What is Tourette syndrome?
Tourette syndrome, or TS, is an inherited neurological disorder that causes people to make involuntary and uncontrollable vocal sounds and movements, called ‘tics’.
Tourette syndrome usually begins between 2 and 21 years of age. There is no cure for TS, but it usually improves as the person gets older and does not shorten life span. Some people finds the tics go away as they enter adulthood.
Symptoms or signs of Tourette syndrome
Tourette syndrome symptoms are usually mild, but can sometimes be severe.
One set of symptoms is known as movement tics. People with movement tics can find themselves jerking their head, stretching their neck, stamping their feet, and twisting and bending. Some people also bite themselves or hurt themselves in other ways, or find it necessary to repeatedly touch other people and things.
Another set of symptoms is known as vocal tics. People with vocal tics might clear their throat, cough, sniff, click their tongue, grunt, yelp, bark or shout. Some also swear or repeat certain sounds or phrases.
Someone with Tourette syndrome might be able to stop their tics for a short time, but this builds up tension until the tic ‘escapes’.
Tics worsen with stress and improve with relaxation or when the person is absorbed in a particular activity.
Tourette syndrome doesn’t affect anyone’s intelligence.
Tourette syndrome diagnosis
To diagnose Tourette syndrome, a doctor looks at the symptoms in great detail. They would also check that the symptoms aren’t caused by an illness or by medication.
Living with Tourette syndrome
Tourette syndrome can cause problems with daily life, including learning, behaviour and sleep problems, anxiety and mood changes.
Treatment for Tourette syndrome uses medication to reduce particular symptoms, though most people with Tourette syndrome don’t need treatment or medication. Relaxation techniques can help reduce stress.
Where to get help for Tourette syndrome?
You can get support from the Tourette Syndrome Association of Australia. You can also find out more about genetic conditions in general and about genetic counselling.
The Raising Children Network’s Disability Services Pathfinder can help you understand how to use the health and disability services system.
You might be able to get financial support through the NDIS or the Better Start for Children with Disability initiative, depending on where you live.
Last reviewed: November 2016