Chris Mason — Tourette’s Syndrome (TS) is an often, misunderstood neurological disorder. The main symptoms are what are called“tics”.
A tic is defined as an involuntary, sudden, rapid, repetitive, unbalanced, motor movement or vocalization. The tics occur many times a day, nearly every day.
The most common motor tics are rapid eye-blinking, shoulder-shrugging, squinting, and facial grimacing. Some of the less common tics include grinding teeth, neck jerking, flailing arms, biting nails, and toe curling. The most common vocal tics are throat clearing, sniffing, grunting, coughing, and stuttering or stammering.
There are a few facts about TS that are important to know. Up to one in 100 schoolboys have some form of TS. Three to four males have it for every female. The diagnosis is often missed. TS symptoms decrease with age. TS is an inherited disorder. Learning disorders, panic attacks, school phobias, speech problems, and sleeping problems are common too.
People with TS usually also have either ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Many people with Tourette’s have both of these accompanying disorders.
When most people think of TS, they think of the disorder where people with it swear uncontrollably and profusely. This symptom of TS, called coprolalia, is the easiest symptom to recognize, but it is also the rarest. It is important to remember that coprolalia is present in less than thirty percent of TS patients.
Most people with TS, when describing a tic, say that they feel a sudden tension building up that must be relieved by performing the tic. Tics are suppressible for varying lengths of time. The longer the tics are suppressed, the more the tension builds up and the more there is a need to release it.
Another major characteristic of TS is a waxing and waning of the symptoms. This includes both a change from one tic to another, to the complete disappearance of symptoms for varying periods of time.
The tics usually begin during the ages of five through nine, but symptoms can start as late as twenty years of age.
While motor and vocal tics are the main symptoms used to make a diagnosis, and they are what are most identified with TS, there are many other problems that can be associated with it, the main of which are behavior related.
People with TS, who suffer from these behaviors, are often angry, argumentative, and confrontative. Everything has to be their way or is someone else’s fault. One minute they’ll be fine, and the next minute, they’ll be in a rage. They tease their siblings relentlessly. They have a short temper, smart mouth, talk back, throw temper tantrums over nothing, and won’t take “no” for an answer. Many of them lie and steal too. Of course it is difficult to tell if a person’s TS is causing these behaviors or something else is, but many studies of TS patients have shown that these behaviors are much more common in them than in people without it.
Very few people with TS have symptoms that require medication. Medication is usually only prescribed when a person’s symptoms prevent them from doing routine activities. Just like no two TS patients cases are the same, neither are the treatments. Medication must be carefully monitored and doctors’ instructions must be followed precisely to benefit from the medications.
Almost all of the medications have side effects, some of them many and some of them major. Many TS patients decide to live with their many symptoms, and stop taking medication, because living with the side effects is more than they can bear.
About the Author
Chris Mason has lived in the East Bay Area of California for most of his life. He has lived with Tourette’s Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and has been taking medication to prevent the symptoms of both, getting close to live a fairly “normal” life. He is the author of the book Touretties, a collection of stories from people who experienced Tourette’s Syndrome personally or in their family. Chris currently resides in San Francisco. Visit his website to http://chrismason.biz/ learn more about him and his work.