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Debunking Common Myths About Tourette Syndrome

Debunking Common Myths About Tourette Syndrome

Tourette syndrome is shrouded in myths. Though it's easy to understand how people might misunderstand a disease that makes children uncontrollably twitch, move, or speak random words, the myths are perpetuated by how the condition is portrayed in movies and TV shows.

As specialists in diagnosing and treating children with Tourette syndrome, the exceptional team at THINK Neurology for Kids understands the emotional challenges facing those diagnosed with the condition, as well as their parents, teachers, and caregivers. 

They work closely with each family, recommending treatments and suggestions for educating others about their child's neurological disease. Keep reading to learn more about the six top myths associated with Tourette syndrome.

Myth 1: Everyone with Tourette syndrome spouts obscenities

This myth began with the portrayal of Tourette syndrome in movies and other media. However, suddenly swearing isn't the primary symptom of this disease. It’s relatively uncommon. 

This vocal tic is estimated to affect 8-17% of those with Tourette syndrome, with the higher percentage occurring in those with more severe neurological disease.

Myth 2: Children with Tourette syndrome can control their tics

Unfortunately, many people don't understand that Tourette syndrome arises from neurological changes in the brain that make Tourette tics involuntary and uncontrollable. Tics also come and go over the years and vary in frequency and severity, which gives the impression that children can manage to stop them.

As children get older and participate in behavioral therapy, many learn to manage their tics better. But it takes incredible focus and energy to control motor and vocal tics, making it a challenge for adults, much less children.

Myth 3: Medication is the only treatment

We may prescribe one of several medications that help reduce the frequency of tics. But it’s crucial to keep in mind that medications help some, but not all children.

Your child may not respond to the medication due to their metabolism. And like all medications, psychotropics can cause side effects. We carefully evaluate the risks and benefits for each child before recommending medication.

Medications will not eliminate your child's tics. That's why we combine medication with behavioral therapy that helps children learn to control their tics. 

For example, cognitive-behavioral intervention for tics (CBIT) teaches children to perform a specific movement when they feel the start of a tic. The change in focus often enables them to control the tic.

Myth 4: Tourette syndrome causes anger and aggression

On its own, Tourette syndrome doesn't make children more angry or aggressive. However, five out of every six children with Tourette have also been diagnosed with another mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. These co-occurring conditions often affect children's ability to regulate emotions and behaviors.

The most common co-occurring conditions include:

These conditions are listed from the most to the least common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61% of children have anxiety problems, and 20% struggle with depression.

Myth 5: Children with Tourette syndrome have intellectual disabilities

Though children with Tourette syndrome may have a learning disorder, such as problems with reading or arithmetic, these challenges are not related to an intellectual disability. People diagnosed with Tourette syndrome have the same levels of intelligence found in people without the disorder.

Myth 6: If your child has a tic, they have Tourette syndrome

Everyone diagnosed with Tourette syndrome has vocal and motor tics. However, your child can develop a tic but not have Tourette syndrome. Your child may have another tic disorder, such as provisional tic disorder. Other mental health disorders, health conditions, medications, and extreme stress or anxiety can also cause temporary tics.

If you need ongoing treatment for a child with Tourette syndrome, or you wonder if your child has a tic, call THINK Neurology for Kids or book an appointment online today.

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