by Raven Heroux
Oprah is fantastic–except when she exploits and sensationalizes medical disorders. Tourette syndrome (TS) is an inherited neurological disorder characterized by motor (physical) and vocal (words or sounds) tics due to damage or differences in the basal ganglia. That’s a fancy way of saying that due to differences in the brain, some people make unvoluntary (yes, UNvoluntary) movements or noises. Tics are like sneezes–you can hold off for a little while, but sooner or later it’ll happen anyway. People with Tourette’s can surpress their tics for short periods of time, but eventually, the tics will be wilder and more frequent, so it’s not always a good idea. TS is diagnosed only through clinical behavior, not laboratory testing. It is commonly diagnosed between the ages of seven and eighteen. Tourette’s in older people is quite uncommon.
Myth: Everyone with Tourette’s shouts profanity and is perpetually making a scene in the middle of the grocery store for screaming offensive slurs.
Truth: Only 15% of people with Tourette’s have coprolalia (the fancy shmancy name for the tic that makes you swear and say obscene words). For the most part, people may tic words or sentences that make absolutely no sense, such as “The talking dog is okay” or gibberish with different voices or accents).
Myth: People with Tourette’s are constantly ticcing. You can tell they have TS because they never stop.
Truth: There is a wide spectrum of how of frequently and how aggressively people tic. You can go a few days, or even a few months, without ticcing, and yet you still have TS. If it returns, you still have TS. It is quite common for people between the ages of 18 and 21 to grow out of Tourette’s.
Want to read or watch an accurate representation of Tourette’s? Check out Front of the Class! Or even read a few blog posts on the matter. Whatever you do, don’t listen to Oprah, South Park, or the Tourette’s Guy: they only focus on the controversial side of Tourette’s.