements (motor tics). The movements are most prominently visible in the face even though other parts of the body are also affected. It may take various different forms from repetitive blinking, jerking neck movements or “clicking of the tongue”.

While therapeutic modalities may reduce the severity and assist the patient in controlling such episodes to some degree, most Tourette’s patients are unable to control it for extended periods. Public ignorance about the condition may lead others to believe that the person is “making faces” at them.. Sometimes the patient may even touch other people. In rare cases, the tics may evolve into self-injurious actions like lip-biting or excessive scratching.

Vocal tics

Vocal tics are another major feature of Tourette syndrome. The variation of the vocal tics include suddenly changing the volume of one’s speech, repeating words, yelling out offensive words, changing the tone of voice or even mimicking others. Sometimes it can be as minor as repeated coughing, sniffing or clicking the tongue. These vocal tics, like the motor symptoms, are often seen as socially unacceptable behavior and it is important to note that the patient is unable to control their actions.

Associated symptoms

There are often other problems related to the condition. These associated symptoms of Tourette Syndrome include

  • Obsessive actions
  • Autism
  • Sleep irregularities
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Compulsive disorders
  • Learning problems
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Hyperactivity

Tourett Syndrome sufferers, however, have normal intelligence. The disorder does not affect their IQ.

Tourette Syndrome Causes

It is not clear exactly what causes Tourette Syndrome. However, researchers have found that heredity is mainly responsible for this disorder. It has been established that most people with the Tourette disorder have inherited it from their parents. But it is unclear how the disease passes on from parents to offsprings. The disease is not contagious. It is believed that a person with a parent suffering from the syndrome has 50% of chance of developing the disorder in his or her adolescent years.

The disorder affects the neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain, especially the dopamine. Dopamine is necessary for the normal functioning of the central nervous system. An imbalance in dopamine immediately affects the motor functions in the body. It impacts the voluntary movements in the system. A severe reduction in dopamine can also lead to Parkinson’s disease.

Other factors like infections and social environment can also play a role in making the disorder more severe. Psychological factors like stress and anxiety can also aggravate the condition. It is not known, however, if these cause Tourettes Syndrome as well.

Diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome

Tourette Syndrome Treatment is done after a proper diagnosis of the disorder. The condition is often mistaken with other diseases like asthma, autism and Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome that involve certain symptoms similar to the disease. The disorder is usually treated after careful observation of the patients’ symptoms. Physical examinations like urine test are done to check the presence of drugs in the system. The medical history of the patient as well as that of his family members is also analyzed.

Treatment for Tourette Syndrome

The disorder is not usually treated unless they interfere with everyday activities. Medication, psychological counseling and therapies are generally used to cure this neurological ailment.


  • Medicines are used to reduce the frequency of tics in the sufferer. The drugs include
  • Tranquilizers – Clonidine, Mellaril and Navane are some of the drugs used to reduce stress in the patient.
  • Antidepressants – Drugs like Lithobid, Sertraline and Paxil increases the serotonin level and boosts nerve impulses
  • Stimulants – Medicines like Pemoline, Dexedrine and Ritalin are used to control hyperactivity in Tourette patients.

Psychological counseling

Stress and anxiety is found to aggravate tics. If needed, the patient is counseled by an experienced psychiatrist to reduce psychological stress. Tourette Syndrome in children is often cured by counseling.


Patients are taught to control their tics and monitor situations where they are aggravated. They are imparted training on how to reduce their movements and check their use of profane words. They are also taught to self-monitor their progress. In some cases, calm activities are advised that can soothe the mind and cure the symptoms.

Famous people with Tourette Syndrome

There have been quite a few celebrities with Tourette Syndrome. The US National Team goalkeeper Tim Howard and ex-Major League baseball player Jim Eisenreich were victims of this disorder. But they defied this condition to climb high in their careers. Eisenrich once famously said that the ambition of his life was to become a quality player and a source of inspiration for children suffering from Tourettes condition. Author Samuel Johnson and composer Mozart were also suspected to be the Tourettes sufferers.

Tourette Syndrome Statistics

  • About 272,000 people are supposed to be affected with Tourettes disorder in the USA.
  • A recent study shows that only 13.6% of Tourettes Syndrome patients keep suffering from the disease for lifetime.
  • 75% of Tourettes sufferers develop this disorder after 11 years of age.
  • A 2000 study showed that about 10 in every 1000 US children suffered from this condition.

