Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurological or “neurochemical” disorder characterized by tics — involuntary, rapid, sudden movements or vocalizations that occur repeatedly in the same way.
- Both multiple motor and one or more vocal tics present at some time during the condition although not necessarily simultaneously;
- The occurrence of tics many times a day (usually in bouts) nearly every day or intermittently throughout a span of more than one year;
- The periodic change in the number, frequency, type and location of the tics, and the waxing and waning of their severity. Symptoms can even disappear for weeks or months at a time; and
- Onset before the age of 18.
The term “involuntary” used to describe TS tics is a source of confusion since it is known that most people with TS do have some control over the symptoms. What is recognized is that the control which can be exerted from seconds to hours at a time, may merely postpone more severe outbursts of symptoms. Tics are experienced as irresistible as the urge to sneeze and must eventually be expressed. People with TS often seek a secluded spot to release their symptoms after delaying them in school or at work. Typically, tics increase as a result of tension or stress (but are not caused by stress) and decrease with relaxation or concentration on an absorbing task.
Individuals not only struggle with the condition itself, they must bear the double burden of the stigma attached. The cause has not been established, although current research presents considerable evidence that the disorder stems from the abnormal metabolism of at least one brain chemical (neurotransmitter) called dopamine. Very likely other neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, are also involved.
Many people who have Tourette Syndrome are also affected by what is called associative disorders. These might include one or more of the following: anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorders, sensory dysfunction, rage, mood disorders, just to name a few.
1 in 100 Canadians have Tourette Syndome, the average age of onset is 7 years old and there is no cure.
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