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Childhood Mental Health: Tourette's Syndrome


Tourette’s Syndrome (TS) is characterised by repeated, involuntary movements and uncontrollable vocal sounds, known as tics . Affecting approximately 100,000 Americans in its full-blown form, TS generally emerges during childhood or early adolescence. Although the basic cause of TS is unknown, current research suggests there is a genetic abnormality affecting certain neurotransmitters in the brain (particularly dopamine ), and that varying environmental factors, possibly including infections, modifies the clinical expression of the disorder. TS is up to 3 times more common in males.

Symptoms and Signs

The characteristic symptoms of TS are complex tics. These are much more than an involuntary twitch or blink of the eye. Other symptoms and signs include echoalia (repeating what has been said), compulsive swearing and may include self-destructive, aggressive behaviour. TS is often seen in association with some other neurological disorders, particularly OCD . Researchers are investigating the neurological similarities between OCD and TS to determine whether a genetic relationship exists.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis of TS is based on the presence of the characteristic symptoms. In most cases, Tourette’s Syndrome is not disabling, symptoms don’t impair patients, development proceeds normally, and there is no need for treatment. However, some effective medications are available in the rare instances when symptoms interfere with functioning (antipsychotic drugs seem to help although psychosis is not the problem). Children with TS can generally function well at home and in the regular classroom. If they have an accompanying learning disability or other disorder, such as ADHD or OCD, they may require tutoring, special classes, psychotherapy , or medication.

The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken from the following source(s):
1. National Institute of Mental Health:

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Contact Last modified: Jun 25 2002