about tourette syndrome

What is Tourette Syndrome?

Something most individuals take for granted is control over their body. Chances are, you have control over the way you move, how you use your hands, and they way you walk. You can sit still for extended periods of time, and you have no problems staying silent or looking at one exact point in space for a long time. You may want to do something else, but if you need to, you can continue doing that for a long, long time.

The best way to understand Tourette Syndrome (TS) is by explaining that people with TS do not have full control over their bodies. They may be compelled to make motions or say things that they do not want to do, almost as though they are a puppet on strings. An individual with TS may, for example, be unable to sit still because their leg keeps jerking to the left, or because they keep rolling their head back.

What is important to remember about TS is that individuals with this condition are not in control of the seemingly random or "strange" actions they are doing. This can be difficult to understand for those without TS because they are used to having complete control over their bodies, and may not be able to fundamentally understand what it is like not to. However, this is the reality for individuals with Tourette Syndrome.


Tourette Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by repetitive, involuntary movements and vocalizations known as tics. Tics can include, but are not limited to, making jerking motions with ones head or arms, shouting out loud, whistling, and hitting oneself.

TS is normally first seen in childhood. The CDC estimates that 1 in 162 children have TS. Though tics often decrease in severity as they age, Tourette Syndrome is a lifelong condition.

There are multiple tic disorders - that is, conditions that are characterized by the presence of tics. TS specifically is on the more severe end of the spectrum, and is defined by an individual having at least one vocal and multiple motor tics.

Some facts about TS:

  • Tics can come and go, and may change overtime

  • Tics become more severe when an individual is stressed or tired

  • There is no cure for TS

  • There is no single, most-effective medication for TS

For more information on TS, as well as TS-based programs and support for diagnosed individuals, visit Tourette Canada, the Canadian national nonprofit organization for individuals with TS.

If you are interested in making a donation to help provide support and fund research for individuals with TS, visit our donations page:

common misconceptions

Because of the nature of TS, many individuals wrongly assume many things about individuals with the condition. Here is a list of common misconceptions - and their corrections!

MISCONCEPTION: People with TS can control their tics. They're just being "crazy" or asking for attention.

CORRECTION: People with TS cannot control their tics. In order to understand TS, you must remember that those with TS lack the control over their own body that you may take for granted. Tics are completely involuntary. An individual with TS has no control over what the tic is, or how frequently it happens.

MISCONCEPTION: Isn't Tourette Syndrome that swearing condition that I saw on TV? The really funny one where people randomly shout profanities?

CORRECTION: That is a specific type of vocal tic called coprolalia. A small number of individuals with TS have coprolalia. Most individuals with TS do not. Furthermore, individuals with coprolalia may find their tics to be very disruptive, as they can be a large barrier in communicating with others and being in public. It is thus incredibly insensitive to mock and laugh at those individuals.

MISCONCEPTION: Tourette Syndrome seems inconvenient, but I don't really understand how it's a real issue.

CORRECTION: TS is a real issue for many reasons. First, people with TS often find it difficult to interact with others and, in severe cases, may be unable to hold jobs and support themselves, because constant tics make it physically impossible to perform basic physical or communication-based tasks, such as typing or speaking with clients. Individuals with severe Tourette Syndrome may also have tics that cause them to harm themselves, such as scratching themselves until they bleed, or punching themselves in the face. As these actions are involuntary, they are impossible to control, and thus individuals with TS may end up causing themselves a great deal of harm.

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