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Tourette Syndrome and other Tic Disorders

Tourette Syndrome and other Tic Disorders

Tourette Syndrome (TS), also called Tourette Disorder, is a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, and involuntary movements or vocalizations called tics. If someone experiences only motor or only vocal tics, they are considered to have Persistent Motor/Persistent Vocal Tic Disorder, rather than TS. Despite this distinction, the symptoms and treatment of TS and other Tic Disorders are very similar. There are a wide variety of motor and vocal tics which individuals with TS and other Tic Disorders may develop. Common simple tics include:

  • Eye blinking
  • Facial grimacing
  • Head or shoulder jerking
  • Shoulder shrugging
  • Throat clearing
  • Coughing
  • Sniffing
  • Grunting

Individuals with Tic Disorders may also develop complex tics, which are distinct, coordinated patterns of movement involving several muscle groups, such as a facial grimace combined with a head twist and shoulder shrug. Tics are frequently preceded by a feeling of an urge building in the body. People with Tic Disorders have described this feeling as similar to the urge to sneeze or to scratch an itch, but the urge begins in different areas of the body and feels different for each person. Enacting the tic relieves the uncomfortable feelings brought on by the urge. Similar to sneezing, tics can be suppressed or delayed, but many individuals with Tic Disorders find this exhausting and difficult to maintain. Of note, many individuals also find that periods of stress, anxiety, or negative emotions increase the frequency of their urges to tic; and Tic Disorders often co-occur with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and oppositional behaviors, which can add to the challenge of tics. Many individuals experience that their tics decrease in frequency across adolescence and into their twenties without intervention. However, in the meantime, TS and other Tic Disorders can be frustrating for the individual and their families. Additionally, many parents of children and adolescents with TS and Tic Disorders worry about the social impact of tics on their child.

At The OCD & Anxiety Center, we specialize in the treatment of anxiety and related disorders including TS and Tic Disorders. We have the necessary training and resources to deliver evidence-based treatment to Tic Disorder sufferers of all ages, as well as those with co-occurring OCD and anxiety disorders.

We use Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT) in the treatment of TS and Tic Disorders, as this is the therapy treatment which has proven most effective for the range of Tic Disorders. Through CBIT, individuals with tics learn to develop competing responses to their tics that help them channel their urges in a less obvious, or less physically painful manner. Family members also learn to change the environment to decrease the frequency of tics including focusing less on the tics outside of treatment time, helping the person with a Tic Disorder manage their emotions, and decrease urges to tic.