Tourettes Patient

Symptoms of Tourette Syndrome

Tourette syndrome (TS) is one of three main types of tic disorders. Tic disorders are a neurological disorders characterized by an uncontrollably compelling need to carry out repetitive and involuntary movements or vocalizations called “tics.” Here is a look at the symptoms of TS.

Symptoms Present for Diagnosis

The diagnosis of TS and other tic disorders is dependent upon how long and what kind of tics are present in an individual. Chronic Tic Disorder refers to vocal or motor tics that have been occurring for more than a year, while Provisional Tic Disorder refers to the same but for less than one year. However, according to Tourette Association of America, diagnosis of TS requires two motor and one vocal tic lasting a year or longer. Onset commonly begins around 6-7 years of age, but may appear from 2-15 years of age. TS develops much more frequently in boys than girls. 

Motor Tics

The motor tics evident in TS and other tic disorders refer to repetitive movements. These may be simple, such as blinking, shrugging, or bobbing the head; or complex, referring to a combination of muscle groups or movements that seem almost coordinated. While simple motor tics may seem quickly and almost accidentally performed, complex motor tics appear “slower and more purposeful,” the Tourette Association reports. Common complex motor tics might include repeating observed movements, a series of patterned steps, obscene gestures, and hopping, among other things. There may be a “promontory urge,” creating a sensation in the group of muscles involved to suggest the oncoming of the motor tic—much like the feeling before you sneeze.

Vocal Tics

Vocal, or phonic, tics are those involving sound. Again, there are both simple and complex tics. Simple phonic tics include brief noises such as clearing the throat, grunting, sniffing, hooting, or shouting. Conversely, complex tics involve more intricacy of linguistics. Complex phonic tics generally involve obvious or recognizable words and phrases, but are used without context and with some consistency. Less than 15% of vocal tics involve obscenities (a tic referred to specifically as coprolalia), but these are the cases that tend to be used as examples of “common” Tourette Syndrome vocal tics. The promontory urge is often a sense of discomfort in the body. 

A Note on Tics

TS tends to vary, and many cases change over time. The Tourette Association remarks that some tics can even be “self-injurious and debilitating.” High emotions, such as stress, excitement, anger, or even illness may influence symptoms to make them more extreme or less easy to control. Tics may even occur while you’re asleep. Additionally, tics may get better in adulthood—unfortunately, they may get worse during adolescence. However, it’s not uncommon for tics to go away almost completely as an adult. 

Last Updated: September 12, 2016