People with Tourette Syndrome (TS) can hurt themselves because they do things involuntarily like bang their heads on the wall. Unfortunately, not everybody understands this. A person suffering from an episode of tics shouldn't receive weird stares or glances because these can only heighten their feelings of stress, shame and stigma.
Tourette Syndrome Awareness Week runs from the 4th to 10th of May to educate and encourage the public to support people with TS rather than treat them differently. It also aims to raise funds for research projects that could lead to a cure for the condition and improve the lives of children and adults who are suffering.
What is Tourette Syndrome?
Tourette Syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes tics or involuntary body movements, facial expressions and repetition of syllables or words. Someone with TS could suddenly shout for no reason at all, stomp their foot or blink their eyes exaggeratedly, clear their throat nonstop or hit their head against a wall, among other things.
TS can affect people of all ages, but it's more common in teenage boys. To a spectator, the speech and actions of a person suffering from TS may be offensive, but if only they knew how hard it is to suppress the urge to express one's tics, they could find it in their hearts to be more compassionate. Yes, people with TS are aware of their tics but couldn't control them. Controlling the tics is so difficult, especially for children, as it prevents them from concentrating on their activities.
What Causes Tourette Syndrome and What are Its Symptoms?
Doctors cannot pinpoint the exact cause of Tourette Syndrome because it's a hereditary condition that can be passed on from parent to child upon conception. However, they suspect that neurotransmitter imbalances in a certain region of the brain trigger the motor and verbal tics. People with TS have difficulty concentrating, unpredictable behaviours and a variety of motor and verbal tics, including:
- Exaggerated eye blinking
- Throat clearing
- Repetition of syllables and words
- Shouting or swearing
- Head jerking
- Shoulder shrugging
- Neck twisting
- Mouth movements
- Nose twitching
- Rage attacks
What are the Complications of Tourette Syndrome?
Most people with Tourette Syndrome can function like everybody else, except that their tics get in the way of their productivity, relationships and confidence. Additionally, most teens with TS have also been diagnosed with other conditions such as the following:
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Learning disabilities
Tourette Syndrome Awareness Week aims to provide all the necessary information to help everybody in the world understand exactly what people affected with TS are going through and how they can support the TS community.
Is There a Way to Treat Tourette Syndrome?
A cure has yet to be discovered for Tourette Syndrome, but there are ways to manage the tics to reduce their severity. Certain medications can help control the tics, but due to their unpleasant side effects, most people would opt for natural therapies like Cognitive behavioural therapy.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help a person with TS focus on identifying their problematic behaviours and finding ways to change them. Research has shown that CBT reduces chronic tics by employing relaxation techniques that are focused at the certain muscles in the brain that trigger the tics.
You can learn other ways to help a family member or friend with TS manage their condition by participating in Tourette Syndrome Awareness Week 2021.