Tourette's syndrome

Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological disorder characterised by repetitive involuntary movements and vocalisations called tics.

What is Tourette's syndrome?

Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological disorder characterised by repetitive involuntary movements and vocalisations called tics. The symptoms start showing between the ages of three and nine. Tics come and go over time, varying in type, frequency, location and severity.

The first symptoms usually occur in the head and neck area and may progress to include muscles of the trunk and extremities. Motor tics generally precede the development of vocal tics and simple tics often precede complex tics.

86% of Tourette’s sufferers also have at least one other condition. The most common are:











What causes Tourette's syndrome?

The root cause of Tourette's syndrome remains unknown but professionals think it’s linked to the part of the brain that regulates body movements. For unknown reasons, males tend to be more likely to develop Tourette's than females.

A combination of genetic and environmental factors is likely to cause Tourette's syndrome. Also, brain chemicals that transmit nerve impulses may impact the likelihood of developing Tourette's.

If someone in a person’s family has Tourette's syndrome, it may also increase the risk of developing the disorder.

What are the signs of Tourette's syndrome?

The main sign of Tourette's syndrome is tics which can manifest as physical or vocal tics. These tics can range from mild to severe and usually develop between the ages of three and nine.

Some examples of common tics include:

  • Blinking
  • Eye rolling
  • Shrugging
  • Jerking head or limbs
  • Jumping
  • Touching objects and/or people
  • Grunting
  • Whistling
  • Tongue clicking
  • Shouting and/or words or phrases
  • Swearing
Tics can increase in severity during times of stress, anxiety and fatigue. Swearing isn't as common a tic as people are led to believe and often only affects one in 10 people with Tourette's syndrome.

Common Tourette's syndrome strengths


Tics generally subside or disappear when an individual is hyper-focused. This also makes a person with TS very efficient at what they do.

Interpersonal awareness

People with Tourette's are very sensitive to people and their reactions. This makes them excellent at reading situations.

Planning ahead

Because TS is stress-induced, planning ahead becomes a way of life. This becomes innate and almost a reflex reaction that can be a great skill to have in uncertain situations.


By being diverse, the way those with Tourette's approach a problem is different. Most times this means that a solution is creative and effective.

Imaginative / creative

Those with Tourette's have a different approach and perspective on life. As a result, they’re often very imaginative and are great at working in creative roles.

Examples of good jobs for people with Tourette's Syndrome

  • Researcher
  • Analysts
  • Banking and Finance
  • Musician
  • Writer
  • Counselling
  • Teaching

How is Tourette's syndrome treated?

Whilst there isn’t a cure for Tourette's syndrome, certain treatments may help an individual control their tics and reduce their severity. Behavioural therapy and medicine are the two most common treatments for Tourette's.

Behavioural therapy contains two stages:

  • Habit reversal - Understanding the triggers for tics and finding an alternative to relieve the urge.
  • Exposure response prevention (ERP) - Trains individuals to better control their tics by recreating the urge to tic and training them to tolerate the feeling until the urge passes.

The second option for those with Tourette's syndrome is medicine, but this is reserved for those with severe tics that affect their day-to-day. This is because medicine for Tourette's can cause side effects and doesn’t work for everyone.