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Last Updated: Monday July 09 2007 07:59 GMT

Q&A: What is Tourette Syndrome?


What causes Tourette Syndrome (TS)?

We don't know much about the causes of TS, but we do know that it appears to involve the abnormal processing of brain chemicals called dopamine and serotonin and probably others, too.

We also know that Tourette Syndrome is often inherited.

But it isn't infectious, so you can't catch it!

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of TS are called tics.

Tics are repeated movements and sounds. Someone with TS may be able to stop them for a while but eventually they have to let the tics out.

Movement tics can include fast blinking or mouth twitches, and sound tics can include throat clearing and sniffing, but there are lots of different tics.

Often movement and sound tics are combined.

Most people (around 85%) with TS do not swear.

Tics may be helped with relaxation or concentrating on something like playing the piano.

Who gets TS?

Lots of people have TS, but most people have symptoms that are so mild they don't worry about them or may not even notice them.

Boys are three or four times more likely than girls to get TS.

TS usually starts when a child is about seven, and can last for the rest of their life, or may get better at the end of childhood.

What can be done about it?

Most people with TS are not significantly affected by their tics or behaviours, and so do not need medication.

But here are medications which can help control the tics when they cause problems.

How can you help someone you know with Tourette Syndrome?
  • Be friendly.
  • Support them against bullies.
  • Don't laugh at them.
  • Include them in games, invite them to parties.
  • Make allowances - tics can make them feel tired and unhappy, and can make it hard to do lessons and homework.
  • Remember that tics change all the time, so expect new ones!
  • Remember that the boy or girl with TS can't help their tics. They don't like them either.
If you would like more information about Tourette Syndrome, click on the Tourette Syndrome Association weblink on the top right of this page.

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