What is Tourette’s syndrome, is it hereditary, how is treated, what causes the condition and is it linked to OCD and ADHD?
TOURETTE’S syndrome is a neurological condition which is associated with outbreaks of swearing and other rude language.
However – this is just one element of the condition – which not everyone has.
In a new programme aired on Channel 4 this evening, former Queen of the Jungle Scarlett Moffatt has opened up about her experience with the condition.
When she was just 12-years-old, the presenter was diagnosed with facial tics as a result of Bell’s Palsy – which she lived with for two years.
As part of the show she will be travelling around the UK and reflecting on her own experiences.
She will also meet people who have been dealing with tics as well as scientists and TikTok influencers.
Ahead of Britain’s Tourette Mystery: Scarlett Moffatt investigates on at 10pm tonight – we tell you everything you need to know about Tourette’s syndrome.
What is Tourette’s syndrome and how is it caused?
Tourette’s is far more common that most people realise – affecting around one in every 100 people.
The cause of Tourette’s is unknown, but it’s thought to be linked to problems with a part of the brain called the basal ganglia.
In people who have Tourette’s, the basal ganglia ‘misfire’, resulting in tics.
For unknown reasons, males are more likely to be affected than females – while Tourette’s often runs in families.
Which celebrities have spoken out about Tourette’s syndrome?
Other famous people affected by the condition include Big Brother winner Pete Bennett.
YouTube star Caspar Lee released a video to his seven million subscribers speaking out about his battle with Tourett’s Syndrome.
In the honest YouTube post, the vlogger explained that he had struggled to control the things he said since he was a child.
Tourette’s is a neurological condition which affects the brain and nervous system, and is characterised by involuntary movements and noises called tics.
Kids normally begin showing signs of Tourette’s at between 10 and 11 years old, and the condition continues into adulthood.
The condition was named after the French doctor Georges Gilles de la Tourette, who first described the syndrome and its symptoms in the 19th century.
Can Tourette’s be genetic?
The risk factors for the condition are unknown but studies show that genes play an important role.
Previous genetic studies have shown that the syndrome can be inherited as a dominant gene.
There is around a 50 per cent chance of parents with this passing it on to their children, the Centre for Disease Control in the US states.
What are the symptoms?
There are two main types of tics:
Vocal: Grunting, coughing or shouting out words
Physical: Jerking the head, or jumping up and down
Tics can also be either simple (small movements or uttering a single sound) or complex (a series of movements/phrases).
Most people who have been diagnosed with Tourette’s have a combination of physical and vocal tics.
They don’t pose a serious treat to the person’s overall health, although head jerking can be painful.
While people with Tourette’s often experience problems such as social isolation, embarrassment and low self-esteem.
How is Tourette’s treated?
While there is no cure for Tourette’s, treatment can help to control the symptoms and reduce the impact of tics.
The two common types of behavioural therapy are…
- Habit reversal therapy: Monitoring the pattern and frequency of tics – with the aim of identifying triggers and replacing them with an alternative, less noticeable tics.
- Exposure with response prevention (ERP): Increasing exposure to the urge to tic, to practice suppressing the response for longer.
In cases where tics are more frequent or severe, medication such as such as alpha2-adrenergic agonists, muscle relaxants and dopamine antagonists can help to reduce them.
In two thirds of affected people, their symptoms improve significantly around 10 years after they started.
Some people’s symptoms become less troublesome, reducing the need for medication and therapy, while in others they disappear completely.
In one third of people, the symptoms continue throughout their life. However, they should become milder – reducing the need for treatment.
Is Tourette’s syndrome linked to ADHD?
Although Tourette’s itself is not a learning difficulty, and does not affect a person’s intelligence, it is associated with a number of psychological and behavioural problems.
Around 60 per cent of people with Tourette’s also develop obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Common symptoms of OCD in kids include constantly checking things, for example that a door is locked; a desire for order and symmetry; hoarding objects with no real value; and obsessive cleaning.
In children with Tourette’s, these compulsive behaviours and tics often become combined.
Behavioural problems associated with Tourette’s:
- Antisocial behaviour
- Flying into sudden rages
- Inappropriate behaviour with others
- Learning difficulties
- Self-harming (less common)
While 70 per cent of people with Tourette’s also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
ADHD causes problems with attention span, controlling impulses, concentrating and planning ahead.
Affected kids often find it difficult to focus on specific tasks, and are easily distracted.
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