Rothman Center for Pediatric Neuropsychiatry

Tourette syndrome (TS)/Tic disorders

What is Tourette Syndrome (TS)?

Tic disorders, including Tourette’s syndrome (TS), are neurological disorders characterized by the childhood onset of involuntary movements or sounds, called tics.

What are the causes of this condition?

Although the exact causes of TS are relatively unknown, current research indicates a hereditary link that could be mediated by environmental, autoimmune, or other developmental problems. TS is also more common in boys than girls.

Tourette Syndrome Symptoms

The main symptoms of TS are motor and vocal tics, which can range from mild and simple to severe and complex. Stress, anxiety, or illness can sometimes make the tics worse. Common motor tics include eye blinking, head jerking, and facial grimacing, while common vocal tics include sniffing, grunting, and coughing. Many individuals with TS also have symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and/or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Motor tics may include:

  • Eye-blinking
  • Arm or head jerking
  • Mouth twitching
  • Shoulder shrugging
  • Making a face

Vocal tics may include:

  • Throat clearing
  • Coughing
  • Grunting
  • Barking
  • Repeating what someone else says
  • Shouting
  • Sniffing
  • Swearing

Tourette Syndrome Treatment

When tics became disruptive enough to cause problems, there are both behavioral therapy and medication treatment options.

Habit Reversal Therapy is a behavioral therapy used to reduce tics by first making the individual aware of the behavior and preceding urges, followed then by teaching replacement behaviors to combat the urges. Finally, relaxation training is incorporated to reduce both behaviors.