Trouble With Tics

Doing not choosing
Rahman Mohamed

Yesterday, 30 July 2015, CBC reported that a man named Graham Kent was kicked out of a bar.  Reportedly he was making noise and was thought to be on drugs.  Unfortunately he was only displaying symptoms of Tourette Syndrome.  It is not a mental illness.  Being a problem of the brain though it is often misunderstood and stigmatized.

Tourette Syndrome is a neuropsychiatric disorder.  It is a brain-based disorder that causes a person to tic.  Tic means involuntary behaviour, making sounds or movements when a person doesn’t want to.  Tics can be performed vocally (saying or making sounds when you don’t want to) or motor tics (doing something with a part of your body when you don’t want to).  Tourette is an extreme version of a Tic Disorder

A person who’s only displaying motor or vocal tics for more than four months is diagnosed with Tic Disorder.  Tic disorders can vary in length.

Transient tic disorders are seen for less than a year.  Chronic Tic Disorders are diagnosed when a person begins displaying tics before turning 18 and they last for over a year.  These tics can be motor or vocal but not both.  Research has found Chronic Tic Disorders are found in 1 in 100 children.  Transient Tic Disorders have been found 5% to 25% of youth or school-aged children.

To be diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome a person has to be making both vocal and motor tics.  Experts suggest that 200,000 people may be living with a tic disorder, displaying involuntary behaviour but not having been diagnosed.

Tic Disorders are genetic.  Tourette Canada has also reported that recent research suggests it may be brought on by environmental factors during pregnancy.  Research published in JAMA Psychiatry found that the chances of being diagnosed with a Tic Disorder increases based on how closely you’re related to someone with a Tic Disorder.  Those with a first-degree relation (parent, sibling, or offspring) with a Tic Disorder are four times more likely to be diagnosed than someone with a second-degree relation (grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, etc.).

Tic Disorders are often left untreated.  Tics often disappear without treatment.  They often better with age.  Other symptoms such as blinking, sniffing, shoulder shrugging, arm or head jerking, or clearing your throat, they often disturb the patient and those around but do not interfere with relations.  Extreme cases (swearing, making a face) that lead to a tic interfering with a person’s daily life may lead to doctors prescribing neurologic medication or behavioural therapy including speech therapy, a psychologist or counsellor.

The only difference between a Tic Disorder and a tic (habit that brings frustration when not completed) is choice and control.