Quick Facts

Quick Facts on Tourette's Disorder

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A brief overview of the signs and symptoms of Tourette's, and how it's treated in children and adolescents.

Overview:

Tourette's disorder is a neurological condition characterized by involuntary movements and sounds called "tics."  Tics might include blinking, twitching, barking, throat clearing, coughing, or repeating certain words.  Some people with the disorder experience outbursts of profanity, although this particular tic is quite rare.

Symptoms:

  • Children with Tourette's disorder usually begin exhibiting tics around seven to ten years of age, and they reach their peak during adolescence 
  • Motor tics, such as blinking and twitching of the face, head, neck, and/or shoulders, often occur before vocal tics  
  • Not all tics indicate Tourette's; unless your child has both motor and vocal tics, he doesn't have the disorder 
  • Tics tend to worsen when a person is under stress, and improve when he is relaxed 
  • Children with the disorder can sometimes experience rage attacks and poor impulse control as well 

Causes:

No specific gene causing Tourette's disorder has been isolated, but there is strong evidence of an inherited component, and research indicates that a pattern of abnormalities in some brain regions may be connected to Tourette's.

Treatment:

Tourette's disorder cannot be cured, but it can be treated through a combination of behavioral therapy and medication  

Behavioral Therapy: Children can sometimes learn to suppress their tics through a kind of behavioral therapy called "habit reversal," in which they learn to anticipate when a tic is coming and perform actions that are incompatible to them. Other psychotherapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy, can help children learn to cope with their Tourette's syndrome as well as any co-existing disorders.

Medication: There are a variety of medications commonly prescribed to help control the symptoms of Tourette's, including neuroleptics, which appear to help control tics by blocking the brain's dopamine neurotransmitters. Co-occurring behaviors such as rage attacks and poor impulse control are sometimes treated with a class of medications called antihypertensives.

More on Tourette's
For a complete guide to the disorder, and its treatment, in children and adults, see our Mental Health Guide. For more articles and videos on Tourette's, see our Tourette's Hot Topic.

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