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Tourette's, Tics and Therapy

Lewis Capaldi has openly shared his experience of having Tourette’s and his tics were visible whilst on stage at Glastonbury, he relied on the crowd to help him finish his song. This is an example of the impact tics can have; this impact can be felt in many areas of someone’s life. Lewis Capaldi has spoken openly about the diagnosis and how this helped him understand the tics he has lived with for many years. He has received huge public support for sharing his experience of this and his recent mental health challenges. Celebrities sharing their experiences may lead us to reflect on our own or want to understand more for the benefit of others.  This may have led you to this blog.  

What is Tourette's Syndrome?

Tourette’s Syndrome is one form of tic disorder. It may be most widely associated with verbal outbursts of swearing but this in fact only affects around 1 in 10 people with Tourette’s.  Tourette’s Syndrome is a condition that includes involuntary sounds and movements known as tics, and usually starts in childhood. Physical tics may involve blinking, jerking, grimacing, touching objects or other people and vocal tics can include grunting, throat clearing, whistling, tongue clicking, animal sounds, saying random words or phrases of swearing.  

Those who have Tourette’s have a combination of both vocal and physical tics, but these may appear at different times, and can be worse at times of stress, anxiety and tiredness. People with Tourette’s may feel self-conscious or have experienced bullying as a result of their tics being observed by others, and this experience can lead to the stress that can make them worse. 

What causes Tourette's?

The causes of Tourette’s are not fully understood, although this is a neurological condition linked to areas of the brain that help control body movements. Sometimes tics can run in families so you may have relatives who have tics. 

Thankfully more is being discussed and written about Tourette’s Syndrome, such as celebrities sharing their story. This can only serve to help those who experience this as the reactions of others can have a significant impact on how affected someone’s life may be by their Tourette’s. People may feel embarrassed or even ashamed at their tics, or by having the diagnosis. They may not understand the condition themselves and find it difficult to ask for extra support which can affect educational or work performance. Given the impact of stress on tics, this could make exams a particularly tricky time for a tic sufferer. 

Can Tourette's be treated?

Whilst this is not a condition that can be cured, tics can be managed. Some may be prescribed medication, but this can cause side effects and would therefore only be advised if the tics were severely interfering with daily life. 

Behavioural therapy (part of CBT) has been proven to be effective in the management of the tics experienced by those with Tourette’s, based mainly on working with urges that come before a tic. A key part of therapy is therefore tuning into these urges, called a premonitory urge. Once you can learn to recognise these, an alternative response can be put in place that helps to manage to the urge. Similarly exposure and response prevention will encourage resisting the urge to tic until this reduces. As part of a broader therapy package that works to understand the wider context to your condition, these treatments can be effective in reducing the impact that tics have on daily life. Individuals with Tourette’s or other tic disorders may experience other psychological difficulties alongside this such as anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD); ADHD is also commonly experienced alongside Tourette’s. We can work with you to provide a comprehensive treatment package that helps you improve the quality of your daily life and ability to succeed in education or the workplace. 

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