back to top
Parents

11 Tourette Syndrome Myths That You Probably Think Are True

Nope, nope, and more nope.

Posted on

Myth 1: Tourette Syndrome is extremely rare.

Actually, it's estimated that every 1 in 100 school-aged children suffer from Tourette Syndrome or a related Tic Disorder (although half of these children are not diagnosed).

Myth 2: Everyone with Tourette Syndrome blurts out obscenities.

Instagram: @touretteassociation

If you only know Tourette Syndrome from the movies, TV, or other media, you might think that everyone with Tourette Syndrome is all #$@&%*! all of the time.

BUT...

In reality the excessive and uncontrollable use of foul or obscene language — known as coprolalia — only affects 10% of individuals with Tourette. For those who do have coprolalia, their outbursts are completely involuntary and they often try to mask the obscenities.

Debunking this myth is especially important as it often leads to prejudices against people with Tourette Syndrome.

Advertisement

Myth 3: Everyone who has tics also has Tourette Syndrome.

With tic conditions, there's a spectrum that ranges from simple, temporary tics lasting for a few weeks or months, to multiple complex tics in one or more parts of the body that can be permanent.

Within each situation, there's also a range of severity — from mild and infrequent to severe and disabling. To be diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, you must have a history of a number of motor tics and at least one vocal tic, with tics being present on and off for more than a year.

Myth 4: People with Tourette Syndrome can control their movements and sounds if they really want to.

touretteassociation / Via instagram.com

OK, so some medications and behavioral therapy treatments HAVE allowed some individuals to successfully manage their tics. But for the most part physical and vocal tics associated with Tourette Syndrome are involuntary (like a sneeze) or uncontrollable.

Myth 5: If I can’t see the tics, they must be doing better.

Tourette Syndrome is a lifelong disorder, so — while symptoms evolve over the years and some tics come and go — a lack of visual tics does not mean an individual is “doing better” or “cured.” There is no cure for Tourette Syndrome.

Advertisement

Myth 6: Tourette Syndrome is caused by stress or an unhappy childhood.

Facebook: TouretteAssociation

Stress can worsen the symptoms of Tourette Syndrome for some people, but it's not the cause.

So you might be asking, "What DOES cause it?"

The precise cause is unknown, but current studies indicate that Tourette Syndrome likely has a significant genetic component (meaning it is likely inherited). Prenatal, perinatal, autoimmune, and environmental factors may also contribute to or modulate the development of Tourette Syndrome.

Myth 7: Tics only occur in children.

Nope. Tics and Tourette Syndrome occur in all age groups. And while it's true childhood tics can decline as one ages, many adults live their entire life with persistent tics ranging from mild to severe.

Myth 8: People with Tourette Syndrome suffer from mental illness.

Facebook: TouretteAssociation

Tourette Syndrome is often treated by psychiatrists, but it is not a mental or psychiatric illness. Instead, Tourette Syndrome is a movement disorder that often occurs along with other psychiatric conditions — such as obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and anxiety.

Advertisement

Myth 9: People with Tourette Syndrome are not as intelligent as others.

People living with Tourette Syndrome can be highly intelligent. However, a portion of people with Tourette Syndrome also have learning disabilities or other comorbidities such as OCD, ADHD, and anxiety disorder.

So, if tics and other associated learning disabilities interfere with an individual’s ability to perform or gain social acceptance, adjustments may be needed to create an environment that is conducive to their needs.

Myth 10: People with Tourette Syndrome can’t lead normal lives.

Sam Greenwood / Getty Images

So...the symptoms of Tourette Syndrome can have a profoundly negative impact on the lifestyle of some individuals.

BUT...

Individuals living with Tourette Syndrome CAN lead rich and fulfilling lives. In fact, many are high-achievers, and find that their tics tend to subside when they're concentrating hard on a task. People with Tourette have gone on to become successful musicians, surgeons, and athletes among many other notable professions. To name a few: Ghostbusters star Dan Ackroyd, American Idol standout James Durbin, and pro soccer payer Tim Howard.

Myth 11: Tourette Syndrome is more common among certain ethnic groups than others.

This one is a myth too — Tourette does not affect one racial or ethnic group more than any other.