Tourette Syndrome Pictures

Tourette Syndrome is a complicated condition. Most people find it difficult to understand this disease. Check out some pictures of people with Tourettes syndrome. These Tourette Syndrome images will help you know the disease more clearly.


Picture from commons.wikimedia
Picture by wikipedia
Picture From wikipedia
Picture from wikipedia
Picture from wikipedia

Tourette Syndrome is not a lethal disease. This is actually a mild disorder that goes away with advancing years. If you have a dear one affected by this ailment, you should consult a doctor. Even though immediate treatment is not very necessary, it can help check the symptoms and prevent them from getting more complicated.

References :

1. Pediatric Tourette syndrome epidemiology. Medscape Reference

Posted by in Diseases and Conditions

12 Responses to “What is Tourette Syndrome? Its Causes, Symptoms and Treatment”

  1. Jen says:

    Wow. I don’t even know where to begin. As someone who was diagnosed with Tourette’s at the age of twelve (eighteen years ago), I can assure you that the average person with TS does not “suffer” from it, nor do we “constantly grimaces, jerks his shoulders, clicks his tooth or moves his limbs.”

    This article is a joke. It’s poorly written and inaccurate. “victims of this disorder?” REALLY? We’re not victims. It is extremely rare for the disorder to affect someone to the point of inhibiting their quality of life. VERY rare. Learn things.

    Also false: “Tourette Syndrome in children is often cured by counseling.” Once again–maybe talk to someone who knows what the hell they’re talking about before slapping up some crap you saw on a random website. Tics that can be worked through via counseling are NOT TS related. They’re just tics.

    This was my favorite, though: “these may develop into complicated and annoying symptoms…”

    Wowza. This article is full of inaccuracy, and it’s WAY out of line. As a professional writer, I’m appalled that this offensive piece of garbage got to see the light of day.

    Education about TS is great for the public. Try doing it in a factual way next time.

    • admin says:

      hi Jen,

      Firstly, it may seem that you are highly offended by the fact that Tourette syndrome is being discussed here it seems. Cause you have made some childish rants and some stupid laments on the content of the article. I can understand having Tourette’s can be quite distressing on your childhood and overall life. But still it is no reason for you to express the whole anguish against us.

      Now let me explain the emptiness of each of your criticism one by one.

      “the average person with TS does not “suffer” from it, nor do we “constantly grimaces, jerks his shoulders, clicks his tooth or moves his limbs.”

      Well here we are referring to the people having typical symptoms of Tourette’s, who actually seek medical care and need some relief from the suffering. It can be socially quite unacceptable and distressing for a person, so the word “suffer” can be quite mild taken in that sense.

      “victims of this disorder?” REALLY? We’re not victims. It is extremely rare for the disorder to affect someone to the point of inhibiting their quality of life. VERY rare. Learn things.

      Normally, around 10% people with Tourette syndrome have very severe disease. And I am not saying this out of nowhere, but it has been quoted from:

      “Approximately 10 percent of those affected have a progressive or disabling course that lasts into adulthood.”

      Now 10% wouldn’t be labeled as “very rare”, especially by any sane person and if something is disabling a person, why should he feel offended by the term “victim”.

      Also false: “Tourette Syndrome in children is often cured by counseling.” Once again–maybe talk to someone who knows what the hell they’re talking about before slapping up some crap you saw on a random website. Tics that can be worked through via counseling are NOT TS related. They’re just tics.

      This is the height of ignorance, counseling as a treatment modality for Tourette syndrome has been greatly studied here:

      And I think this is more reliable than a random rant to prove that counseling and in general behavioral therapy is effective in controlling symptoms of tourette syndrome. After all tics are also related to emotional imbalances, so counseling helps in preventing such mood shifts and also teaches a person to lead a successful life despite the shortcomings.

      This was my favorite, though: “these may develop into complicated and annoying symptoms…”

      For your kind information as quoted in the references above from:

      it is quite clear that Tourette syndrome can be a progressive disorder. So I don’t find anything wrong in the above statement.

      As a professional writer, I’m appalled that this offensive piece of garbage got to see the light of day.

