Tourette syndrome (tourettes disorder) is a type of tic disorder characterized by sudden, repetitive, rapid, and/or unwanted movements and vocalizations known as tics. In most cases, motor tics, such as blinking, shrugging, or jerking an arm, will start between the ages of 5 and 10. At this point, the tics may primarily affect the head and neck area.
Vocal tics, such as humming, clearing the throat, or yelling a word or phrase, may develop afterwards, and motor tics may also start to affect the trunk, arms, or legs. The worst tic symptoms often occur during the teenage years and then lessen around the late teens/early 20s.
Chronic cases can continue throughout adulthood and may become worse during stressful periods.
Tics can also be the result of OCD or other tic disorders known as:
- Persistent (Chronic) motor or vocal tic disorder: characterized by either having one or more vocal tics OR one or more motor tics that occur many times per day for over a year.
- Provisional tic disorder: characterized by either having one or more vocal tics OR one or more motor tics that have been present for no more than 12 months.
Did You Know?
According to the CDC, approximately 1 out of 360 children from the ages of 6-17 are diagnosed with Tourette’s. However, it is believed that about 1 in 162 children meet criteria for Tourette’s. This means that about 50% of cases go undiagnosed.
Tourettes disorder and other conditions:
Children who are diagnosed with Tourette syndrome often experience at least one other condition such as ADHD, anxiety, Autism, or OCD. It is important that their psychiatrist find out if a person with Tourette syndrome has other conditions, diagnose, and implement a comprehensive treatment plan to address all conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Symptoms of Tourette syndrome can include:
- Simple motor tics: tics that only involve a small muscle group, for example blinking
- Complex motor tics: tics that involve several muscle groups, for example blinking in coordination with foot tapping and arm shaking
- Simple vocal tics: repetitive sniffing, barking, throat clearing, or grunting
- Complex vocal tics: repetitive words or phrases, repeating another’s words or phrases, or using vulgar language
It is important to note that Tourette’s is only diagnosed when there are BOTH motor and vocal tics. In the case that only one or the other is present, a diagnosis of persistent tic disorder may be made. In the case that symptoms have not occurred for longer than a year, then a diagnosis of provisional tic disorder may be made. Only a licensed mental health professional can accurately diagnose Tourette syndrome or a tic disorder, so if you or a loved one are showing symptoms, schedule a consultation with our psychiatrists at Florida Family Psychiatry today.
There is no single test to diagnose tic disorders. Instead, tic disorders are diagnosed after a physical exam, discussion of your medical history, a review of symptoms, and discussing how long the symptoms have been present. Tourette syndrome is diagnosed by the presence of both verbal and motor tics for at least a year.
Not everyone with a tic disorder will need treatment, especially if their tics do not interfere with daily life. Tics can be disruptive, harmful to self-esteem, or cause pain and these cases typically require treatment with medications due to their severity. In the case that treatment is needed, a combination of behavioral therapy and medication is recommended. Behavioral therapy can help teach ways to manage tics, while medication is generally used to reduce the severity and/or frequency of tics. It is important to note that treatment for tic disorders is not a cure, but rather a way to make it easier to control some tics.
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Some of the contents of this Florida Family Psychiatry (FFP) webpage were sourced from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, the National Institute of Mental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Tourette Association of America, and their affiliates. The content on this page should be used for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. FFP has made every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the content on this website. However, the information is provided “as is” without warranty of any kind.
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