Beyond the Tics: Understanding Tourette Syndrome

Tourette Syndrome (TS) is an often misunderstood condition. It is a complex neurological disorder that is characterised by tics – sudden, repetitive involuntary movements or vocal sounds – that mostly begin in early childhood and peak between the ages of 8 – 12 years old. Studies show that approximately 0.5 – 1% of the population has TS and up to 90% also have other coexisting disorders such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and anxiety and depressive disorders. Boys are 3x more likely to have Tourettes and many children outgrow TS by adulthood.

People with Tourette Syndrome are more likely to:

  • be treated discriminately by teachers and other adults
  • feel ostracised by their peers
  • find making connections with others very difficult
  • have low self-esteem

Things people with Tourette Syndrome wish we knew:

  • they are born with TS
  • it feels kind of like a mosquito bite that needs to be scratched
  • sometimes they are able to suppress the urge to tic for a while but eventually they have to do it – it is not a choice
  • tics can be very painful – some describe it like a massive pressure, like a noose around your neck
  • TS is not who they are as people, there is more to them than just the syndrome
  • stress, fatigue and unwanted attention makes the tics worse
  • they deal with the emotional side of the syndrome on top of what you see

Tips of how to behave around someone with Tourette Syndrome:

  • don’t stare, try to act naturally
  • ignore the tics unless the person shares information with you
  • be patient, allow the person time to share their thoughts
  • do not show that you are embarrassed or upset due to the tics
  • defend them if someone teases or insults them

People with tics have unpleasant experiences everyday. Accept them for who they are – look beyond the tics.

To meet with a professional psychologist or counsellor, call The Other Clinic at 8809 0659 or email us