Tourette’s was first identified in 1885 by French neurologist Georges Gilles Tourette. He called the disorder “sickness of ticks” and is not limited to the shouting of inappropriate words but includes both motor and phonic tics such as clearing of the throat, shrugging the shoulders, coughing, grunting or even a series of actions.
One common misconception is that all Tourette patients curse. Studies done on the disorder reveal that only about 10-15 percent do in fact blurt out inappropriate words or use obscene gestures. The disorder is often used for comedic relief in television so it’s no wonder why this misconception exists.
Tourette’s suffers can often suppress their tics for brief periods of time and has mislead people to believe that sufferers perform these tics voluntarily. The truth is that they have little control over their urges and can only inhibit tics for a small period of time, much like avoiding scratching an itch.
Tourette’s was first believed to have stemmed from psychological conflict and repressed sexual energies. A study at Yale University found that when afflicted with Tourette’s, 53 percent of identical twins shared this affliction while only 8 percent of fraternal twins did. Brain imaging of Tourette’s patients reveal abnormalities in areas related to movement. Stress can increase the frequency of a tic so genetics will unlikely tell the whole story.
What is amazing is that many Tourette’s sufferers have learned to use their disorder to their benefit claiming that it has taught them to focus with laser like precision and has forced them to learn impulse-control skills which few people ever acquire.
There is no cure for Tourette’s but there are treatments that reduce the frequency and intensity of the tics. Habit reversal which teaches suffers to redirect their tics has been helpful especially to those who jerk violently towards others.There is no remedy for Tourette’s but health professionals are working to find a way to better control symptoms.