10 Common Tourettes Questions and Answers

10 Common Questions and Answers About Tourette Syndrome

Tourette Syndrome, despite all the information we’ve gained in the last fifteen years, is still a hard topic to find information on. Unfortunately, the media has chosen to pick out the parts of the disorder that it deems funny, and the rest of the information seems tucked away in textbooks on dusty corners of doctors’ desks.

Well, no more. Here are 10 questions that touch on topics I’ve talked about with parents of children (and individuals) with Tourettes multiple times. You want a quick, easy answer to share with someone who doesn’t understand? Hopefully, I’ve got it right here. Also, if you want more information about a certain topic, I’ve linked related posts underneath each answer. My related posts will have more sources that you can look up on the topic if you so desire.

1. What Are Tics in Tourette Syndrome? Are they Bugs?

No, the bug version is spelled, “T-I-C-K.” Tics that are found in Tourette Syndrome and Tic Disorders are defined as, “sudden twitches, movements, or sounds that people do repeatedly,” by the Center of Disease Control’s article, “Facts About Tourette Syndrome.” Tics can increase or decrease, and are often exacerbated by heightened stress levels, physical injuries, illness, or even seeing other people tic. Because Tourette Syndrome is a neurological disorder, it’s probable that tics originate in the brain. According to the National Institutes of of Health article, “Basal ganglia dysfunction in Tourette’s syndrome: a new hypothesis,” Tourettes hypothesized to involve in the Basal Ganglia portion of the brain.

For more information, see:

What is Tourette Syndrome?

Tourette Spectrum

2. Is Tourettes About Cussing?

Despite the picture the media paints of typical Tourette Syndrome it’s estimated that only 5-15% of people with Tourette Syndrome have Coprolalia, or the version of Tourette Syndrome that involves cursing, according to the Counselling Directory article, “Tourette’s syndrome.”

For more information, see:

Busting 5 Myths About Tourette’s Syndrome


3. Can’t You Just Stop?

Imagine you have a told, the kind where you have that really annoying little cough, the kind that happens every 30 seconds. Now remember what it feels like to try and stop that cough. You might be able to suppress is for an minute, maybe two. But eventually, you’ll have to cough, and when you do, you’re going to have a coughing fit.

That’s exactly what it feels like to suppress ticcing. If I think about it, I can often suppress my tics (The length of time depends on how strong the tics are that day.), but when I’m done, I’m going to pay for it afterward, often when I get home or back in the car. So when people tell children with tics, “Can’t you just stop?!” there’s a good chance they probably can’t.

For more information, see:

Tourettes Isn’t Always Obvious: The Hidden Struggle

Tourettes Isn't Always Obvious

4. How is a Diagnosis Made?

The DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ) has recently changed it’s diagnostic requirements in its most recent edition. The Center of Disease Control’s article, “Diagnosing Tic Disorders,” says these are the requirements the DSM-V has for being diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome:

  • The individual must have multiple motor and vocal tics. (Although the tics don’t have to be present at the same time.)
  • The tics must be present for at least a year.
  • The tics must begin by the age of 18.
  • The tics cannot be due to medicine or other medical conditions, such as seizures.

For more information, see:

Does My Child Need to be Diagnosed?

Does My Child Need to be Diagnosed

5. Do People Tic in Their Sleep?

I’ve never personally experienced tics (that I’m aware of) while sleeping, but that doesn’t mean they disappear at night for everyone. Rather, my problem is just getting to sleep. It’s like trying to fall asleep with a five-year-old poking you all over. An interesting fact from the National Institutes of Health is that around 80% of people with Tourettes are reported to have sleep disorders.

For more information, see:

How Tourettes Affects Sleep

How Tourettes Affects Sleep

6. Is There a Cure for Tourettes?

There is no cure for Tourette Syndrome. Mayo Clinic’s article, “Tourette Syndrome: Definition,” works to remind people that while there’s no cure, the disorder doesn’t shorten the life span of the individual, nor do most people need treatment. In fact, the tics often lessen as teens grow into adults.

