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Tourettes: fact and fiction

Tourette’s syndrome is an inherited disorder, characterised by facial tics and uncontrolled vocal outbursts. The popular image of tourettes has been stoked by television documentaries, often offering a somewhat voyeuristic portrayal of people causing a nuisance by uncontrollable swearing in public places. The fact is, tourettes covers a whole spectrum of symptoms.

Tourettes: causes and symptoms

The classic perception of tourettes is of a bizarre condition where the sufferer can’t help themselves making obscene exclamations at the most socially inappropriate moments. However, symptoms like these are only representative of a small minority of cases. The fact is, tourettes is not considered a rare syndrome any more. In many cases it can go undiagnosed because the tics are so mild, simply manifesting as eye blinking, sniffing or facial movements. Very few adults suffer from more pronounced tourettes.

Symptoms typically appear before the person has reached 18. It occurs throughout ethnic groups and males are up to four times more susceptible than females. Other conditions closely associated with tourettes include obsessive compulsions, or attention issues.

The vast majority of people with tourettes go on to lead fully active and productive lives, able to participate in all professions. This situation has been greatly assisted by the increased public understanding of tourettes. There is far less stigma surrounding medical conditions in modern society and the public at large are far more tolerant of the symptoms.

The tics associated with tourettes are sudden and uncontrollable movements, known as motor tics, or utterances, known as vocal tics. But some are slower, producing almost dance-like motions. Possibly fewer than 25% of touretters experience the complex vocal tics once commonly associated with the condition.

Treatments for tourettes

Various alternative treatments have been applied to tourettes over the years. These include psychotherapy. While this has proved to have had little direct influence, it has been useful for patients and family members in dealing with their own and their peers’ reactions. Diet has found to improve the symptoms in a small number of cases.

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