A number of the conversations I’ve had with individual with Tourettes have been about comorbid (coexisting) disorders. When people with Tourettes have perhaps gotten used to their tics, the symptoms of other disorders, such as ADHD, OCD, rage, or depression can often bother people who don’t know why they’re there. Hyperactivity, obsessions, compulsions, rage tantrums, and anxiety attacks can be disturbing when they seem to come out of nowhere.
Technically, a Tourettes diagnosis does not include any of those symptoms. According to the Center of Disease Control, the DSM-V requires that Tourette Syndrome can only be diagnosed when an individual:
- has developed the symptoms by the age of 18
- has at least 2 motor tics and at least 1 vocal tic (although they don’t need to be present at the same time)
- has had tics that last more than a year
- the tics cannot be due to a medication or another medical condition
Obviously, these requirements don’t say anything about any of the other symptoms we listed above, so why do so many individuals with Tourette Syndrome struggle with symptoms from other disorders?
The Psychiatric Times article, “Tourettes Syndrome,” says, “Tourette Syndrome is rarely considered in isolation; its clinical picture is often influenced by closely related conditions, such as OCD, ADHD, impulse discontrol, and affective disorders.”
Dr. Leslie E. Packer wrote the article, “Tourette’s Syndrome: Comorbid or Associated Disorders.” In it, she opens with, “The vast majority of children and teens with Tourette’s Syndrome who are seen in clinical settings also have symptoms of other disorders or conditions. Community samples also indicate that the majority of individuals with TS do not have ‘just TS.'”
They’re not sure why individuals with Tourettes are so likely to have co-occurring disorders, but the facts are there. I personally have symptoms of OCD and free-floating anxiety, and my struggles are mild in comparison to other individuals I’ve spoken with. The Oxford Journal article, “Tourette syndrome, associated conditions, and the complexities of treatment,” says that while comorbid conditions are constantly being described, experts aren’t sure whether the associated behaviors truly represent the “genetic expression of the TS ‘gene.'”
What are the disorders most found with Tourette Syndrome?
- ADHD – According to the Science Daily article, “Tourette Syndrome And ADHD Frequently Occur Together,” from the University of Calvary says that ADHD is the most common disorder to occur with Tourette Syndrome.
- OCD – Psychiatric Times says that OCD could possibly occur in up to to 80% of people with Tourettes. An interesting fact, however, is that OCD that occurs on its own is different from OCD that occurs comorbidly with Tourettes.
- A study done by the National Centers of Disease Control and Prevention showed that 49% of the participants had anxiety problems (which might or might not include OCD), and 26% had behavioral problems such as ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) or Conduct Disorder.
Something to consider is that while there are many other disorders found that occur with tics, is that the Tourettes might not be the main disorder. Rather than some of the other disorders occurring with the Tourettes, Tourettes or tic disorders might occur with the other disorders. Psychiatric Times also says there might be a referral bias in diagnosing comorbid disorders; because doctors are on the watch for other disorders in children with Tourettes, they’re more likely to pick up on smaller symptoms that might have gone unnoticed in children with Tourettes otherwise.
So What’s the Point?
It’s important to take all of this with a grain of salt. Just because a child is diagnosed with Tourettes doesn’t necessarily mean a child will have severe learning or behavioral problems. There are some children who don’t have any symptoms of other disorders at all. It’s just good to know that if other symptoms to show, it’s not unusual. You or your child isn’t alone.
Do you have an experience or advice you’d like to share? Please post it in the Comment Box below. And don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter to receive extra resources I don’t include in my blog, encouragement, and a gift as a thank you for signing up. Thanks for reading!