Truth v. Myth: Tourette Syndrome


Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a “neurological [& neurodevelopmental] disorder which becomes evident in early childhood or adolescence” (Tourette Association of America, 2016).


The primary characteristic of TS is involuntary movements of the face, arms, limbs, or trunk. Multiple involuntary movements of the body must be present-although not necessarily at the same time-for TS to be present. Other conditions may co-occur with TS.


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V), published by the American Psychiatric Association, issues the following diagnostic criteria for TS:

  1. have both multiple motor tics (for example, blinking or shrugging the shoulders) and vocal tics (for example, humming, clearing the throat, or yelling out a word or phrase), although they might not always happen at the same time.
  2. have had tics for at least a year. The tics can occur many times a day (usually in bouts) nearly every day, or off and on.
  3. have tics that begin before he or she is 18 years of age.
  4. have symptoms that are not due to taking medicine or other drugs or due to having another medical condition (for example, seizures, Huntington disease, or postviral encephalitis).

Co-occurring Conditions (comorbidity)

 Tourette Syndrome may occur along side with other conditions, such as attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), impulsivity, or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Truth versus Myth

T v. M: An adult can can have sudden onset TS.

Myth. TS must be present for at least one year before the individual is 18 years of age.

T v. M: People with TS have sudden outbursts of profanity and/or obscene gestures.

Myth. While vocal and motor tics can manifest as the outburst of profanity and obscene gestures, it is not common among those suffering from TS. What you see on TV and movies is a gross misunderstanding of the disorder and not an accurate representation of the majority of people with TS.

T v. M: People with TS function just fine in society.

Truth. People with TS do lead productive lives and work in a variety of jobs. Tics present challenges in daily life. However, people with TS are still able to do the same everyday tasks in which most of society participates. 

(Information gathered from the Tourette Association of America, 2016:
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