By Melissa C. Water
Tourette Syndrome is a neurological condition found to be passed on genetically in what we now know are two specific rare genes. 90% of those who have Tourette have these genes. The condition is found in the Basal Ganglia which is where movement disorders like Parkinson’s, dyskinesia and Huntington’s are found. Irregular dopamine levels are also known to be a factor.
Tourette Syndrome manifests as tics. A tic is a semi-voluntary or involuntary movement, noise, word, or series of words. In order for the manifestation of tics to be diagnosed as Tourette Syndrome one would need to have at least two motor tics and at least one vocal.
Two people can experience tics very differently. One might tic every few seconds while another may not tic every day. The tics themselves can be very unique, however it’s possible for one person with Tourette to pick up another’s tics and unwillingly adopt them as their own. Tics are like fingerprints in that it can be different for everyone. Anything that the human body can do or vocalize can be a tic.
Tics can be suppressed but this can only be done for a certain amount of time just like it’s possible to hold our breath, but we can’t go without breathing.
Tourette Syndrome may be mistaken for Mental Illness though it is not. Just like autism, it is neurodevelopmental. The syndrome is often accompanied however with mental health comorbidity’s like OCD, Anxiety, impulsivity, executive dysfunction…etc.
Calling Tourette a mental illness makes awareness and acceptance more difficult as there is already a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness. Tourette Syndrome is its own fight and complicating it only makes searching for acceptance more difficult.
The term is properly used as Tourette and not Tourettes or Tourette’s. If a condition is named after someone who experienced the symptoms to which it was named after, like Lou Gehrig’s disease, then there is an S as the term is a possessive form to that person. If like in the case of Tourette, the syndrome was named after the man who discovered the condition, like Gille de la Tourette, it holds no S.