Tourette syndrome, (TS), named after Gilles de la Tourette who discovered the condition, is a disorder that causes motor and vocal tics due to a chemical imbalance in the brain. Neurotransmitters constantly misfire in the brain of a TS sufferer releasing a chemical, known as dopamine, which transmits signals to many parts of the body causing these uncontrollable tics. Lange, Olivier and Meyer (2003) states, “This neuropsychiatric disorder is, in all likelihood, genetically determined and associated with neurotransmitter (“chemical”) imbalances in the brain.” Although there is no known cure for TS, medications are available that help control the condition. Society often misunderstands those who suffer from TS, because the condition is commonly misdiagnosed and misunderstood.
There are many misconceptions about TS and much of society is poorly educated and misinformed about the condition. Physicians do not refer to TS as a disease, but more commonly as a “condition”, even though people lend to view those who suffer from TS as having some debilitating disease. Although this is not an accurate conception of syndrome, some patients with severe case may suffer some type of debilitation.
One of the most common misconceptions that society has regarding TS patients is that they curse uncontrollably in public. The media contributes to this by depicting characters with the syndrome in movies displaying this type of behavior. This is entirely inaccurate and represents only a small percentage of TS patients with more severe cases. Society is also guilty of misrepresenting and misunderstanding people with TS, often using hurtful quips or acting out in jest towards people who have this condition. This is not only psychologically damaging to TS patients but can temporarily cause tics to become more severe due to stress and discomfort associated with ridicule. TS is no joking matter and is a serious condition that affects the daily lives of many people.
There are public awareness groups that have information needed to provide better understanding of TS as well as how to live with the condition once diagnosed. The most notable is the Tourette syndrome association (TSA) founded by group of medical professionals, laypeople and TS patients. This organization educates people about the condition and provides assistance, information and encouragement to those who have it. TSA has been instrumental in bridging the gap between the medical profession and the public. Tourette syndrome generally develops in early childhood between ages of four and eight. Mayo clinic staff (2004) wrote the following:
“The first symptom of Tourette syndrome is usually a facial tic, such as eye blinking. As many as 1 in 200 children develop tics that last only a few weeks or months and then stop. Tourette syndrome, however, involves multiple motor and vocal tics that have lasted longer than a year.” Children with TS, like a percentage of children who develop tics that eventually disappears, often experience a wax and wane of tics over a long period, making it difficult condition to diagnose.
The symptoms of TS include motor and vocal tics as well as behavior symptoms such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and attention-deficit hyper-activity disorder (ADHAD). Motor tics may include heard jerking, eye blinking or twitching, shoulder shrugging as well as unusual torso or limber movements. Vocal tics include throat clearing, coughing, humming and uncontrollable cursing. OCD and ADHAD are psychological co-morbid behaviors that are associated with many patients with TS. Although there is no guaranteed predisposition to these co-morbid behaviors for every TS patient, it does play an active role in most cases. Budman and Feirman (2001) stated, “Disturbances of affective regulation, including mood disorders, OCD, obsessive-compulsive symptomatology,...