      If after all these false allegations, you call yourself a professional writer, I now quite realize what you meant by the word “joke” above. Kindly, read up more on Tourette syndrome before commenting blindly and apart from “writing” try to grasp the meaning behind another writer’s efforts. The difference between you and us, is that you just “read” about it, but we interact with several people having tourette’s, so we are in a better position to comment on it authoritatively.

    • Mike2233 says:

      I have never heard so much drivel in all my life.

      First of all there are different severities of tourettes and im guessing that in your case you have a very mild form of tourettes or you have been wrongly diagnosed as having such a nurological condition that can severely impare a persons ability to live a normal life.

      I would agree that some of the information is incorrect but personally speaking as a person who has had tourettes since the age of nine i can assure you that people can and do suffer from tourettes as i am one of those unfortunate enough to have experienced how much it can affect a person.

      As a child having to deal with tourettes i found it extremely stressful and experienced extreme tension and discomfort when my body went into spasms and can only describe this as internal torture.

      Due to my tourettes and having the problems i had trying to cope with it i had 3 nervouse breakdowns before being sectioned to a psychiatric ward i now have severe psychological issues a personality disorder, dysthymia and obsessive compulsive disorder which has severely affected my life on a daily basis and more than you could ever imagine.

      I have attempted suicide i self harm i have severe anger problems and can no longer hold down a real or meaningful relationship with others, i cannot sleep most nights and have anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia so have problems going out on my own and i experience dissociation and derealisation and all of this because i have tourettes.

      For someone like yourself to make such a bold claim based on your own experiences and for someone who claims to have and know so much about this disorder you seem to know very little and how it can affect a persons life long term.

  2. mel barnhart says:

    good article but not entirely accurate. i have Tourettes myself.and have read just about all there is to read about it.
    1. there is NO cure for Tourettes….none
    2. the cursing or (coprolalia) is the rarest symptom.
    3. Tourettes usually shows around age 7-8
    4. it doesn’t go away with age, it does however calm down in much the same way any child does as he/she grows up.
    5. yes it is hereditary as my children have it. but it can just happen as its now where else in my family.

    • Susan says:

      Is it possible that there could be a recesive gene and that some relatives had it, but no one knew they had it? When my son was put on Ritalin, I was told that if he had the gene for TS, that Ritalin “brings the TS out” and at that point it doesn’t go away. He never got it (but does have some of the other things like OCD, learning disabilitiesa and ADD, not ADHD). Interesting, though. Sorry the writer didn’t research the subject and just threw the article out – because some people will read this and take it for fact!

    • Mike says:

      My son has what I believe to be a form of TS (he is 9). His sypmtom is mostly a sort of small humm to himself. I asked him if that was something he could stop and he said he could not. As person with TS I value your opinion more then counselors. Should I bring it up when the symptoms occur or should I not say anything? I don’t want him to be self conscious about it but at the same time, I wonder if telling him he’s making the sounds would not help him learn to be aware of it.

  3. My oldest son has TS. No one else in my family has it. It showed up around age 5, he is now 24 and it has not subsided. He is being treated with Xenazine and Xanax. He plays Arena Football and has an otherwise normal life. College grad, Athlete, etc. Some good info in the article, but some horrible info as well. They need to get their facts straight.

  4. Patricia says:

    Wow is right. This article is NOT accurate at all. As a parent of a child that was diagnosed with TS in 1997 at 7 yrs old,I find this offensive.I agree with everything Jen had to say. My daughter doesn’t “suffer”. She is a very intelligent and happy young women.I couldn’t be more proud of her. You should really do your homework.

    • admin says:

      We are in no way offending any person with Tourette syndrome. If you still found it offensive, we are sorry for your grief. Your child may be bright, which is quite possible. But that doesn’t mean children DON’T suffer. Kindly shift the focus from your own personal interests and emotions and try to look beyond that before commenting on a generalized statement and agreeing with people who don’t really bother to think or reason or even read before speaking.

      We are quite happy for your child’s progress!

    • Mike2233 says:

      Does your daughter actually tell you that she doesn’t suffer ?
      Have you ever sat down with her and asked her how she really feels inside ? just because you cant see someones pain doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist pain isn’t just a physical it can be emotional.