For more information, see:

So What is Tourette Syndrome?

Tourette Spectrum

7. Can People with Tourettes Go to School or Hold Jobs?

KidsHealth.org reports that doctors are actually thinking more people have Tourettes than they previously thought. Why is this good news? Because it means many people who qualify for Tourettes aren’t severe enough to need a diagnosis to get through life. Many people are like me. I meet every requirement to qualify for Tourettes, but the disorder never affected my life severely enough to need legal action at school or at home.

For people who struggle with severe forms of the disorder, there is help. The Americans with Disabilities Act is one of the greatest protections this country has for people who struggle with disorders. The national Tourette Syndrome Association reports that Tourette Syndrome is covered by the Federal Department of Justice, preventing employers or other everyday organizations or persons from excluding people with Tourettes on grounds of the disorder. In his book, “Front of the Class,” Brad Cohen describes how he printed out a copy of the Americans with Disabilities Act on a card, and kept it in his pocket at all times in case someone tried to discriminate against him.

If a disorder does make education difficult for a child, there are legal documents parents and schools can work to put together called IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) or 504 Plans that aim to provide the child with the least restrictive learning environment while meeting that child’s individual learning needs.

For more information, see:

Special Needs Accommodations in College

College Accommodations

8. Do Tics Change or Stay the Same?

Tics wax and wane with time, wellness, stress, and whatever else the body decides to throw at the individual. (I’m personally sensitive to junk food.) Over the years, my tics have changed. Some of left and haven’t come back yet, while others come and go as they please. I develop new tics from time to time. (Sometimes, even on purpose!) While this can be frustrating because you never know what to expect, it can also be nice to know that when tics are bad, they’re probably not going to stay that way for too long.

For more information, see:

Me and My Ever-Changing Tics


9. Can People with Tourettes have More than One Disorder?

Along with my Tourettes, I have OCD tendenciesand generalized anxiety. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell where one disorder stops and the next one starts because they share so many symptoms. Tourettes is often comorbid with other disorders. That means that this disorder is often present with at least one other disorder, or parts of it at least. The Psychiatric Times article, “Tourette Syndrome,” reports that individuals with Tourettes often have ADHD or OCD. (And many people have parts of all of both!)

For more information, see:

Comorbidity in Neurological Disorders


10. Are There Ways to Lessen Tics?

There are a lot of ways to lessen tics! It’s important to have more than one method of reducing tics since tics are temperamental. Since tics are often so joined to stress and anxiety, some of the best ways to lessen the tics are to less then stress! Diet is important, as well. What you put into your brain is how well it’s going to perform! Also, physical activity has shown to have a great impact on lessening tics, and I can vouch for that! Finally, there is also MedicineNet. MedicineNet’s page , “How is Tourette Syndrome Treated,” does caution, however, that while there are drugs that can help soften Tourettes, there is no one-medicine-treats-all pill. Instead, doctors and patients have to work together to see what works best for that individual.

For more information, see:

Tourettes and Exercise

Tourettes and Exercise

This list definitely isn’t all-encompassing, but I hope it helps to answer some of your first and most important questions about this disorder. If you have any more questions or comments you’d love to add, please post them in the Comment Box below. Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter for extra information about neurological disorders, education, and encouragement. And as always, thanks for reading!

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  • cesar.leca1904@gmail.com on August 14, 2017 at 8:44 am said:

    I did not understand the part that says that to have tourettes, the tics must begin by the age of 18..?

    • brittanyfichterwrites@gmail.com on September 3, 2017 at 7:25 pm said:

      This just means that for a diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome, the individual must have had tics by or before the age of 18. If the tics begin only afterward, that means that the struggle with tics is due to some other cause, not the genetic one described in the DMS-V. Some medications or brain injuries can cause tics, but these kinds of tics aren’t genetic. Rather they’re from an outside source.

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