This week is Tourette Syndrome Awareness Week. A week focused on awareness, understanding and acceptance for individuals with tic disorders and Tourette Syndrome and on reducing the stigma associated with these conditions.
A tic is an involuntary, rapidly occurring, repetitive movement or vocalization. Individuals with Tourette Syndrome experience both motor (e.g., eye blinking) and vocal (e.g., coughing) tics over a period of at least 12 months. The nature of tics is such that symptoms wax and wane over time and so individuals may go for short or long periods of time without symptoms before experiencing a recurrence of symptoms.
As a psychologist, I first became interested in working with tic disorders as a postgraduate student. I was completing a placement at a hospital program and I had the privilege of working with a young person who was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. Their tic presentation was very severe and was significantly interfering with their ability to participate in life to the fullest. We worked together to implement a behavioural intervention and I observed the severity of their tics decrease substantially and their confidence within themselves, and their ability to engage with life improved, all within a relatively short period of time. My experience working with this young person led me to pursue continued work in this area after I was fully qualified. I am now intensely passionate about reducing the stigma associated with tic disorders and supporting individuals with tics to access effective evidence-based treatment.
3 things everyone should know about tics and Tourette Syndrome
Don’t believe everything you see
Unfortunately, although many people have heard of Tourette Syndrome, the way it has historically been portrayed in the media has led to many misconceptions. The most common misconception is that all individuals with Tourette Syndrome swear or make obscene gestures. In truth, these symptoms are present for less than 10% of individuals with Tourette Syndrome. It is important to remember that tics are involuntary and that individuals with these symptoms usually try to mask them. Attending to tics and experiencing anxiety about the possibility of tics occurring tends to make them more frequent and intense, so correcting myths about tics and Tourette Syndrome is particularly important in reducing the impact of tics on individuals who experience them.
Individuals with tourette syndrome can live fulfilling lives
Myths around obscenity have also perpetuated a belief that if you have Tourette Syndrome then your life will be miserable. Whilst it is important to recognise that the frequent occurrence of tics can have a profoundly negative impact on the ability to engage in life for some individuals, many people with Tourette Syndrome and Tic Disorders live meaningful and fulfilling lives. Research also suggests that although some individuals continue to have severe tics throughout their lives, for many individuals who had tics as children, tic presentation is reduced in frequency and intensity by adulthood.
Effective treatment for tic management is available
Although tics are known to be a neurological condition, a behavioural treatment known as the Comprehensive Behavioural Intervention for Tics (CBIT) has been shown to be effective in reducing tic severity. Research has shown that CBIT reduces the frequency and intensity of tics for a large proportion of individuals and that it has changes the structure of the brain pathways that are associated with tic presentation. Due to the impact of the treatment on tic frequency and intensity, and through the empowerment to be able to manage body movements, CBIT often also improves self-confidence and quality of life for individuals experiencing tics.
More facts about tics
Up to 18% of school aged children experience tics 1 in 100 children are diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome Males are 4 times more likely to have tics than females OCD and ADHD commonly co-occur with tic disorders
If you or your child is experiencing tics or has a diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome and is looking for support from experienced, knowledgeable clinicians, who are trained in the Comprehensive Behavioural Intervention for Tics please contact The Talbot Centre to discuss how we can assist you or your child.