      Its possible your daughter is able to cope with having tourettes better than some maybe you are more understanding than some parents and realise this cant be helped and so dont discourage your daughter from twitching.
      I on the other hand was told that it was all in my head by a child psychologist and when the tics first emerged i was discouraged for a period of time by both my parents and from school teachers as if i was doing it intentionally this only encouraged me to try hide the tics even more causing internal discomfort.

      Having tourettes doesn’t affect ones intelligence it can however affect ones ability to concentrate and perform simple functions.

      Let me try explain to you what tourettes feels like inside these sensations in tourettes are normally referred to in medical terms as sensory phenomena or premonitory urges and become more noticable as an adult.
      It doesn’t feel the same as moving a leg or an arm or any other body part voluntarily there is a feeling of intense discomfort, incompleteness and tension that can and does build up this only gets worse the more a person with tourettes tries to hold these tics back and can be painful, stressful and can feel like being tortured inside physically and emotionally and normally the only way to relieve some of that tension is to allow these bodily movements, tics to occur.

      Not everyone with tourettes suffers the same some people are quite able to deal with tourettes and live a very normal and productive life but tourettes can also feel like a constant nagging sensation that simply wont go away and can be extremely irritating which can sometimes lead to behavioural or psychological problems or both.

  5. IHaveTourette says:

    Yeah I’m with WoW also… I am a 30 year old female who was diagnosed at the age of 18 with Tourette Syndrome and I am No near suffering. I’m with the rest of these guys that say this is not accurate it looks as if you whey and copied and pasted several articles and placed them together. NO one in my family has Tourette Syndrome nor do any of my 4 children. My case was triggered Using the aid of Nodoze (a caffeine medication) not correctly reading the label I over dosed on 2 pills (you’re only supposed to take ½ pill not 2). I was taking into emergency and during proper procedure my body did not react to the Benadryl giving.

    When I’m at high levels off stress, not sleeping well or too anxious I have whats called ticking spells and also seizures. I do not NEED the aid of drugs prescribed because the drugs makes things worse. But I am with Jen on this one 100% and as a student that wanted to give a proper informal visual aid to me classmates this article failed big time. You should have watched the show true Life on MTV when they presented their episode on Tourette Syndrome. But yeah Oka

  6. Rosie says:

    wow guys- I’m a teenager who’s had tourettes my whole life, although it was at worst 3rd-5th grade for me. Now, as a senior in highschool, it has gotten alot better, although it’s not completely vanished. I’m mostly in agreement with Mike. I’m in sports, theater, band, and i’m a straight A student. I have a mild case, especially now, but i DID suffer at times. Not only does having TS make you a target for bullying (as in my case) but it CAN be a little painful. I had a tick of smacking my jaw and biting really hard. I can tell you, that one hurt a lot. Cracking my neck was painful. Hitting my hand on things- my fingers were bruised. Clearing my throat/ coughing/ scratching my throat– I lost my voice. Even now, my most recent tic is tensing my neck. Although it’s not very noticeable, I get headaches and neck pains a lot. There’s no use in complaining to my parents about it because I know it can’t be “cured.” So even though your child doesn’t say they suffer– take it from a TS child herself–it doesn’t mean they don’t.
    as for some things that i’ve seen in the comment, i can’t help but say how i feel about them…

    ” “This was my favorite, though: “these may develop into complicated and annoying symptoms…” ”
    Well yes, i’d sure say tourettes is VERY annoying. If you’ve never felt annoyed because you can’t concentrate because you’re snapping your jaw, or grunting, or WHATEVER, obviously your tourettes is very mild, in which case, don’t be spreading your opinion here because honestly, THAT is the only thing I find offensive in this whole article.

    And although counseling can’t cure TS, it can help– a lot! IT’s proven that stress and anxiety can worsen a TS patient’s tics. So seeing as counseling can help with stress…… i saw the school counselor in elementary school as well as one outside of school a few times. For me, meds didn’t help but cousenling did. Did it cure it? Absolutely not. But it made it better, and most importantly it made me not hate myself for having it.

    Anyway, what i’m trying to get at here is that you people who are posting in the comments are the only ones offending people here. TS can vary from person to person, so although you wouldn’t say you’re a “victim,” or that
    you “suffer,” some might.

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